Category Archives: money saving monday

Money Saving Monday–Welcome Back Courtney!

I’m back readers. Did you miss me during my vacation?

What’s that? You didn’t know I was taking a vacation? Shame! You’d have heard about it if you liked me on Facebook. Tsk tsk.

In reality, it wasn’t much of a vacation, since it was only a break from blogging. We were so busy, it was stupid. We had a lot going on. Here’s a recap for those of you not in the know:

We went to the zoo.

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I reunited with old friends, and saw some new ones.

We played hide and seek…kind of.

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I started a new job.

We celebrated Father’s Day with giant batches of brownies and our own…unique kinds of presents.

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We wore chef hats and fancy aprons.

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(Thank you Momma Kamper)

Olive made friends with some super heroes.

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I went to Comfest (giant festival we have in Columbus every year) for music, tie dye, and art.

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Someone turned five.

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And everyone ate pink cupcakes. Pink cupcakes that were AMAZING, I might add. Yes, you can have the recipe, but no, not today. I didn’t get to take any pictures of the process OR the cupcakes, due to the frightening speed in which they disappeared. I was enthusiastically told that they were the greatest thing I had ever baked. Later guys, you can have it later.

Besides, a whole week of comfort food and sweets and I’m done. When we grilled our dinner, we kept it simple–vegetables, corn, and baked beans. Easy, healthy, nourishing, delicious. Except there was just one problem. I didn’t have any dessert, energy, or cupcakes (those of you who ate more than one, I’m looking at YOU, jerks! Didn’t you know I was going to have cupcake breakfast?).

So we had apples. Because no matter how tired, broke, or sweet deprived I am, I always have apples, and they’ve never let me down.

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Grilled Apples
Serves Four
2 Apples
Cinnamon, to taste
Ginger, to taste
Blueberries, to garnish
Sugar (optional)

Cut the apples in half. Remove the core with a paring knife OR, if you’re my mother and managed to deeply cut yourself on tongs last week, a dull spoon, some elbow grease, and a lot of determination. A melon baller would probably also work fine.

Sprinkle the apples with cinnamon, ginger, and sugar, if using (you don’t need to, I think they’re amazing as is. But for a tart baking apple, a bit might help). Place the apples, cut side up, on the grill until they start to look soft. Turn them over for about a minute to cook the cut side. Remove from grill, fill cavities with blueberries while still hot, and then serve them to your family who ate waaaaaaaaaaaaay too many cupcakes last weekend, ate waaaaaaaaaaaaay too many chocolate donuts, and had waaaaaaaaay too many juiceboxes. Remind your significant other that apples are a dessert and no we do not need to go to the grocery store to pick up Swedish fish and no, you are not making him another batch of chocolate coconut fudge, and no, the fudge would not be healthier if you put peanut butter in it.

Seriously though, these are yummy, are nothing but fruit and spices, and are full of vitamins and nutrients that round out a meal perfectly. I’m not saying there isn’t a time for pink cupcakes or peanut butter fudge. But that time isn’t today.

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Because if she expects to be this fabulous all the time, she’s going to need the energy. She’s going to need apples.

Oh hell, who am I kidding. I need the apples.

Money Saving Monday–Grain Salads, or “Beets, Part Deux”, otherwise known as “Totally Flaked Last Friday so Here’s a Twofer”

Guys, I’m pooped. In a weeks time I had finals, Mike’s birthday, and my band had two gigs. I’m exhausted.

I had originally planned to get an update with a second beet recipe up on Friday. Well, I didn’t. Sorry. Instead, I was busy baking this monstrosity.

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Delicious, vegan, and soooo, soooo bad for you. The man is worth it though, for sure. When a good man says, “I want a vanilla and chocolate cake mixed together with candy baked in, cookies on top, and sprinkles!” after having cheerfully taken tantrum duty for you after a near death experience (for Olive, not me), you really have no choice but to deliver.

I’m not giving you the recipe, though. I love you guys too much to let you eat that.

