PB&J Parfait

In my quest to move towards a lower carb lifestyle change, one of the most challenging updates has been breakfast. My go-to has always been peanut butter & banana oatmeal, but since two of the three main ingredients are very high carb, that’s pretty much out. Although I haven’t quite figured out a hot meal replacement for winter, I have finally perfected a wonderful chilled summer option. As a bonus, it’s easy to make ahead of time for a delicious and simple grab-and-go breakfast (or snack).

PB&J Parfait {{Baking Bytes}}

Any “diet” article will tell you to ditch the flavored yogurts for their plain versions mixed with fresh fruit, but I think the flavor of the yogurt can still be too overpowering. For me, the key is to properly mix them together rather than just add the fruit like a topping. Mashing berries (blackberries or raspberries are my favorite) first and then stirring in the yogurt and chia (for a fat and protein boost) means the flavors are consistently spread through each spoonful like a store-bought flavor without all the added sugars.

Peanut butter is always a go-to for me, and layering it with the berry yogurt is reminiscent of a childhood favorite but in a much healthier form. I like the natural peanut butter here since the berries are quite sweet already and because it doesn’t get overly hard when refrigerated for the meal prep option.

Lastly, I recently discovered hemp seeds as another fat/protein source, and they had a nice bit of crunch and a little different flavor without competing too heavily with the rest of the dish. Even overnight they don’t get soggy (just a bit soft) which makes them a nice textural addition. If you don’t have hemp, you could just go without or substitute any seeds or chopped nuts of your choice.

PB&J Parfait {{Baking Bytes}}

Sweet and tart with the swirl of peanut butter and just a hint of crunch, this is a great on-the-go option as well as something that can be enjoyed right away. I often mix the yogurt, chia, and berries together and then add the peanut butter and hemp when I get to work. This allows me to customize how much I want on a particular day, but it works great to do it all ahead of time if your work fridge space is limited.

A few tips for success: chia seeds soak up a lot of moisture, so if you want your parfait to maintain a looser, more traditional yogurt texture overnight then add at least one tablespoon of water with each tablespoon of chia. This is not necessary if you’re eating it right away but for meal prepping it helps with the texture, especially if your fruit is not very juicy. As mentioned I like to use natural peanut butter since it stays spreadable when chilled, but you if you prefer the Jif or Skippy variety you can always just take a little of that in a separate container and keep it at room temperature. Lastly, if you’re using the smallest amount of everything (or keeping the peanut butter and hemp separate) you can get away with an 8oz jar, but a 12oz or larger is much nicer for stirring and eating without making a mess.

PB&J Parfait {{Baking Bytes}}

If you’re looking for a quick, delicious, and healthy lower carb meal, this PB&J parfait is sure to please. And in case you were wondering, no, I don’t do the fancy layering every time I make it for myself. It is pretty and fun to do that, but it’s much quicker to just add them all on top. You can decide for yourself what level of effort is right for you.

PB&J Parfait

Serves one

Ingredients

1/2 cup berries (or any fruit)
1-2 Tbsp chia seeds
1-2 Tbsp water (optional)1
cinnamon, to taste (optional)

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1-2 Tbsp hemp hearts
1-2 Tbsp natural peanut butter2

Directions

  1. For “lazy” parfaits: In small bowl mash the berries until soft. Stir in chia (and water, if using), cinnamon, and yogurt until well combined.
  2. Plop on the peanut butter and sprinkle with hemp. Enjoy immediately or store in the fridge until ready to use.
  3. For “fancy” parfaits: in the bottom of a small jar3 add 1/3 of the yogurt mixture. Layer 1-2 tsp each of hemp and peanut butter. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
  4. Seal the jar and store in the fridge until ready to eat.

Notes

Water is not necessary if you are eating it right away or you are okay with a very thick texture. Chia seeds soak up a lot of moisture so if you want your parfait to stay a bit looser then add at least as much water as you do chia when you’re stirring it into the fruit.

