Cinnamon Bun Muffins

The aroma of gooey cinnamon rolls baking in the oven is probably one of the most heavenly scents ever. During my teenage years, I worked at a department store and remember the sweet, overpowering smell of them baking at the Cinnabon that was all the way on the other side of the mall. Back then, I didn’t have a metabolism to worry about, so, I indulged in them whenever the craving hit me. Now that I’m older, though, and don’t have quite as quick of a metabolism, I’ve realized that while cinnamon rolls are, in fact, still amazing, that their accompanying calories are not.

Needless to say, when I came arose Elana Amsterdam’s recipe for Cinnamon Bun Muffins, I was ecstatic, especially since she used basic ingredients that I had laying around in my pantry.

Here are how mine turned out. Aren’t they lovely?!

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One batch of these was gone in just a day, which didn’t stop the inner fat kid in me from making subsequent batches. I love that they’re in muffin form, too, which makes them portable and easy to grab in the mornings when you’re on the go.

Head on over to her page for the recipe (in case you resisted the urge earlier and haven’t already)! And, don’t say I didn’t warn you about how incredible these taste. They will be sure to become a favorite in your home and win your tastebuds over.

Grilled Tri-Tip and Oven Roasted Red Potatoes

Picture this: succulent, thinly sliced pieces of tri-tip that have been grilled to perfection and crispy oven roasted red potatoes, drizzled with melted butter. Are you drooling, yet? What if I told you that you can make this dish in as little as 45 minutes? These days, I’m all about coming up with effortless dinner ideas because being both a wife and a mommy can make you pressed for time. If you are following the Paleo diet, you can still enjoy this meal by omitting the potatoes.

Time is ticking, so let’s get started!

Ingredients:

  • 5 red potatoes, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds marinated tri-tip roast, thinly sliced into 1/2 inch pieces

Preparation:

Wash and scrub the skins of the potatoes with soap. Dry. In a large bowl, add the quartered potatoes, dried parsley, salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil. Toss to coat. Transfer to a sheet pan and spread in an even layer.

TT 1

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 25 minutes, take out of the oven, flip potatoes with a spatula, and place back in the oven for 15 more minutes. Remove from the oven, add a few dashes of more salt, and drizzle the melted butter on top.

Place the sliced tri-tip on a heated grill (I used my George Foreman) and grill for 5 minutes for medium rare or 7 minutes for well done.

TT 2

TT 3

Remove from grill.

Serve with potatoes.

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Ooh la la! Who doesn’t love some meat and potatoes? Dig in!

Easy Weeknight Dinner: Beef Medley and Coconut Sugar Butternut Squash

After a long day at work, the last thing you want to do is come home and spend hours in the kitchen to feed your family. Tonight’s dinner recipe I’ll be sharing with you can be made in less than an hour and is quick, easy, healthy, and delicious. In this dish, the savory flavors of beef, spinach, mushrooms, garlic, and onions collide with the sweet, rich flavor of butternut squash that’s been cooked in butter, coconut sugar, salt, and cinnamon, to give you a dish that will leave your tastebuds dancing.

Ingredients: 

  • 1-1 1/2 pounds of lean ground beef (I used 85% lean)
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly diced
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 2 cups butternut squash, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
  • A dash of cinnamon

Din 1

Preparation:

Chop your mushrooms and onions (I decided to add garlic on a whim.)

Din 2

Heat a large nonstick pan over medium heat and add your beef; cook until browned.

Din 3

Add two tablespoons of olive oil and sauté your onions until translucent, for about 2 minutes.

Din 4

Add the mushrooms and sauté for two more minutes. Add another tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the garlic.

Din 5

Add the spinach and cook until wilted.

Din 6

Add cumin, salt, and sprinkle generously with pepper. Remove from heat.

Din 8

In a medium nonstick pan, melt butter over medium heat. Once the butter starts sizzling, add the butternut squash.

Din 7

Saute the butternut squash for 15 minutes, until the squash is tender and turns a deep orange color. Then, sprinkle with coconut sugar, cinnamon, and a few dashes of salt. Remove from heat.

Din 9

Voila!

