Kale Chopped Salad with Feta and Balsamic Dressing

My friend Jenna has an obsession with the recipes a fellow food blogger posts, and I honestly cant argue with her. Iowa Girl Eats posts some of the most delicious recipes ever!

Every so often I’ll find a new recipe in my inbox that Jenna has forwarded to me. Finally I had some to recreate something she came up with.

I am a big fan of going to the gym, and trying to “eat clean” as people call it. This salad fit perfectly in my wedding-ready-diet! Those of you who havent tried Kale yet, Im not quite sure what you’re waiting for … but its delicious! And soooo good for you.
I have to admit though, I’d never used a shallot until today *gasp* I know, I know..

For this recipe, I made some changes to fit my taste and what the grocery store offered. So, after the gym I swung by the store and picked up these ingredients. Adding fresh avocado, crispy salty bacon, sliced almonds, creamy crumbled feta, and sautéing the shallots and brussel sprouts together made for an amazing, and huge, lunch salad!

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Ingredients

Kale
Shallots – 3 medium
Avocado – 1 large, ripe
Brussel Sprouts – 2 cups worth
Bacon
Garlic
Sliced Almonds
Feta Cheese
Dressing of your choice

My local grocery store didnt have the type of Kale Kristen used in her salad, Lacinto Kale, so I just picked up a large bunch of regular kale. Hey, for .99 you really cant beat that.

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I rinsed and dried my kale before cutting the hard veins out of each stalk. Then chopped the greens into bite sized slices. Setting that aside in a large mixing bowl, I got to work on my shallots.

Shallots, if you dont already know, are from the onion family. Very good flavor, and easy to use. I peeled and sliced them as thin as I could get them. Now, Kristen fried hers crispy, but I decided to keep mine just sautéed and only cooked in a very tiny bit of oil.

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Start those in a sauté pan with a very small amount of oil. Add a little sea salt for taste if you’d like. And then start on the Brussel Sprouts and Garlic. Cutting the hard ends off and, again, slicing them as thinly as you can. So they’re similar to shaved, like a mandolin would give you. As you get through each one, pick out the hard core pieces, those aren’t too tasty unless they’re cooked much longer. Mince the garlic as small as you can, I use a miniature food processor for mine – wayyyy easier!

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Add both minced garlic and brussel sprout “shavings” into the pan with your shallots and stur until everything is coated with “juice” from the onion. Turn heat to low and let it all wilt together for about 3-5min, depending on your stovetop.

As for the bacon, I precooked that and sliced it into bite size pieces. And the almonds were purchased pre-sliced. Im not looking to chop any fingers off just for some crunch in my salad lol Cut your avocado in half, and take the seed out. Peel and slice however you would prefer it for your salad.

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When your shallots and sprouts are tender, add them to your mixing bowl of kale. Toss so that the warmth of the onion/sprouts/garlic helps wilt the kale somewhat. You dont want it sad and droopy, but just enough to make it less tough.
Toss in the desired amount of toppings, drizzle with your favorite dressing, and enjoy!

This salad really was amazing. All of the flavors and textures combine so well together, and it is bangin healthy!!

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If you’re interested in the original recipe, from Kristen, you can find it here –> Kale Chopped Salad with Maple Almond Vinaigrette 

Miniature Peach Pies

Image♥Thanks Nana for leaving me this beautiful plate♥

 

Yay for wedding gifts! My bff, Amanda, got me this awesome Breville Electric Pie Maker that makes 4 miniature pies at a time. She also got me the Recipe Book and Pie Lifter. So amazing! You can make sweet and savory pies, or even both at the same time! Since my fiance is on his vegetarian kick still, I can easily make 2 veggie, and 2 with meat.

The recipe book comes with some great recipes to help start you out. It also talks you through the dough types, cutting tools, handling etc. Very awesome

 

Peaches

Peach Pie Filling

2 large peaches, ripe – cut into small pieces
2 teaspoons corn starch
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
Pinch of salt
Sprinkle of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

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You can make your own pie crust, but I chose to use a pre-made crust from the refrigerated section of my local Trader Joe’s. I should have gotten puff pastry for the top of the pies, but I forgot. Next time for SURE though! You’ll want to top these with puff pastry, not regular pie crust.

The pie maker comes with a dough cutter that cuts your bottom and top dough to the perfect size. Use the larger one for the pie crust, bottom. And the smaller one for the puff pastry, top.
Plug your pie maker in and let it pre-heat.

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In a saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the peaches, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute, then remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla.

