Back on the Bandwagon – With a Green Smoothie in Hand

Hello Friends, it’s been awhile since my last post because I’ve been crazy busy.

While I’ve been busy, I’ve been eating a mix of new recipes from cookbooks and blogs and also I’ve been avoiding cooking like the plague because it can be really, really hard sometimes! On top of that, the process of taking photos adds a great deal of time into the production process for me and there are easily 5+ photo shoots I have saved in my iPhoto files that never made it to the writing stage because I simply didn’t sit down a write.

This is a sadness to me. I like to cook, I like to explore, I value creative outlets and I like to share with others. This blog should be a top priority for me because it hits all the elements of a hobby or discipline that most satisfy me but it has fallen to the wayside.

To get back on the bandwagon, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’m eating and what makes me feel good. I know I love fruits and vegetables but I’ll admit, I’m not eating enough. This is a common struggle amongst us omnivores and I decided to tackle it with a popular solution, the Green Smoothie.

Green Smoothie Drinking

Generally I throw things into my blendtec that I know are good for me, I hit the smoothie button and then drink whatever comes out. My smoothies aren’t always delectable but they serve the purpose. Now…this is only half a solution to my problem. I want to eat things that make me feel good, and part of feeling good is enjoying the process of e a t i n g. I opened up my Blendtec recipe book and picked out a few recipes that were both green and protein focused. Along with rotating through the Blendtec Smoothie recipe rolodex and spending time with my good ‘ol friend Instaram which introduced me to Simple Green Smoothies, I’ve found some awesome recipes! My most favorite of favorite new smoothies is the SweetDream a spicy green adventure including cayenne pepper ♡

SweetDream

SweetDream Smoothie by Simple Green Smoothies

Ingredients

2 C Nut-Based Milk (Almond)

2 C Leafy Greens (Spinach)

2 C Mango (or other fruit)

1 Banana

2 T Nut-Butter (Almond)

1 t Cinnamon

¼ t Cayenne

Directions

Place in Blendtec blender in the ingredient order listed and select smoothie setting.

If not using a Blendtec or Vitamix – It’s suggested that you blend the leafy greens before you add in the full ingredient list. This is suggested to help finely chop up the greens for a smooth drinkable texture.

Note on the Cayenne pepper – It adds a kick to the smoothie that is quite desirable. There are known benefits to using cayenne pepper including stimulating the digestive tract, detox and possible weight loss support. If you don’t like spicy, skip this ingredient. If you’d like to try but don’t want to get too wild, put a smaller amount into the Smoothie than ¼ t, I won’t tell anybody ☺︎

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The SweetDream is super tasty and now a regular repeat in my smoothie mix up. It has 2 cups of leafy greens, which gets me one serving of vegetables right off the bat in the mornings and 3 servings of fruit (2 cups mango + 1 Banana). The Cayenne pepper adds an additional layer of flavor that is honestly, unusual in a green smoothie.

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Cheers – Here’s to getting back on the band wagon and eating my fruits and veggies with the help of a Green Smoothie. And always, here’s to eating well and often.

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Raw family dinner: “Rawvioli”

Cooking for a big family must be tough but cooking for one is not easy either. It’s not uncommon for me to way overestimate the amount of groceries I need and I can only eat leftovers from the same dish for so long. Our significant others are off chasing dreams in distant locations (aka working real jobs or also in graduate school not at Purdue) so we decided to have a “family dinner” in their stead.

The fare: raw and vegan. Neither of us have much experience prepping raw food and I recently purchased Gena Hamshaw’s cookbook, Choosing Raw and I’ve been itching to try out a few recipes. We decided on Root “Rawvioli” with Nut Cheese and Pesto.

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Begin with the beet slicing. A mandoline is a must for this dish. There’s just no way to safely slice the beets thin enough without it. Mandolines are not crazy expensive and they are so darn useful. I got mine this summer at H-E-B for like fifteen bucks–you can’t beet beat that. If you need some additional encouragement, you can find one here. Random and shameless mandoline plug concluded.

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Apron required. Beets are bursting with color and are likely to stain your hands and everything else.

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Monique was master chef of the nut cheese.

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The recipe requires the cashews to soak overnight. We’re grad students in business school…that did not happen. However, someone told me to boil water and do a quick 20-30 minute soak. It did the trick! The consistency of the final product was bit thicker than what is described in the recipe but whatever.