Din 10

Sweet Potato Hash & Saturday Morning Traditions

Saturday mornings, for me, have always been reminiscent of my childhood, where I would wake up, bleary-eyed, watch my favorite cartoons, and eagerly wait while my parents made us a hearty breakfast. It resulted in us all sitting at the table, enjoying the finished masterpiece together, and creating memories, while sounds of laughter swirled around the kitchen. Now that I have my own family, I like carrying on that same tradition and so, I’m constantly on the lookout for new recipes to try when my own creative spark doesn’t automatically go off. Last year, I came across a gem of a book called The Paleo Kitchen by Juli Bauer & George Bryant. There is a Sun-Dried Tomato Sweet Potato Hash recipe in there that I put a slight but simple twist on to make the most delicious breakfast that doesn’t take much time at all to whip up. Sweet potatoes on their own are already so tasty that you really don’t need to do much to make a dish involving them taste good.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large sweet potato, diced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 eggs
  • 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a dash of basil, dried or fresh

Preparation:

Set your stove to medium heat and melt your coconut oil. Add your diced sweet potatoes and stir them around for a few minutes to get them nicely coated and sizzling in the coconut oil.

1

Cover the pan with a lid and cook for 5 minutes, then, remove the lid and continue cooking the sweet potatoes for another 10 minutes until they’re nicely browned on all sides. Once the sweet potatoes have browned, add your onions and keep cooking them until they turn translucent.

2

Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add four wells into the sweet potato and onion hash, and crack your eggs into the wells.

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5

How long you cook your eggs will depend on the firmness at which you want them. I usually find that cooking them for a few minutes, so that they are not completely hard but slightly runny, is plenty to my liking.

Remove from heat. Garnish with basil and serve.

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The combination of coconut oil, sweet potatoes, and eggs gives this dish an incredibly rich, satisfying, and warm taste. It is sure to leave a lasting impression if you decide to incorporate it into your own Saturday morning tradition.

New Name, Site Redesign, & A Little About Me

Sunshine

Hi, everyone!

In case you were wondering (or hadn’t already noticed), I wanted to give you a heads up that I’ve changed the name and address of my blog!  It is no longer Sara’s Eats but rather, as you can see, it is now Sunshine & Sapphires. I initially started this blog as a creative outlet to share my clean eating recipes, however, as time passed, I decided that I wanted to expand my blog to cover a broader range of topics, instead of such a narrow one. What lead to this decision? Allow me to start from the beginning …

One of my passions in life has always been writing. Ever since I was in elementary school, I was known as the little girl who would sit on the edge of the Bark Box with a blank notebook and pen in hand, creating make-believe stories. The world was truly my canvas, and the sky was the limit as far as my imagination was concerned. I filled notebook after notebook up, and would spend my leisure writing letters to my favorite authors, as well as sending them my manuscripts (all, of which, at that tender age kindly got rejected, and understandably so.) I remember spending much of my childhood at the public library in my hometown, which was surrounded by a beautiful pond with cool, glistening water and a million ducks that would be waddling around. At the time, that library seemed enormous to me, and I felt like a grain of sand that occupies just one tiny fragment of a warm, sandy beach, and a must bigger picture.

As I grew older, my passion for writing stayed with me. In high school and through the duration of college, I majored in English, graduating from a university with my degree in English. However, as I became an adult and immersed myself into a world of work and responsibility, my passion, inevitably, seemed to take the back burner. But, I’m a firm believer that our hearts ultimately lead us back to whatever we are inherently passionate about and so, here I am, sharing my story with each of you.

I am a wife to my wonderful husband that I’ve known for nearly a decade, a mother to my beautiful baby boy who is my heart, a daughter to my loving and supportive parents, a friend to many, and last but definitely not least, I am a writer. My new blog will be about a variety of topics, instead of primarily food. Some days I will share recipes with you, other days I may share weight loss and fitness tips, or just musings about my every day life. Something cool I really want to do with my blog, once I receive enough responses to get that going, is to have a weekly, “Dear Sara” column, so to speak. I’ve toyed with this idea for years. It would be like a Dear Abby scenario, where my readers can e-mail me anything that is on their minds: relationship advice, dating questions, you name it! The e-mails will be featured on my website but it goes without saying that the identity of the readers writing in to me will be kept anonymous. If you would like to take part in my, “Dear Sara” column, you can send me an e-mail at sunshineandsapphires@gmail.com

I want to personally thank all of my followers for staying loyal and continuing to follow my blog, even though my updates have been so infrequent these past few years. I hope to change the frequency of my posts, especially now that I can really express my creativity on such a wider scale.