After you’ve cooked the filling, you sort of need to work quickly. Your pie maker will be hot, so be careful. Lay the dough in each pie area, lightly using your fingers to mold it in place. Using a 1/3 measuring cup, add filling to each. Top with puff pastry and close the lid! Pies will be cooked and ready in about 10min.

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I made my pies much earlier than I needed them, which is fine. You can easily plug the pie maker back in and reheat your pies in about 3min! Its such an easy and fun thing to use! I cant wait to try making some savory pies!

The crust was flaky and delicious (even with regular pie crust on top), the filling was warm and sweet (not overly). Would have been even more awesome with some vanilla ice cream 🙂
Great present, thanks Amanda!!

 

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Cajun Crab & Shrimp Boil!

Old Bay

 

Mmmmm I adore “boils”! I am not really much of a seafood person, sushi and salmon are about as far as I go. The occasional parmesan crusted Sanddabs is cool with me, too. I am more of a red meat or chicken lady.

We have been in Hawaii the last week or so and, surprisingly, I didn’t eat much fish. When we got home I heard that one of my favorite Cajun restaurants in Orange County closed down! Ugh.. I hate losing a great, reliable, restaurant. With that news I figured I might as well just make my own cajun boil here at home, should be easy enough.

Crab Boil

Ingredients

1 large onion, halved
2lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
2lb Crab Legs, I used King Crab
10 small red potatoes, halved
1 package spicy sausage of your choice, chopped in 3’s
10 cloves of garlic, whole
5 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning
3 Bay Leaves
2 tablespoons onion powder
Fresh cracked pepper and salt to taste
2 Lemons, halved

Shrimp

In the largest stock pot you have, fill it halfway with water. Add all seasoning and bay leaves, and bring to a rolling boil. Squeeze the lemons into the water, and add them to the pot – along with the potatoes, corn, onion, garlic, and sausage.

While that boils for about 10min, peel and devein your shrimpies and rinse Crab legs in cold water. Add legs to the pot, cover, and cook on a low boil for about 5 more min. Add shrimps last, and cook until they’re opaque (bright pink).

Pour all of the liquid out and serve on a table covered with plastic (if you wanna get really messy), or in a large bowl. Dont forget to give people melted butter, bibs, and exxxxtra napkins! Such an easy and flavorful meal! Pretty healthy, too, if you leave out the butter. Who really eats crab without butter though? lol

 

Shaking Things Up A Bit!

Smoothie

Lately Ive really been trying to get healthier. Not just working out, but my whole lifestyle. Eating more fruits and veggies, drinking more water, eating non-processed foods etc. You get the picture.

I’ve really given a lot of thought about going Paleo but its pretty hard, as well as unreasonable, to expect my family to make that transition also. So I’ve done what I can for now, until they decide they’re into it.

More protein, fish, veggies, fruit, and water.
Less bad carbs (picture me bawling) – no white bread, no white rice, minimal white potatoes, and a very minimal amount of sugar. Whats too bad about that?

My wonderful fiancé got me a Ninja Blender that is out of this world! As of two weeks ago, I have started each day with a GREEN SHAKE!

Load that baby up with everything good for you, and on gym days you can even add your protein powder to it! I personally prefer the frozen fruit because it makes it thicker and colder, it doesn’t rot like fresh fruit does, and its way more affordable.

Here are the main ingredients I use daily:
Fresh Spinach (Target has the cheapest bags $1.99, and its freezeable)
Bananas
Carrots
Kale
Celery (you get used to the taste after the first drink)
Frozen Fruit Mix (no added sugar or sodium. Target has the most affordable $10 mixed bags)
I usually get three bags of varying mixes to have a variety during the week. Blueberries, blackberries, red raspberries. Mango, pineapple, peaches. Strawberries, mangos, bananas.

When you make a smoothie you need some sort of liquid. A friend of mine suggested I use warm brewed Green Tea, which is GENIUS! Not only is it wonderful for you, but it helps melt the frozen fruit.

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Daily Smoothie

1 Cup Spinach
1 Carrot (cut in a few pieces)
1 Banana
1 Stalk Celery (cut in pieces)
1 Cup (sometimes more) mixed frozen fruit
About a 1/2 cup liquid. I add it slowly until my smoothie is the consistency I want.

Blend until smooth, and add to whatever glass or bottle you want! These smoothies are so very filling, and healthy! You get a huuuuge dose of veggies and fruits. I have replaced my breakfast with them, and they keep me full until about 12pm (drinking smoothie at 7am).