I recommend natural peanut butter (the kind you have to stir) as it will not get overly hard in the fridge overnight (and I like the taste better), but if you are eating it right away you can use any peanut butter.

Use a 12oz jar or larger to ensure everything fits, and to make it easier to stir and eat.

 

 

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Lemon Quinoa & Kale Salad

Happy May, friends! With the weather (hopefully) starting to warm up and Mother’s Day just around the corner, I have a lovely citrus quinoa salad to share with you. It is light but filling, and complements a multitude of protein choices for any dietary restrictions.

Lemon Quinoa & Kale Salad with Halibut {{Baking Bytes}}

Inspired in part by my lemon poppyseed breakfast quinoa as well as a delicious salad at The Cafe in Iowa, this recipe works equally well as a side and as an entrée, in addition to being delightful both warm or cold. Head on over to my guest post at Jenna Gorham Nutrition to check it out!

Broccoli Beer Bread Grilled Cheese

We’ve reached the final week of National Grilled Cheese Month and I’ve saved my favorite for last. I hope you enjoy it too!

One of my favorite flavor pairings is broccoli and cheese, and in my opinion broccoli cheese soup is the epitome of perfection for this palate. Although it can be extraordinarily unhealthy, it’s a comforting entrée perfect for a cold winter day. My favorite cookbook has a much healthier version using goat cheese that I meal prep for lunches semi regularly throughout the colder months. Although putting broccoli in a grilled cheese felt a little strange, I decided to try it anyway. The question remaining was which bread would complement it nicely.

Broccoli Beer Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

Despite not caring for beer in its original beverage form, I often enjoy it as an accent to both sweet and savory dishes and there are a handful of recipes on my blog that call for it. Beer bread is a favorite to serve with stews and chilis, and Guinness chocolate ice cream turns out to be pretty fantastic. Broccoli cheese soup is delicious accented with beer as well, and this thought lead me towards using a beer bread for this particular sandwich.

Broccoli Beer Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

Crispy roasted broccoli and melty sharp cheddar blend perfectly with the beer bread, and I strongly feel all three components are necessary for the full experience. You could certainly substitute an alternate bread (I would choose a whole wheat or seeded multi-grain) but the beer adds such a great twist that I promise it’s 100% worth the extra effort to make the loaf ahead of time. This sandwich combines several of my favorite things all into one and I can easily see it becoming somewhat of a staple, presuming I have the foresight to roast extra broccoli whenever possible. Great for beer lovers and broccoli lovers alike, this might even be a way to get a few extra veggies into what feels like a decadent meal.

Broccoli Beer Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

This was the fan favorite (although to be honest, they said that about all of them) and sure to be a crowd pleaser. Whether it’s cut in half for a great appetizer, served with a cup of broccoli cheese soup for a superbly warming experience, or thrown into your regular dinner rotation, this sandwich is surprisingly homey despite its thoroughly non-traditional expectations.

Broccoli Beer Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

I hope you enjoyed the series and if you found a new favorite be sure to let me know!

Broccoli Beer Bread Grilled Cheese
Makes one sandwich

Ingredients

1 head of broccoli, finely chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

2 slices beer bread (reduce sugar to 2 Tbsp or less)
1/4 cup grated sharp cheddar
olive oil or butter

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a pan or coat thinly with olive oil.
  2. Combine broccoli, olive oil, and spices in a bowl; stir until well coated.
  3. Spread evenly on prepared pan and roast until broccoli is starting to char, about 20 minutes. (Or to your desired texture.)
  4. When the broccoli is nearly done, heat additional oil or butter in a small lidded frying pan over medium-low heat.
  5. Mix together cheese with 1/4 cup broccoli until combined. (One head of broccoli is probably enough for 4-ish sandwiches, presuming your bread slices are small.)
  6. Lay bread in heated pan, then top one side with broccoli mixture. Put on the lid and heat until cheese is melty and bread is golden.
  7. Place empty slice on top of the broccoli (toasted side up) and then carefully flip the whole thing; cook an additional 30-60 seconds to allow the sandwich to meld together.
  8. Serve immediately; would be extra fantastic with a cup of broccoli cheese or beer cheese soup for dipping!

