Tag: recipes


Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cupcakes

You want to know something weird about me? I don’t like cake. I know, it is shocking. Really, though, it’s the frosting I don’t like. When I was a small child, my mom let me eat the leftover frosting from a birthday cake she had made. She warned me not to eat too much, but I was a kid with a tube of homemade frosting. As you can imagine, I ate too much and proceeded to get fantastically ill. Ever since that day, I don’t do frosting. And since most cake I’ve tried is disappointment covered by overly sweet frosting, I just don’t do cake.

Until now. Enter, Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cupcakes. One bite, and my life changed forever. I became a cupcake girl again. These bad boys are rich, moist, and decadent–like the heavenly offspring of a brownie and a chocolate muffin. The best part is each cupcake packs as much protein as an egg and all 9 essential amino acids, thanks to the quinoa. They are also naturally gluten-free, free of refined sugars and oils, and definitely don’t taste like it!

But I can hear your skeptic thoughts with my Jedi mind powers. Quinoa? Really? She expects me to believe that quinoa is good in cupcakes? I DARE you to try this recipe and not eat the whole batch. Shane was just as skeptic when I told him of my plans. But after first licking the batter off every utensil and devouring his first cupcake WHOLE (I’m not kidding), he declared that my quinoa cupcakes were the BEST HE’S EVER EATEN.

My Dark Chocolate Quinoa cupcakes come together in a flash and are the perfect treat for, say, exam week in grad school. Yes, friends, it’s no coincidence that I made a batch for myself last night. I need some extra oomph to keep me going this week, and these cupcakes deliver on the chocolate and nutrition front.

They are so moist that they don’t need any frosting. However, if you absolutely need frosting on your cupcakes, I’m including my famous avocado fudge frosting that can be made in the same blender.

Cupcake Ingredients:

2 cups cooked quinoa (measured 2/3 cup uncooked)

1/3 cup milk

3/4 cup coconut oil

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 ½ cups Sucanat (or any other granulated sweetener you prefer)

1 cup cocoa powder

1 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Blend milk, eggs, and vanilla in a blender/food processor. Add coconut oil. Blend, then add sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Blend, then add cocoa. Blend again, then add the quinoa. BLEND, adding more milk if needed.

Pour batter into muffin tins. Lick the spatula. Depending on your self-control, this recipe can make 6-12 cupcakes.

Bake for 30 minutes.

While the cupcakes are baking, make the frosting (if desired)!

Avocado Fudge Frosting (Optional):

2 ripe avocados, halved and pitted

½ cup cocoa powder

½ cup maple syrup

2 Tbsp melted coconut oil

Few pinches salt

¼ cup organic dark chocolate chips (optional)

Put everything except the chips in the same blender/food processor. Blend. Add the chips, if using. Blend again. Once the cupcakes are cool, slather them with frosting.


Pairing Suggestion

A cup of strong organic coffee and a final exam (Exam optional. The coffee is not) 😉

Happy Monday, and May the Fourth be With You!


Friday Favorites!

On Monday night, a winter storm rolled in that dumped a few inches of snow on us all of Tuesday. Today, the snow has mostly melted and on Saturday, the high will be back up to 60 degrees. Who knows what will happen next week! After living in northern Minnesota for almost four years, nothing surprises me anymore (at least not weatherwise). That’s why I’ve been determined to bring spring onto my plate, even though it’s felt like winter for most of the week. I’ve been experimenting with a lot of spring inspired foods, in the hopes that Mother Nature will get the hint and turn up the heat. If nothing else, Shane and I have been happily munching on fresh treats and a few surprising dishes that may sound adventurous but are truly delicious.

In addition to the good food we’ve been making, there have been exciting updates to the world of books! So, without further adieu: FRIDAY FAVORITES!


Review Page!

Book 3

As an author, reviews are my best friends. I love them more than watermelon, chocolate, or tea. Yes, I love reviews THAT much. Why? Because reviews help spread Seven Stones to a bigger audience and makes people feel like buying an indie book by a new author isn’t such a big risk after all. Also, the more reviews an item has on a database like Amazon or Goodreads, the easier it is to find it in a Google search. So, by writing a review, you are making my book more visible. THE POWER IS YOURS!