Enjoy! 🙂

Chili Cheese Beer Dip

Im super late posting this recipe, but whatevs. Super Bowl was awesome! Our team won, woohoo Ravens! We spent the day at a friends house eating all kinds of fattening food and betting on various parts of the game. Hubs asked me to make something “guys would like” lol So I decided on a cheesy chili beer dip! I mean, what man wouldn’t like that?

Chili Cheese Beer Dip

Ingredients

1 large can kidney beans, drained
1lb Velveeta Cheese
1lb ground beef
1lb spicy italian sausage
1 can sliced olives
1 large onion chopped
1 12oz jar thick and chunky salsa (I used hot)
3 garlic cloves diced small
salt and pepper to taste
1 bottle of your favorite beer (I used an IPA we had handy)

Directions

In a large skillet combine chopped onion and garlic and one tablespoon of oil. Let them sweat together for a good 3min. Add all meat and brown, about 10min. Break up the sausage and beef as you go along, remember you can use a potato masher to make this much easier.  Add your bottle of beer and let it simmer until the alcohol has cooked off.

While the meat is cooking, take out your crock pot and add the cheese, beans, and salsa. Set to medium and let it melt while the meat is cooking. When the meat is done, add to crock pot and mix well.

When everything is melted and fully combined, you’re ready! I unplugged the crockpot and brought it with us to the party.

Vegetarian Caramelized Onion Mushroom and Spinach Flatbread

I try not to make the same things over and over again, but there are some things that my family loves. I can’t keep writing the same recipes so I try to mix it up lol But tonight I made another flatbread pizza, my daughter loves them. Tonight I was tired and didn’t feel like making homemade dough, so I bought a whole wheat pre-made pizza crust at Sprouts (grocery store). I promise there will be more adventurous recipes this week 😉

 

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Pizza Toppings
2 Small Yellow Onions, sliced thin
1 package pre-chopped crimini mushrooms
1 pack frozen spinach, water squeezed out and dried
2 tablespoons EVOO
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Pizza Sauce
1/2 cup milk
4oz Cream Cheese
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt & pepper to taste
1 pinch dried thyme

 

You’ll want to start about an hour and a half before you really want to eat dinner. To truly caramelize onions, you need about 45min and some patience. Caramelizing onions is just about the most boring thing ever, seriously. Especially if you have no patience, like me! lol

After slicing your onions, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan, add the onions and coat evenly. Cook on medium-low for about 45min, stirring about every 3min.

When the onions have become nice and soft, and a golden brown color, they’re done. Take them out and put them in a bowl. Add the mushrooms to the pan, there should be a little oil left over from the onions, but if there isn’t add a little. Salt and pepper to taste, cooking mushrooms on medium heat until they’re brown – about 10min. Add onions back to the pan and mix well.

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To make the sauce, add butter to a small pot and melt, add the garlic and cook for about 5min. Add milk and cream cheese and let it all melt. Use a whisk to help break up the cream cheese and mix everything together. Add salt, pepper, and crushed thyme. After about 5min it should be to the consistency you want it, remember it’ll thicken when it stands.

Using a big spoon, or ladle, spread around your pizza dough and top with spinach.

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After you’ve crumbled the spinach on top, you can spoon the mushrooms and onions on top of your pre-made pizza crust, then sprinkle with cheese. I put this directly on the center rack of a 425° oven for about 12min. Let it cool for about 5min, and sliced it up!

 

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Rotisserie Roasted Chicken and veggies

For Christmas last year (2012) my Nana got me a rotisserie and a stand up mixer, best gifts ever! With everything thats happened lately, I haven’t had a chance ti use either of them… Since my fiancé and I are getting married in 10mos, omg!, I thought it was time to get back to eating healthier and working out on a regular basis. So tonight I broke out the new Showtime Rotisserie my Nana got me for christmas! Boy oh boyyyyy was it delicious!

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Rotisserie Chicken

1 5lb (mine was about 4.7lbs whatever)
4 cloves garlic minced very small
1 tablespoon salt separated
1 tablespoon pepper separated
1 tablespoon garlic powder separated
1 tablespoon onion powder separated
1 teaspoon thyme separated
1/2 stick of butter

Make sure your chicken is completely thawed, and take all of the “leftovers” out from inside, and rinse your chicken off. Trim off any pieces that are hanging or loose, you don’t want those flapping around while its rotating on a rotisserie. Pat dry with a paper towel. Set your chicken so the breasts are up, take all of your rings off and place someplace safe, you can wear tight gloves if you want but I go without.