I look forward to providing you with fresh, exciting content for 2015!

Grilled Cuban Carne Asada

Happy New Year! As we advance into 2015, I know many of us have the goal to eat healthier and lose weight. The recipe I’m about to share with you today will help you on your weight loss journey and not impede your progress. I actually got it out of one of those Costco cookbooks they pass out for free in December during the holidays. I modified the recipe a bit (the original called for flank steak and I changed a few other ingredients here and there) and I have to say that the end result was amazing! Let’s get started.

Ingredients

Cuban Dry Rub:

  • 1 tablespoon cumin powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt

Cilantro Chimichurri sauce:

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice or juice of one lemon
  • 1 bunch cilantro, rinsed
  • 1 dash crushed red pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (I used one that had Pomegranate flavoring)
  • 1 tablespoon water

Carne asada:

  • 1 pound carne asada
  • 1/2 white onion, sliced
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro sprigs
  • A few splashes of lemon juice or freshly squeezed lemon
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation:

Cuban dry rub: in a small bowl, stir together all the ingredients. Set aside.

Cilantro chimichurri sauce: place all ingredients in blender and puree until smooth. Set aside.

Carne asada: using the Cuban dry rub, rub the pieces of carne asada on both side. Place the carne asada in the refrigerator while prepping the onions. Brush the sliced onions with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place the rubbed carne asada on the grill and cook to the desired internal temperature. I used a George Foreman grill and grilled mine until well done for 9 minutes.

Remove from grill and let rest, tented with foil. Add the sliced seasoned onions in the grill. When the onions are tender, place in a mixing bowl. Add a few splashes of lemon juice (or squeeze some fresh lemon on top) to the onions, season with salt and pepper, and add some sprigs of cilantro; toss gently and set aside.

To serve, arrange the carne asada on a platter, scatter the warm grilled onions on top, drizzle with the cilantro chimichurri sauce, and garnish with some cilantro sprigs. I served mine with green beans on the side that I sauteed in a dab of butter, garlic, and salt. Yum!

Enjoy!

carne asada 1 Carne Asada 2

Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies

Okay, I’m seriously in love with Danielle Walker’s cookbook! Since buying it, I’ve made a dozen of her recipes and each one keeps getting better!  When I saw her, “Real-Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies,” well, I knew I had to put it to the test.  Any recipe that has, “real-deal,” as part of it is just daring to be challenged!

You can find the recipe for the cookies here.  The verdict?  These are truly the real deal!  They turned out moist, incredibly soft, and fluffy!  My husband took a bite and asked,

“Are you sure these are gluten-free?  They taste like they have gluten in them!”

Needless to say, I made a batch of these last night and they are all gone today.  Next time I will need to double up the ingredients because these babies go fast!

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Cookie 1Cookie 2

Cookie 3

Tell me these cookies don’t look absolutely amazing!

On a side note: eating healthy has really changed my life for the better.  Before, I used to eat healthy because I knew it was the right thing to do but I didn’t really do it because I enjoyed it.  Now, though, I do it because I know I am putting only the best ingredients in my body and that realization alone makes me feel good.  Now, I truly enjoy making healthy dishes.  I really credit Paleo, the SCD, and eating gluten-free to me being able to drop all but 3 pounds of the weight I gained during my pregnancy, in less than 5 months (with very little exercise)!  Anyone that has a baby knows that trying to squeeze in gym time is hard but luckily, 80% of weight loss, in my opinion, has to do with your diet.  You can go to the gym all you want but if you’re not putting clean, healthy food into your body, it will be challenging to lose weight in the long run.

So, next time you’re at the office and you see donuts and cookies (not the real-deal chocolate chip ones), think twice before picking up those sugar-laden junk food items.  Instead, know that pretty much any “bad” food you see can be recreated into something healthy and delicious.  That’s why I’m so grateful for Danielle’s book — she’s recreated so many of my favorite dishes that I really don’t miss the junk food I used to eat.

Eat healthy and feel good about yourself!  It’s as simple as that.

Now, go bake some chocolate chip cookies.

Enjoy!