Anyway, conveniently enough, the second beet recipe I came up with tied into an important “Money Saving Monday” tip, which I am happy to share with you. Readers, eat more grains!

It’s summer, and salads are light and refreshing. Filling? Not so much. Confession time: I’ve never particularly cared for salads. Sure, I’ll eat an especially tempting one from time to time and I love the ones they serve at restaurants, but at home they just take more effort that I’m usually willing to put in for a side dish and require more produce than I’m willing to part with for an entire meal. I’m more of a “roast,” “steam,” or “grill,” sort of girl, myself. Besides, leaves alone are not tremendously satisfying.

Grain, however, easily solves this problem. You can make a salad out of ANYTHING readers, and I mean, ANYTHING. Have too much rice in your fridge? Make a salad. Dying to figure out what wheat berries taste like? Make a salad. Want a meal in a bowl that lasts you the whole week and won’t require you to so much as toast bread? Make a salad.

Most grains are dirt cheap. A big ol’ bag of rice, wheat berries, or barley costs, at worst, two bucks. At that, you can find a ton of different varieties, and each one has a unique texture. If you’re feeling really fun, check out the bulk food section of Whole Foods (or other natural food store) for a large variety of surprisingly affordable, nutritious whole grains. The recipes can be as simple or complicated as you want them to be.

I chose simple.

Pink Barley Salad
3 beets, roasted in two tbs of olive oil (as per these instructions), chopped into bite sized pieces.
1 cup pearled barley
1/2 or one whole cucumber, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 tomato, diced
4 tbs lemon juice, or to taste
1 15 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper to taste

Did your reserve the Olive Oil like you did last time?

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Good! You’ll need that!

Ok, this is going to be complicated. I want you to take all the ingredients, including the reserved oil, put them in a bowl, and mix them.

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The result? Beets blend well with the citrus and tomatoes, the peppers add a nice crunchiness, the barley is chewy and just right, it’s a bowl full of awesome nutrition…

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…and it turns bright pink! How cool is that? How cool would it be to bring that to a potluck? “Salad? Oh, you mean the princess salad. Yes, I made that.”

You can feel free to call it princess salad. I won’t judge. It’s the only way I could get Olive to eat it. Truth be told, she thinks she doesn’t like beets. She’ll eat pink food though.

The longer you marinate it, the better it will taste, so feel free to let this sit in your fridge over night, or even for an hour or two, before you start chowing down. Much like revenge, it’s best served cold. It will not, however, kill you.

Happy Monday, readers! I’m going to bed!

Money Saving Monday–Stay AWAY From the McDonalds Breakfast Menu!!!

Don’t do it readers! I mean it, stop, just stop! Back out of the drive-thru, go home, and eat a real breakfast. I’m not even kidding, stay away from there.

I have a myriad of reasons to tell you not to pick up breakfast on the way to work–donuts, hash browns, breakfast sandwiches and overpriced, overheated coffee (serious McDonalds, my tongue is on FIRE) being among them. Mostly, though? I want you to eat something better and save yourself a couple of bucks.

Fast food restaurants have these clever things called value menus, or dollar menus. Aren’t they smart? They make a semi addictive substance for you at a bargain in the hopes that you’ll buy more of it. If cigarette companies were allowed to do this without being taxed to high heaven, I would probably still be smoking. What you’re getting at your local McD’s though, is tax free…”food.” You can buy as much as you want, they can pocket the entire profit, and you get to feel sick and lethargic all day.

Hooray!

Guys, I have something better and quicker for you, so long as you’re willing to do a little preparation earlier in the week.

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I did not invent the tofu frittata. This is a thing vegetarian and vegan cooks have always made, and you can probably find other recipes for it all over the internet. I’m going to go ahead and tell you that this one is my favorite.

Why? Well, first off, you can pronounce all the ingredients. Go ahead, see what’s in a sausage biscuit with “cheese.” I’ll wait.

Disgusted? you ought to be.