Lasagna Grilled Cheese

I’m back in Montana after a week in Iowa for work, and the weather teased us with a beautiful weekend…followed by snow Monday evening. I know spring is a bit flaky here, but this really is feeling a bit unreasonable. The ski area is even closed, don’t the weather gods know when to stop?

In any case I will admit it makes great weather for a cozy grilled cheese, and this is one of the coziest I’ve ever made. It was a huge hit in my test group (okay so it was only four people, but that is four more people than usually give me input) and definitely a close second favorite of mine for this year’s recipe bunch.

Lasagna is one of my favorite dishes and I could happily eat it weekly without complaint. (Especially the sweet potato and spinach version in my Run Fast, Eat Slow cookbook – so good!) I opted to try a fusion dish this year and combine my favorite flavors of lasagna with the much less time-consuming preparation of grilled cheese.

I used a homemade pizza sauce I had in the freezer, but any jarred pizza or spaghetti sauce would work just fine. If you have omnivores to appease, a meat sauce would work splendidly – chorizo would add a nice kick too. Pick a sauce with good flavor as it’s a prominent part of the sandwich, but no need to slave all day unless you want to. Freshly sliced mozzarella is critical – you want none of that corn starch so often found in pre-sliced and pre-shredded cheeses which not only throws off the flavor, but simply does not melt as well. A spoonful of ricotta (I always use the whole milk version, but you do you) rounds out the lasagna palate we all know and love.

In order to create the most true-to-form experience possible, we use three (thinner) slices of bread and layer each filling twice between the trio. This admittedly makes it a bit messy to cut and eat, but it’s so worth it to have that extra bit of crisp bread in the center. French bread seemed the obvious choice to me, and a narrower loaf helps the sandwich from being too huge horizontally when it has a lot going on vertically as well. Cooking in garlic-infused olive oil gives that garlic bread essence without it being too overpowering, and if you don’t have the infused oil on hand I recommend adding a sprinkle of garlic powder to your regular olive oil while it’s heating.

Finish the whole shebang with freshly grated parmesan and black pepper (because parmesan is always the answer) and you have a new favorite comfort food. Some chopped and sautéed spinach would also be a great addition, especially if you weren’t planning to serve with a side salad or other vegetable. Just add a spoonful atop the ricotta and you are good to go.

A great way to use up leftover spaghetti sauce, I’m looking forward to this becoming a new go-to quick dinner in the future. If, like me, you don’t always have ricotta on hand, I’m thinking goat cheese would be a delightful substitute. If you give any version a try, let me know how it turns out!

Lasagna Grilled Cheese
Makes one sandwich

Ingredients

3 slices of French bread (1/4″ – 1/2″ thick)
2 pieces freshly sliced mozzarella (1/8″ thick)
2-4 Tbsp spaghetti or pizza sauce
2-4 Tbsp ricotta cheese

olive oil (recommend garlic infused – or adding a sprinkle of garlic powder)

to taste
parmesan, freshly grated
black pepper, freshly grated

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in a medium pan over medium-low heat.
  2. Place all three slices of bread in the pan so they don’t overlap.
  3. Layer two slices with mozzarella, sauce, and cheese. (You want them to be covered but not overflowing, so likely about one tablespoon of each unless your bread is particularly wide.)
  4. Place the lid on the pan and heat for a few minutes, until empty slice is lightly golden on one side.
  5. Flip empty slice, replace the lid, and continue to cook until the other side is golden, fillings are warm, and mozzarella is beginning to melt.
  6. Top one of layered slices with the empty one, then carefully flip the remaining layered slice ricotta-side down on top of the stack.
  7. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan and black pepper and heat briefly to allow the layers to meld together.
  8. Serve immediately; pairs perfectly with a side salad and a glass of wine.