In a small bowl, add room temp butter and 1/2 a tablespoon of each seasoning. Mix well with a hand blender and use this to rub inside of the skin of your chicken. The way to do this most effectively is to loosen the skin first. Use one hand to hold the chicken in place, and the other to push your fingers under the skin, pulling it away from the meat.

Use your fingers to scoop some of the butter mixture into the “opening” and the skin to scrape mixture off of your fingers. On top of the skin, massage the butter mixture around so that it gets around inside. Do this on both breasts, and drumsticks.

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Make SURE to Truss your chicken!!!!

Use the rest of the seasoning to rub the outside of your bird, after you’ve tied it up. For my showtime grill, I make sure to put the stakes through the meat, not just the cavity or your chicken will flop around inside. My rotisserie calls for 15min per pound – 1.5hrs later, this baby was done.

I roasted some red potatoes and broccoli in the oven, 350 for 1 hour, to have on the side! Very filling and healthy! The meat was probably the most moist chicken Ive ever made at home. I would definitely recommend a rotisserie to anyone. You can cook almost ANYTHING in it! Fish, chicken, turkey, chops, steaks, kabobs, roasts, etc etc!

Thanks Nana, this was one of the best gifts Ive ever received.

I will use it for forever and think of you…
♥♥♥♥

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Holiday Baking! Thumbprint Butter Cookies and Banana Walnut Bread

I adore Christmas… I mean, really. It is, after Thanksgiving, my most very favorite holiday. I am definitely a fan of giving way too many gifts, over spending, and indulging the people I love. Sue me 🙂 There is noting more cozy, to me, than having a beautifully decorated christmas tree, a fire in the fireplace and a hot cup of tea. ♥

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Every year, I like to send treats out to my family back in Oregon and KC. They wouldnt normally make these for themselves, so its a nice treat for them. They’re ridiculously easy recipes and they taste wonderful.

 

Thumbprint Butter Cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
Jam of your choice

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In a medium size bowl, cream (mix) the butter and sugar together until fluffy with a hand mixer. Add the vanilla and salt and mix until incorporated. Add the flour and mix at low speed until incorporated. Don’t worry, at first it’ll look like a crumbly mess, but keep mixing until it starts to form a ball.

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I don’t like rolling cookie dough out with flour, and this dough tends to be really sticky, so I spray my hands lightly with cooking spray first. Roll the dough into small golf ball sized balls and arrange them 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet. Using your thumb, press the top of each cookie to make a shallow well. Roll your thumb back and forth slightly to widen the well. Using a small spoon, fill the wells with whatever jam you like. Bake until very lightly browned around the edges – about 15-20min in a 325° oven.

 

Banana Walnut Bread

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 very ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs, well beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

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Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add mashed bananas, eggs, and vanilla and mix thoroughly with a hand mixer. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk gradually to the mix, alternating between the two. Make sure to scrape your sides and mix this well. Add the walnuts, or leave them out if you prefer your bread without nuts, and pour into a greased bread pan. Personally, I use a baking pan that has 4 small loaves in it. Perfect size for a treat basket! Bake at 325° for 1 hour, or until a knife comes out clean from the middle, and the edges are brown.

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Veggie Rotini with a Spicy Italian Sausage Bolognese

The hubs was coming home really late last night and requested one of his favorite dishes of mine, spaghetti. I am not much into red sauce, I usually prefer béchamel (Alfred/white sauce) or white wine sauces. But sometimes, I really do like a hearty meat sauce. I prefer shorter noodles also; bow tie, rotini, elbow, egg…

I stopped by the store and picked up some spicy italian sausage. You can get it in or out of the casing, it really doesn’t matter, other than the fact that you’ll want to take it out of the casing before cooking it. If you’re up for dealing with that, you can. If you don’t like spicy, you can use whatever kind of ground meat you like. I prefer spicy sausage because it adds so much more flavor to the sauce as it cooks for hours and hours 🙂

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1 Box of Veggie Rotini Pasta (the curly kind)

Sausage Bolognese

2lb Spicy Italian Sausage (or whatever meat you want)
1-2 bottle(s) store bought spaghetti sauce
5 cloves garlic minced
1 large onion diced
1 teaspoon dried Oregano
1 pinch dried thyme
Salt & Pepper to taste
3 tablespoons tomato paste

In a deep sauce pan heat about 2 tablespoons of oil on med-hi until it becomes glassy. Add diced onion to the pan and stir until all of the onion is covered. Let that cook for about 2min then add garlic.