Second, while I’m not a huge proponent of calorie counting, they are a whopping 48 calories a pop. Eat two. Seriously, you should probably eat two with some fruit and a piece of toast (mine was devoured while these were cooking). Besides, what these guys lack in calories, they make up in everything else. These are protein-alicious, so they will keep you full longer, and just one has 29% of your daily vitamin C, 16% vitamin A, 7% of your iron, and is a good source of apparently everything. Try using a nutritional analyzer on this recipe and you will be amazed. Eat two. Heck, eat three. You’re doing nothing but good.

Finally, these guys are pretty cheap in the long run. Sure, they require some fresh veggies, but buying good veggies this time of year is a snap. Give me a month and I’ll have most of the vegetable components coming straight from my garden. Plus, it contains my good friend tofu, which I’m sure you remember from this post. Some people will undoubtedly tell me that while tofu is cheap (less than three dollars for this particular block and cheaper at some stores), you can sometimes get eggs for less than a dollar. While I would love to explain that those eggs are probably gross (they are), instead, I’m going to counter practically: Yes, a dozen eggs may be cheaper than a block of tofu. However, to make the same amount of frittatas you will probably need the entire dozen, possibly more. If you’re trying to cut out the cholesterol by using egg whites, it will end up costing you even more. And if you’re using quality eggs that you know the source of? Trust me. It’s not cheap.

Besides, these keep you from making that dreaded stop through the drive-thru, which is rife with impulse buys and super hot, overpriced coffee (please, McD’s, just a couple ice cubes or something next time?).

Make these. They’ll keep in the fridge for a few days, are good cold or heated up, are good smooshed between toast, and are healthy. Enjoy!

Tofu Frittatas
Makes 12
1 tsp Olive Oil
1 Zucchini
1 Bell Pepper
1 BIG Handful of Spinach (or 1-2 cups)
1 14 oz block of soft tofu
1/4 cup Nutritional Yeast (don’t remember this ingredient? Read this.)
2 tbs Unsweetened Almond Milk
2 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Chilli Powder
1-2 tsp Braggs or Soy Sauce
1 dash liquid smoke
pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Chop the veggies while you wait.

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Throw everything but the spinach in with the oil and saute till soft.

While those are sauteing, remove the tofu from its packaging and squeeze out as much moisture as you can. That’s right, no pressing required! Then crumble it into a bowl.

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Using an electric hand mixer, blend the tofu with the spices, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, liquid smoke, and almond milk until smooth…ish. It won’t be perfect, and that doesn’t matter.

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At this point, the veggies should be soft, so throw the spinach in with them and saute until wilted. This shouldn’t take more than a minute or two.

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Then add the veggies to the tofu mixture and mix by hand until everything is combined fairly evenly. I forgot to take a picture of it, but it’s not exactly rocket science, so you should have a handle on it. 🙂

Pour these into a very lightly greased muffin pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until they are set and the tops are a golden brown.

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Let these cool before you remove them. They are hot and a bit crumbly initially. That’s what makes them so wonderful though. They taste quite a bit like scrambled eggs and are easy enough to make a sandwich out of. They have some moisture, which is necessary because dry, crumbly tofu is…well, gross. All in all, these are pretty awesome.

They keep well in the fridge, and just pop them in the microwave the next day, slap them on some toast, and you’re ready for a health filled, wonderful day.

Besides, how many times have I told you to eat your veggies for breakfast? (Answer: Once, actually.) With these, you will be a crunchy rock star, and your greased out, sugared up coworkers/classmates/children will be jealous of your increased productivity. Yay!

Happy Monday, readers!

Money Saving Monday–A Crunchy Kitchen Essential!

Readers, I’m probably never going to give you a “What’s in my kitchen!” post, because it will leave you incredibly confused. I live in a household of three adults, one vegan, one vegetarian, and one meat eater. So while some things, like the bunches of kale, or the entire section of my cupboard devoted to beans, will make sense, things like Hamburger Helper, canned ham, and stacks of frozen, ground “beef” will not. I do think, though, it’s important that you know a few items I can’t live without. Since today is Money Saving Monday, this is the perfect day to talk about the one thing I panic over if I can’t find it–unsweetened applesauce.