Notes

Words

Beet & Feta Grilled Cheese

This sandwich is dedicated to Kathy, who is in many ways my opposite but has the best insights on the Ames food scene and is a huge fan of beets.

One of my favorite local stores is an oil and vinegar shop by the name of Olivelle. It’s a relatively recent discovery for me but has quickly grown into quite the collection of balsamic vinegars, infused oils, and spice blends. I’ve featured some of their products before, mostly as salad dressings, but they are amazing on basically everything from breakfast to dessert.

Olivelle also does really fun cooking demonstrations where you watch four different courses being made and then get to enjoy eating them. It’s both delightful and delicious and makes for a fantastic girls’ night out. At my most recent attendance, there was a roasted beet salad with a blood orange fig dressing that kind of blew my mind. It was the perfect blend of savory and sweet and a truly great winter salad that I look forward to crafting next season (or maybe this one, if winter continues at its current velocity).

Beet & Feta Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

Inspired by the flavor combination, this week’s grilled cheese is highly non-traditional and equally delicious: roasted beets and feta, with an optional (but supremely recommended!) blood orange fig drizzle.

Although I really enjoy roasted beets, I’d somehow never purchased them before this adventure. One of the great things about running this blog is the incentive to step outside my box, and this was no exception to a quality outcome. Like sweet potatoes, beets take a while to roast but you could certainly do it ahead of time and reheat them a bit right before making the sandwich. It’s both a great way to use up leftovers from salad or breakfast hash and worth it to make them specifically for this meal, I promise. The beet and feta filling is not gooey like a traditional grilled cheese, but has a totally new flavor profile that really classes up the final result. It reminds me a bit of last year’s Boursin and veggie version in that it doesn’t stick together very well but is completely worth the slightly messier experience.

Beet & Feta Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

Naturally sweet, the beets lend a harmony of sweet and savory that is balanced nicely by the Feta cheese (I also think chèvre would work splendidly), and complimented by my favorite sourdough bread. The denser bread contrasts nicely with the softened filling and the drizzle of blood orange balsamic dressing is the perfect addition to really up the wow factor. Delightful as an entrée or cut up for an appetizer, it was a win with four out of four taste testers and a really fun way to add a twist to an otherwise commonplace meal.

Beet & Feta Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

As an added bonus, the bright color of beets and balsamic drizzle give a professional presentation to the plate – great for parties! (Especially on a snazzy rectangular plate.)

Beet & Feta Grilled Cheese
Makes one sandwich

Ingredients

1 beet, peeled and diced into 1/4″ pieces (or smaller)
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 cup feta (or chèvre), crumbled
2 slices sourdough bread
olive oil or butter

Blood Orange Vinegar Dressing
1 Tbsp Olivelle Blood Orange Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Olivelle Harvest Fig Balsamic Vinegar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or coat with olive oil.
  2. In a small bowl, combine beet, oil, salt, and pepper and stir until evenly coated.
  3. Spread onto prepared pan and roast 20-30 minutes, or until fork tender.
  4. When the beets are nearly done, heat a small amount of oil or butter in a lidded nonstick frying pan over medium-low heat.
  5. In (the same) small bowl, gently stir together 1/4 cup roasted beets (you’ll probably have leftovers) with feta cheese.
  6. Place bread side-by-side in the pan and top one slice with beet and feta mixture. Cover with lid and cook until bread is golden and cheese is warmed through, about 5 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, whisk together Blood Orange Olive Oil and Fig Balsamic Vinegar until completely combined.
  8. Top beets with the other slice of bread (cooked side out) and remove sandwich to plate.
  9. Slice in half and (somewhat) optionally drizzle with blood orange fig dressing.
  10. Enjoy immediately!