I prefer to start my onion and garlic before the meat, so the flavors have room to open up. You can start your meat first if thats what you prefer.

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After about a minute, start to add the sausage, pulling it into pieces as you add it to the pan. Raw sausage doesn’t break up as easily as ground beef/turkey/chicken do, but it will be easy to break up once it starts cooking. Add all of the meat, sprinkle with some salt and pepper, and turn the heat down to medium. Let the meat cook until its brown, about 10min – stirring every so often, making sure to break up the bigger chunks of meat with your spoon. After the meat is brown, let it sit still for about 2min so you can skim the oil from the sausage off of the top.

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Add tomato paste, dried spices, and mix until meat is coated well. Add one jar of store bought spaghetti sauce, whatever kind you like, and mix well. Turn the heat down to a low simmer, cover, and let cook for about 3 hours. The reason I suggest buying more than one jar of sauce is, the longer you cook this the less moisture there will be. So if the sauce gets to be more like a ragout than you want, add more spaghetti sauce. Or, you could even use a can of crushed tomatoes.

After this is all cooked down, I make the pasta and usually some garlic bread. Slather the inside of a french baguette with butter and a garlic/herb blend, pop that sucker into the oven (lower middle rack) under a high broiler for 5min and you’re set!

One box of that veggie pasta serves about 4 people, and you will definitely have leftovers from the sauce. Freeze it if you don’t plan on eating it within the next week or so.

 

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Remember, cool all leftovers to room temp before freezing or refrigerating. Dont want to grow any bacteria!

The Perfect Peanut Butter Sandwich

Every morning, I get up a little earlier than I need to and I make my step-daughter a PB&J to take to school with her. I know how much cafeteria lunches suck in HS, and I also know how overpriced the good food they sell is. Seeing as though they don’t offer off-campus lunch where she goes, and I don’t want her starving every time I pick her up, I took it upon myself to make sure she had something she liked for lunch everyday. Could she make her own sandwich if she reaaaaalllllyyyyy wanted to? Sure she could.. She is a very responsible and independent teenager, and does very well on her own. But I like doing it 🙂

Ever since I can remember, I’ve hated PB&J. My twin brother, on the other hand, loves it. I prefer PB&B (bananas), or PB&N (nutella).
When we were 7 yrs old, we were adopted by our aunt and uncle which forced a relocation to the State of Washington – in the middle of nowhere – to their Bed and Breakfast. Our new parents didn’t know much about us, and one day tried to feed me peanut butter and jelly. Boyyyyy, did they hit a nerve. I refused to eat said sandwich, and was sent to my room. I ended up being so upset about it that I tried to run away. LMAO! I didn’t even bring anything with me, and only got about a mile down our dirt road/driveway before I just sat down and cried.. All I wanted was a tuna sandwich, or anything other than PB&J!

Personally, I don’t care for any kind of jelly, jam, marmalade, none of it. Ever. On anything.

I think thats the way life is about a bunch of things. Ketchup or Ranch, Mayo or Miracle Whip, Honey Mustard or BBQ.. I’ve noticed over the years youre either into one or the other of all of those. Personally, I know I would choose Ranch dressing over Ketchup for fries, Mayo any day for my sandwich, and definitely Honey Mustard for my nuggets.

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Some people may think there is no art to making a peanut butter sandwich, of any kind. I will strongly disagree on that one. Too much peanut butter, just gross and overpowering. Too little peanut butter, the sandwich ends up uneven and sometimes dry. You want the perfect mix of ingredients!

For a Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich, I like using a thin layer of pb on one side of the bread, and adding the jelly to the other. Since I don’t like PB&J’s, I have learned over the years that this is usually the most preferred way of enjoying this sandwich, or so say my brother and kid. I tend to make my nuntella and peanut butter sandwiches the same way. Sometimes, if Im feeling a little crazy, I add bananas or strawberries also lol!

On the other hand, for a peanut butter and banana sandwich, I add peanut butter to both sides of the bread. Since you are getting more banana to peanut butter, in each bite, you have to even that out. I prefer less ripe bananas, they’re meatier and more sweet; which is a nice contrast with the salty peanut butter.

Whatever way you like your sandwich, so be it. I think we all forget to eat lunch sometimes, or we just don’t always have time to take a break from work and get something to fuel our minds… Pack yourself a sandwich! It takes 5min to make, and is easy to carry with you.