This stuff is insane, guys! Unsweetened applesauce is more than just a tasty treat to give your kid so she’ll shut up while you try to get the dishes done, it’s an absolute necessity in vegan and low fat baking. Whenever a recipe calls for an egg, you just mix 1/4 cup of applesauce with about 1/2 tsp of baking powder, and voila, you have an egg. In fact, you can replace a good bit of the oil many recipes call for with applesauce and end up with a much lighter, but still moist, baked good. One of my favorite brownie recipes omits all the oil and replaces it with applesauce, and you can’t tell the difference!

Applesauce is a cheap eat, at around $1.80 for a giant jar of it. It keeps in your cabinets for a long time, so when it’s on sale stock up on it for super cheap (I’m a big fan of the buy one, get one sales, myself). It’s good to have one jar opened in the fridge, for immediate use, and one sealed in your cabinet, for when you’re in a bind. All of my cakes and cookies require the stuff, and I think if you’ve baked them, you’ll agree, applesauce does the trick quite nicely!

Watch out for applesauce with added sugar. The sugar is completely unnecessary, as applesauce is naturally very sweet, but companies add it in because it tends to sell better. I promise, though, that you will not know the difference, especially if you are baking with it. At that, if you sprinkle in some cinnamon, your kids probably won’t know the difference either!

Sure, you could mash a banana up and use that as an egg instead, but for $1.80 a jar you get a fake egg that isn’t going to alter the flavor of your baked good AND won’t disintegrate into something unrecognizable on top of your fridge in a few days. Plus, it shuts the little ones up pretty darn fast when they’re begging for sweets.

Is it as good for you as an apple? No. Apples have fiber and more vitamins overall. Whole fruit ALWAYS beats purees and juices. What it is, is a low fat alternative to the oil and eggs you were going to throw into your banana bread, so it’s worth a try. Trust me guys, it’s good stuff.

Happy Monday readers! Yummy recipes are up ahead for the week, but today I want you to think long and hard about how good applesauce is, and then try one of my muffin recipes. It will be your best applesauce experience ever, promise!

Money Saving Monday–Eat it Starbucks

Readers, I’m not going to lie, I really, really like coffee.

I’m not one of those bloggers that’s going to tell you to abstain from God’s way of telling us he loves us and wants to wake up and have a good day…or afternoon pick me up…or a good study session…all nighter…etc… In fact, I love it exactly as much as I love tea, which says a lot because I ADORE tea! If I could find some hot water I’d be drinking some tea right now!

But this isn’t about tea. It’s not even really about coffee.

Starbucks has this creation that it calls a blended “coffee” drink. It’s not coffee. It might have a teensy bit of coffee, but it’s almost entirely not coffee. It is full of cream, chocolate, and other “goodies” that will set you back AT LEAST a meals worth of calories, fat, and sugar. It will also cost you AT LEAST five bucks. Boo!

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Yeah, that’s right, Frappuccino, I’m talking about you. You’re disgusting!

Guys, I don’t really care if you count your calories or sugar intake or any of that. I don’t and I’m much happier this way. But if you’re going to drink something that sugar laden and icky, you should at least get some nutrients. Or some coffee.

A Much Better Blended Coffee Drink
1/2 cup black coffee, room temperature or chilled
1 frozen banana, in chunks
1/2 to 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (some may need to dilute the coffee more)
4-5 ice cubes
maple syrup or other sweetener to taste (I used 1 tsp)

In a blender, add all the ingredients except the ice. Blend until smooth, then add the ice cubes, one at a time, until your drink has the desired consistency.

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Well would you look at that. I may have just put Starbucks out of business.

(I didn’t mean that Starbucks. I really like your soy vanilla lattes. Shhh. Don’t tell my readers.)