As of this week, my fabulous web designer, Luke, created a Review Page right on my website. And as essential as professional reviews are for a novel, reader reviews are equally important. If you’ve read the book and post a review to Amazon, Goodreads, or LibraryThing, I’ll put your post on my website as well. You’ll be super famous! And I’ll love you forever. 🙂


Creamy Asparagus Noodles–With a Secret Ingredient!

It’s no secret that I love to experiment with tasty, healthy foods. Being creative in the kitchen and working with my hands inspires my writing, so that’s why you see so many recipes on my blog. Plus, I love eating.

The recipe I’m sharing became my favorite meal of the week because of it’s taste, ease of preparation, and nutrition. Now, I’m not usually one for cream based sauces–they leave me feeling weighed down and kind of gross–but when I saw the main ingredient in this dish, I was intrigued. What is this oh-so-secret base for the noodle sauce? Cauliflower. You heard me right: CAULIFLOWER.

At this point, you’re probably giving me the same look that Shane did when I announced my experiment of the week. But, since he’s a good sport and really willing to try anything at this point, he helped me throw it together for lunch on Thursday. The prep is super easy–the bulk of the work is just chopping up an onion, garlic, and a head of cauliflower. You boil the veggies until tender, then puree them with lemon juice until they die and go to velvety heaven.

If you are skeptical or questioning my sanity at this point, there are a few things you should know:

1) Until this year, I hated cauliflower. It was the one veggie I couldn’t stand to eat. Since experimenting with different methods of cooking it, however, I’ve realized I didn’t hate cauliflower. I just hadn’t discovered how I liked it prepared.

2) Shane, a true meat-eater at heart and not as big of an eating weirdo as I am, DEVOURED his bowl and said it was one of the best noodle dishes he’s ever had.

So, if you are feeling adventurous, here’s a fresh spring recipe from Detoxinista.com that will leave your tastebuds–and body–happy!

*Note: if you don’t have asparagus in your area, this recipe is just as good without*

Creamy Cauliflower Noodles with Fresh Asparagus


1 teaspoons coconut oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium head of cauliflower, chopped

Enough water to cover the cauliflower

1/3 cup milk

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 bunch asparagus, woody ends removed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pound shell noodles (or any other kinds of noodles, really. The sky’s the limit!)

crushed handful of oregano, basil, or Italian seasoning (optional)


Prepare the pasta according to the package directions and set aside.

To prepare the creamy lemon sauce, melt 1 teaspoon of coconut oil in large pot over medium heat and sauté the onion and garlic until fragrant  and softened. Add in the cauliflower and enough water to cover, and bring it to a boil. Cover the pot with a lid and reduce the heat let simmer about 10 to 15 minutes.

Once the cauliflower is easily pierced with a fork, transfer the contents of the pot to a blender (including the liquid) and add in the milk, lemon juice, sea salt, and black pepper, and seasonings, to taste. Carefully blend the sauce until silky smooth.

In the same large pot, melt the other teaspoon of coconut oil over medium heat and sauté the onion for 5 minutes. Add in the asparagus, and continue sautéing until tender, about 8-10 more minutes. Add in the cooked pasta and pour the creamy cauliflower sauce into the pot, stirring well to combine. Season the pasta with additional salt and pepper, if needed, and serve warm!


Book of the Week: Princesses Behaving Badly

I’m not usually one for nonfiction unless it gives me a good story. This book hooked me from the very title, and has been delivering stories of intriguing, backstabbing, murderous, cunning, kind, brave, and adventurous women throughout history. Unlike the Disney version of princesses, these are real women who use their status to gain power, wage war, or shirk it to become pirates (which happens to a few!). It’s been a butt-kicking, action-packed read that I’ve been devouring all week. The stories are broken down into fascinating narrations and are bite-sized enough to keep you reading way past your bedtime.

Have an adventurous weekend! Happy Friday!


Easter & Avocado Egg Salad

I needed a day like yesterday. Over the past few weeks, between the book release, friends visiting, Shane working crazy hours ,and two big assignments that were due in grad school, it has been go, go, go around here. Most of the time (except for the homework), we’ve been busy for wonderful reasons. But that didn’t make it any less crazy.

