Happy New Year!  I hope that the holiday season treated you well and you have begun 2012 with peace, health, and happiness.

I had quite a whirlwind fall full of work, friends, family, and good food.

Two of my very good friends got married this fall carrying me to Missouri and Austin.  I even had the pleasure of making the wedding cake for my friend Tamara, who had a fun, outdoor, Texas-style celebration.  I wish both new couples many years of adventure and happiness.

In October, I had my one-year anniversary working at the bakery.  I have learned so much about pastry, running a food establishment, and hard work.  I cannot adequately describe how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to jump into a new career, meet the wonderful people I work with, and work for a business that may actually love food more that I do (if that is possible)!

As of December 31, I survived my second round of holidays in the food business.  I think knowing what was coming this time around was somewhat daunting and since I was given some extra responsibilities this year, I was extra busy.   I will happily boycott pies for a month or two thank-you-very-much.

Last month my beautiful, intelligent, sister graduated from the University of Houston with top honors (I’m super proud) and is now law school bound.  What better way to celebrate than with fantastic food?  Family and friends gathered at one of Houston’s best restaurants, Brennan’s, and thoroughly indulged in the best grits on the planet and, my favorite, Banana’s Foster.  Cheers to Anna!

Most profound of all, my husband and I found out we are expecting our first baby, a little boy, in May.  We went from trip planning to daycare hunting, now get really excited about things like when we learn the pediatrician we want accepts our insurance, and instead of working hard to maintain a slim figure, I have enjoyed my growing belly.  I feel extremely blessed and love the new path our lives our on.  Unfortunately, I got slammed with horrible morning sickness and just getting through work each day was a feat, but now that I am over half-way through the pregnancy, my taste for food other than crackers and the energy to cook has returned.

I have missed this space and sharing recipes and pictures.  I hope to be here more often, despite the changes in my life.  So here is to fresh starts whether it’s marriage, a new career, a new school, healthy eating, or a brand-new life.

My favorite time of day is the morning.  Talk about a fresh start! There is so much promise, your slate is clean, and best of all, you get to eat breakfast!  This healthy cereal, made from gluten-free amaranth grain, high-protein nuts, and dried fruit chalk-full of antioxidants is a nutritious way to get off to a great start.

Puffed Amaranth Breakfast Cereal

Serves 2

Inspired by an article in Fit Pregnancy (I can’t remember which issue, I just saw it at the doctor’s office)

Note:  Amaranth is an ancient grain with deep roots dating back to the Aztec empire – it was the primary crop for the civilization for thousands of years until the conquistadors destroyed the crop during their conquest of the region.  Luckily the gluten-free grain high in protein, lysine, and fiber survived so we can enjoy it today.  Amaranth is very earthy, almost grassy, and may be an acquired taste.  A touch of sweetness compliments amaranth’s bold flavor – in this application, dried cherries, almond milk, and a touch of maple syrup do just the trick.  Amaranth can be found in most specialty grocery stores, likely in the bulk foods department.

1/4 cup amaranth

1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

1/4 cup dried tart cherries

2 tablespoons unsweetened, shaved coconut

Fresh fruit for topping (optional)

Maple syrup for topping (optional)

1 cup almond milk

Heat a small skillet over medium heat.  Working with one tablespoon at a time, drop amaranth into hot skillet, cover with a lid, and let amaranth pop, lightly shaking pan constantly, for about 2o seconds.  Transfer to a bowl and repeat with remaining amaranth.

Mix in hazelnuts, dried cherries, and coconut.  Divide between two bowls, top with fresh fruit if desired, drizzle with maple syrup and finish with almond milk.