Seriously though, if you absolutely need something sweet and caffeinated, you can’t beat this. You’re getting the health benefits of coffee that all the doctors are raving about right now, the health benefits of cocoa (doesn’t get much darker than that), the health benefits of almond milk (hello readily absorbed calcium!), and the health benefits of bananas (potassium is a go)–and it’s DELICIOUS!

Go ahead, have a “venti” one. You’ll feel fancy and all your friends will be jealous of your barista abilities. And you’ll save yourself a few bucks, to boot.

Drink and be awake, readers!

I Really, Really, Really Love Chinese Takeout

I mean it readers, I do! In fact, EVERYONE in this house loves Chinese and would eat it every meal of every day if it weren’t for the penchant of American Chinese cuisine to fry everything. Are there veggies? Yes. Are there nutrients? Yes. Did the tofu soak up it’s weight in grease? Yes.

Some food, such as Indian, I’m willing to splurge on fairly regularly. Part of that has to do with the fact that in Columbus there are two 100% vegetarian Indian restaurants, so while I’m getting some extra oil, they’re very, very clear about what is and isn’t vegan, and I’ve never accidentally ingested meat at any of them. I wish I could say the same for the Chinese restaurants in the area.

Unfortunately, since we aren’t regulars at all of our favorite restaurants (I mean, it’s all you can eat vegan Indian food or a single order of General Tso’s Tofu for the same price, which would YOU pick more often?) they don’t memorize our dietary concerns. Also, sometimes the language barrier is just a little too tricky. I’m almost positive the “vegetable egg roll” I ordered last time had some pork in it. My body paid for that slip up dearly.

Most concerning, however, is Mike. Mike has an anaphylactic reaction to shrimp and other shell fish. Naturally, since we don’t eat anything that used to breathe or move, this isn’t usually a problem unless we’re at a restaurant that also serves seafood. Even then, most of the time a simple, “Hey, he has a shellfish allergy,” is enough to alert the kitchen staff that they need to cook his food on a different surface. No chef in his right mind is going to risk a lawsuit. Luckily, we’ve never had to use the Epipen I keep in my purse.

Sometimes, however, Chinese food can scare us. At least once a waitress has come back and said, “Oh! I forgot, that contains crab meat, but it’s just a little, you can barely taste it.” or “Oh, we cooked that in the same pan as the fried shrimp, but there’s no ACTUAL shrimp, so we’re cool, right?” No, no we are not cool and you’re lucky I don’t strangle you to death right now! Once, the item was nearly in his mouth when she reminded us. Needless to say, we don’t go to that restaurant anymore.

If we ever hoped to have Chinese food again without Mike needing an Epipen (or a defibrillator for the heart attack that waitress gave me), I needed to come up with something just as yummy that we could eat at home. And why not make it super cheap, healthy, and vegan while I’m at it?

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Vegan Fried Rice
4 cups cooked brown rice
1 lb soft tofu
1 12 oz bag of frozen stir fry veggies (you can substitute fresh if you’d like, and you can DEFINITELY add more vegetables if you want! The more the merrier!)
1 tsp Canola Oil
1 tsp garlic
2 tbs lower sodium soy sauce, or tamari
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs maple syrup
1 tbs rice (or plain, if you don’t have rice) vinegar
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ginger
pinch of red pepper (optional)

For those of you not familiar with the preparation of soft tofu, you’ll be delighted to find out it’s actually much easier and quicker than firm tofu. Simple drain the water out of the package, take a hunk of the tofu in your hand, and squeeze as much excess liquid as you can out. Repeat with the rest of the tofu, and crumble into a bowl. Tada, you’ve just pressed the tofu.

Heat the canola oil in a large skillet (wok if you have one) over medium high heat. Add the crumbled tofu and saute until heated through (about five minutes). Quite a bit of the excess water will disappear at this time. Add the frozen veggies, and saute until ALL the excess water is gone and the veggies are cooked through.