Which lead to yesterday. Easter. Usually, Shane and I will host a dinner for our Minnesota friends. Yesterday, we decided to celebrate with just each other. We turned the crock pot on, dyed eggs, and made a carrot cake (in the shape of a bunny, of course). I thought I would miss the big dinner or the fact that we weren’t making a fuss over a holiday would make it less special. Instead, it was exactly what we both needed. We got to spend the whole day together for the first time in weeks, and it was just what the Doctor ordered (hee hee, we’ve been having a Doctor Who marathon this past week. I couldn’t help myself). In the evening, we got to Skype with friends and ended the day by playing Lord of the Rings: The Card Game like the true nerds we are. It was pretty perfect.

After such a relaxing day, I’m feeling recharged and ready to go. It is APRIL, people! Spring is not quite here yet in northern Minnesota, but we’re planning our garden (our first REAL garden!!!) and I have just over a month left to go in this semester. May will bring the book tour and my birthday (two of my favorite things EVER!), but for now, let’s stay focused on what really matters. And by that, I mean egg salad.

Since I was a child, I’d look forward to dyeing Easter eggs because I knew Mom would be turning all the leftover hardboiled eggs into one of my favorite sandwiches. I love egg salad. I know that means most of you are giving that sentence a strange or disgusted look. Shane does the same thing to me–he can’t fathom how I can love such a food. But I don’t care. DO YOU HEAR ME, WORLD? I LOVE EGG SALAD! I don’t, however, love mayonnaise or the calories and fat that weigh traditional egg salad down. What is an egg salad loving girl to do?!

The answer? Avocado Egg Salad. Yup. You heard me right. Those fat green fruits are loaded with healthy fats and make a super creamy egg salad that you can feel good about eating. As a bonus, your egg salad is green. Which is pretty cool.

I found a great recipe on Two Peas and Their Pod, and have been in egg salad heaven ever since. This is what I’ll be making later today and happily munching for the rest of the week.

Avocado Egg Salad of POWER!

Two Peas and Their Pod

Two Peas and Their Pod

6 hard boiled eggs, chopped

3 medium avocados, pitted, peeled, and chopped

3 TBSP lemon juice

1 small onion, chopped (if you’re in a pinch, use onion salt)

3 TBSP mustard (add more or less to taste)

Dash or two of Hungarian paprika, to taste

Dash of garlic salt, to taste (I usually sprinkle in about a teaspoon)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Super Simple Directions

Mash the avocado. Mix everything together. That’s it.

Serving Suggestions

I think this egg salad is best on toasted bread or in a leafy wrap. If you have leftovers, store in the fridge at room temperature. The lemon juice in the recipe should keep the avocado from turning brown (avocado does this as it oxidizes, like apple slices do). If your egg salad should brown a bit, don’t worry. It is still delicious and perfectly fine to eat. The color never bothers me; I’m too busy devouring my sandwich to notice. 🙂

Happy Monday! I hope you had as good of a weekend as I did!


The Adventure Continues!


What a weekend! I hope everyone is refreshed and relaxed for the upcoming week because it is going to be a BIG one. Tomorrow, I am scheduled to meet with my agent to plan a publicity campaign that involves an expanded book tour. Right after I meet with Krista, I get to have lunch with the graphic designer who will be creating the book trailer for Seven Stones. Just writing that makes me feel professional and cool. 😉

I also have some pretty fabulous updates to share from over the weekend. In addition to meeting my writing mentee (she is fabulous. I am really looking forward to working with her!), I was contacted by several bloggers and businesses who are interested in reviewing and carrying Seven Stones. Getting those emails absolutely floored me. Thank you to everyone who has helped get the word out! A big shout out to everyone posting pictures on Facebook of them reading my book, writing reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Twitter, or just letting me know that they are enjoying the read. It makes my day to see those posts, and I do a happy dance every time!

Shane and I also have been fortunate to have another friend come visit us this week. So far, I’ve done a pretty good job balancing school, writing, fun, and what I call The Book Stuff. One thing that really helps keep us sane (and well fed) is our giant slow cooker. I could write an 80’s love ballad for that thing. It is beyond awesome to be able to throw ingredients together, completely ignore them for 8-10 hours, and then come home from work to a delicious dinner. Because we have company, I decided to whip out one of my favorite recipes: African Chicken Peanut stew.

My version was adapted from this recipe. I mainly added more peanut butter, omitted the heat for Shane, and adapted the cooking time for a slow cooker. I like to serve the stew over a bed of brown rice with fresh cilantro sprinkled (in my case, piled) on top. African Peanut Stew is one of the most requested dinners in the House of Lee. Enjoy!

Julia’s African Chicken Peanut Stew

4 chicken thighs, skin and excess fat removed

1 medium or large yellow onion, diced

A 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and diced

8 cloves of garlic, chopped

3 medium or 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

2 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes

1 quart stock (vegetable or chicken)

2 cups peanut butter, chunky

2 Tbsp ground coriander

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 bunch of fresh Cilantro, chopped (for serving)

Easiest Directions Ever

1. Chop everything and add it to the slow cooker

2. Add stock and diced tomatoes

3. Submerge the chicken thighs whole

4. Turn slow cooker on Low and ignore for 8-10 hours (5-6 on High)

5. When the time is up, remove chicken thighs. Shred the meat from the bone with two forks. Discard the bones (or save to make stock) and put the shredded chicken meat back into the stew.

6. DEVOUR! Serve over cooked brown rice with fresh cilantro heaped on top. I like mine with some sass, so here’s when I add cayenne pepper.

Suggested Pairing

This dish pairs well with old friends and a board game nigh

Happy Monday!



Homemade Granola Bars

The Ultimate Snack

The Ultimate Snack

During these final, crazy weeks leading up to the book release, this recipe has been an absolute lifesaver! Anyone who knows me knows that I love to snack. Busy schedules make it tempting to reach for convenient junk foods, but these granola bars have your back! My mighty granola bars are easy to make and packed with protein, nutrition, and an extra does of YUM!

It all started when I stumbled across this recipe. I’d always wanted to try making granola bars, but thought it would be way too complicated. Not true! The original recipe only calls for 4 ingredients. I ended up doubling the ingredients (because who wants just a few granola bars?) and added raisins and pepitas. If you want to add chocolate chips, coconut shreds, cranberries, almonds, or walnuts, go for it! Have a peanut allergy? Try sunbutter in place of peanut butter. Vegan? Replace the honey with brown rice syrup. This is an incredibly adaptable recipe that can suit any needs or sensitivities! Experiment, have fun, and–most importantly–snack well!

Julia’s Mighty Granola Bars:

4 cups regular rolled oats (NOT quick)

1 cup peanut butter (natural is best)

1 cup honey (At the time, I only had a 1/2 cup honey so I added 1/2 cup brown rice syrup. It was perfect!)

1 tsp sea salt (if using salted peanut butter, reduce to 1/2 tsp)

1 cup pepitas

1 cup raisins

1. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl

2. Pour the honey in a saucepan and heat on medium-low until it comes to a boil. Set a timer and allow honey to boil for 1 minute.

3. Remove from heat and whisk in peanut butter. Try to do this quickly as the mixture will get super sticky as it cools.

4. Pour honey-peanut mixture into dry ingredients and combine. I started with a spoon and ended up using my hands to squish everything together. 🙂

5. Press the sticky granola bar mixture into a 9×13 pan. Squish and flatten as much as you can with your hands.

6. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

7. Cut apart and devour! Store leftovers in an airtight container. I’ve been keeping mine in the fridge, but you can also leave them out on the counter, depending on how quickly you think you’ll eat them all.

Eat throughout the day whenever you need an extra boost of energy or a healthy pick-me-up!

Suggested Pairing:

Glass of almond milk a few carrot sticks after a workout for a rejuvenating snack

Time to get back to writing!

11 DAYS!


Scottish Shortbread

shortbreadScottish shortbread cookies are probably one of my favorite indulgences. When I think of my perfect morning, it involves a big pot of Irish breakfast tea, a plate of shortbread cookies, a blank page, and no obligations. Ahhh…I can feel myself relax just thinking about it. Shortbread cookies are made of pure heaven. What is heaven made of? Mostly butter, some sugar, a bit of flour, and pinch of salt.