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While you’re cooking the veggies, whip up the sauce. Whisk together the garlic, soy suace, sesame oil, maple syrup, rice vinegar, ginger, black pepper, and red pepper (if using). Set aside.

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After roughly ten minutes, the veggies will be cooked and look like this:

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Add the rice, reduce the heat to medium, and stir in the sauce.

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Cook for about five more minutes, adjusting spices as you see fit. Perhaps you’d like some more fresh pepper? Or a sprinkle of sesame oil (I could drink that stuff, it’s so yummy. But you shouldn’t because it’s definitely oil!)? Personally, I like a bit more soy sauce, but since Mike does not, I add that privately to my own bowl.

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Yes, it’s as tasty as it looks. I totally didn’t slip pork or shrimp into it, either.

Tada! You now have Mike’s go to order at every Chinese restaurant! The tofu replaces the eggs (I mean it; even the texture is similar) and combined with the veggies makes a complete meal. Plus, it’s tasty!

We still had to put it through the ultimate test, though. I sent it to our resident expert on Asian cuisine for review.

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It’s a hit!

(Please ignore the pile of dirt from our seedlings that’s on our dining room table. It seems to not only be the food/craft/homework area of the house, but the only flat surface that receives a good amount of sunlight.)

Olive devoured her bowl in a matter of minutes, broccoli and all, and asked for seconds. Hooray!

This is easy, cheap, and really good dinner/packed lunch. Try it out the next time you find yourself reaching for a carryout menu. If nothing else, it won’t cost you ten bucks plus delivery, and it certainly won’t be grease soaked or shrimp tainted.

Happy cooking!

Money Saving Monday–This Blog is Bananas

Readers, do you love bananas? You really should. Bananas are a naturally sweet treat full of vitamins and goodies such as potassium. Also, they’re CHEAP AS CHEAP CAN BE! Perhaps you’re sick of eating bananas every day for breakfast (Be honest, did I just peg you? I’m pretty sure I did.). I can understand that. I was a morning banana person for a long time, too. Bananas are so much more than just a breakfast side dish, though. In fact, they’re a staple in my house and probably the most versatile food I use with frequency. Here are ten ideas that will turn this cheap fruit into the superstar of your household.

1. Mash overripe bananas and use them whenever a recipe called for applesauce, or eggs. Just mix it with the oil the same way you do applesauce. The banana adds a really neat flavor. Super yummy!
2. Slice one into your pancake batter. When the pancakes cook, you get this lovely creamy texture on the inside. It’s like having a cream filled pancake, but healthier!
3. Peanut Butter+Bananas=Joy
4. Freeze some cut up bananas. Then, do one of the next few ideas!
5. Take three bananas worth of frozen bananas and throw them into a food processor. Let that bad boy go and you end up with soft serve. Add a tablespoon of cocoa if you want chocolate ice cream. 🙂
6. Bananas taste good in smoothies with the following fruit: Mangoes, Peaches, Blueberries, Strawberries, Blackberries, and Cherries. Throw in a handful of spinach and some almond milk and you have yourself a pretty darn awesome beverage.
7. The best post workout treat EVER–1/2 frozen banana, 1/2 cup frozen cherries, 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1/2 cup water, 1 handful of spinach, and 1 tbs cocoa powder. It tastes like a chocolate milk shake, and yes, you will drink the whole thing. 🙂
8. Dip the frozen banana chunks in melted chocolate. Eat. Share only if you have to.
9. Add a banana to any food you’re trying to sweeten. My personal favorite? Mashing a super ripe one into mashed sweet potatoes. Super yummy!
10. 1 sliced banana + fresh berried + fresh sliced fruit + vegan whipped cream = most appetizing dessert for four year olds ever. Seriously. She loves that stuff. In fact, the cream is optional, since she doesn’t seem to miss it when I don’t have it.

Those are some of our favorite banana tricks in the crunchy house. I’d bet you guys have some awesome banana concoctions too, though. After all, you are my readers, and you’re all pretty resourceful people. How do you guys eat bananas?