I’ve always been fascinated by all things Scottish. The culminating Celtic experience was when my dad and I took a fantastic trip to Scotland in 2008. Those eight days were some of the most magical I’ve ever had. Between sightseeing the lochs, rolling hills, castles, and glens, my dad and I would stop by the local pubs. At every pub, they would serve me a big pot of tea with warm, buttery cookies. Mmmmm….So. Freaking. Good.

Since it is my Dad’s birthday tomorrow, I’m whipping up a batch of these Scottish shortbread cookies to send home to him. I hope each time he enjoys one, he remembers all the adventures we had across the pond!


My dad in the full Bruce clan regalia

And I hope if you try these cookies that they transport your taste buds to a buttery oasis of relaxation and tranquility filled with kilts.


Shane shaking his McGill tartan

Pairing Suggestion:

A mug of strong, black tea, a warm, snuggly blanket, and a blank page.

Hungry for more Scottish recipes? The ones found here were inspired by writing Seven Stones!


Friday Favorites

Most days, I have to actively make time for writing. Sometimes, life just gets in the way and despite my best efforts, no writing gets done. Those days are tough. Fortunately, this week has been good to me in a variety of ways. I’ve been able to write fairly consistently (even if it’s only a few snatched moments in a day), and I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a few treats. Here are a few of my favorite things of the week:

Irish Breakfast Tea

When I do get time to write, it is often veeeery early in the morning. And I’m not quite human yet. The first thing I do when I wake up is make a BIG pot of strong Irish Breakfast tea. Never had Irish breakfast tea before? Think of English Breakfast tea, only with a kick. It is not for the faint of heart, my friends, and it has been the fuel for many a writing splurge. Tea is one of my daily joys. A cup of tea can perk me up, help me unwind, inspire me, be a decadent treat, or a healing medicine. I don’t feel fully human until I have that first mug in the morning (yes, mug. Delicate china cups are beautiful, but let’s face it. They just aren’t big enough).

I started drinking tea when I was about ten years old. I read the Hobbit and became completely obsessed with all things English. What better way to become a hobbit than by adding afternoon tea to your list of meals? Honestly, I didn’t like tea much at first, but I kept trying different varieties and found some I loved. My tastes have definitely matured since that first cup, and I’ve learned quite a bit about brewing the perfect cup.

So, to begin our Friday morning, let’s brew the perfect cup of Irish Breakfast Tea. For black tea, you want to get the water nice and hot. I’m talking a full rolling boil. Immediately pour the boiling water into a mug with 1-1.5 tsp. of leaves (I’ve been known to use 2 full tsp. of tea leaves. Yeah, I live on the edge).  Steep 2-3 minutes (3-5 if you like it strong and sassy). I used to think tea needed to steep 20 minutes. Don’t ever do that. TADA! Your tea is ready! If you really want to be English, add some milk and drink with your pinky out. For more information on brewing, check out the Teavana website, but be warned: this site is addicting.

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Need something to go with your tea? This week, another one of my favorites has been homemade cinnamon rolls. What more needs to be said? Sweet, gooey cinnamon rolls with maple cream cheese frosting are the perfect accompaniment to a nice cup of tea. This apple dumpling cinnamon roll recipe is my favorite. I substitute organic virgin coconut oil and Sucanat in place of refined sugars and oils, and the result is absolutely amazingly delicious! I’ve made this recipe countless times, and have used a variety of substitutions and add-ins (pumpkin cinnamon rolls, anyone?). This time, I left the apples out and just had traditional cinnamon roll goodness. What could be better inspiration than that?

Now that you have a perfectly brewed cup of tea and a warm cinnamon roll, you are ready to curl up with your favorite book!

My favorite book of the week: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen. I love this author. Her stories are sweet, meaningful, and always have more than a little magic sprinkled into them. Allen is a beautiful writer who can transform the simplest of plots and characters into spellbinding stories of heartache, identity, and love. I’m about half-way through the novel, and here is my favorite quote so far:

“After you finish a book, the story still goes on in your mind. You can never change the beginning. But you can always change the end.”

Happy Friday!

What are you reading this week?