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Pistachio pesto. Raw pistachios were no where to be found in our midwestern college town so we settled with roasted and salted. If you ever find yourself in a similar predicament, just hold off on the salt called for in the recipe and you should be good. A few whirls around the food processor and boom! chopped nuts:

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The micro grater is super handy when mincing garlic. It’s quick and easy too.

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With the beets sliced and the nut cheese and pesto prepared, we were ready to assemble the RAWviolis!

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The final review: it. was. so. delicious. Our raw family dinner was a huge success! This dish is bursting with flavor: from the mild and possibly sweet cashew cheese with playful hints of oregano, to the bold and zesty flavors of garlic and basil in the pistachio pesto. Mmm! Beets were a perfect vehicle to these two rockstars. In truth, there was a lot of nut cheese and pesto leftover but be sure, we were not complaining. They will pair perfectly with crackers, chips, or even veggies. Gena nailed this one out of the park and we highly recommend it. Find her cookbook here.

Kitchen bloopers:

1. We had a side dish planned. It was a salad of sorts, where the homemade dressing was to be the featured item. It was a total bust and we ended up eating a bowl of romaine with whatever dressing I had in the fridge.

2. Looking glamorous and cooking doesn’t always work out… 😉 And food photography/quality food making action shots are not easy.

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3. I know I’ve had a successful cooking adventure when the kitchen is destroyed (see countertop in an earlier photo). It’s all in the HappiMess 🙂

4. Let’s not forget about failing to soak the cashews overnight. Lesson learned: read the recipe all the way before committing.

Purely fun:

Kitchen Gadgets MVP awards: the food processor and the mandoline.
Likelihood of making this dish again: pretty darn high.
Would I recommend this recipe to a friend: yes, I already did multiple times.
Currently craving: brownies and sleep

Summer Veggie Pizza

Summer Veggie Pizza

I recently acquired a free subscription to Better Homes and Gardens. As a 25-year-old woman this is not my normal magazine of choice but it came with a comforter I purchased this past spring and if it’s free it’s me!

In the August edition of BHG I found an article of ideas to use zucchini and yellow squash in ways that would be more exciting for your family such as a full veggie pizza. The article didn’t have a recipe but rather a short list of ingredients, including Alfred sauce, mozzarella cheese, sliced zucchinis and squash and basil. This recipe seemed easy and quick allowing for room for creativity and that’s just up my alley so I invited some friends over for dinner and ran off to the grocery store with my meager list. I grabbed two pizza crusts with Sherree, two jars of Alfredo sauce, 3 zucchinis and 3 yellow squashes and shredded mozzarella cheese.

First I used my mandolin to slice the zucchini’s and yellow squash, as it turns out I needed about one of each veggie for the two pizzas. Next I spread the Alfredo sauce over the pizza crust and layered the zucchini as the first level, the squash as the second layer. I added a generous layer of mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

What I failed to do was add any seasoning and thus my friends and I enjoyed a rather bland pizza. My friends decided to add crushed red pepper or hot sauce to add flavor post-cooking. These items may be good to have on hand even if you do add seasoning because they are beloved condiments and hot sauce is a crowd pleaser any day.

Ingredient List:

  • 1 store bought pizza crust
  • 1 jar of Alfredo sauce
  • 1 tsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1 Zucchini
  • 1 Yellow Squash
  • Mozzarella cheese (one store bought bag)
  • Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  • Spread a layer of Alfredo Sauce on top of the pizza crust (expect to use 1/3 to ½ of the jar)
  • Sprinkle Italian Seasoning over the Alfredo sauce
  • Spread zucchini directly over the Alfredo sauce with little separation between the zucchini slices
  • Spread yellow squash over the layer of zucchini with little separation between the squash slices
  • Liberally sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top of the veggies, sprinkle parmesan cheese as a second layer of cheese on top of the mozzarella
  • Place in oven and allow to cook for 20 minutes

Prepping the Veggies

Step 1 Veggie Pizza Step 1.5 Veggie Pizza

Step 2 Veggie Pizza

Last Step, Veggie Pizza

I hope this summer veggie pizza provides you a delicious meal to share with your family or friends and that you submit comments on how to improve this recipe as you experiment.

– Enjoy! –  

PB Energy Balls

Today in preparation for a friend’s cookout, I spent the afternoon cooking. Now what I should have been doing all afternoon was studying for an upcoming Midterm. It’s my last semester of grad school and my motivation is low, low, lowwwwwwww. But hey, at least I’m well fed!

 

My first recipe was from Edible Sound Bites’ blog for Peanut Butter Energy Bites, I had my eye on these energy balls because they are sunflower seed based and I have a bunch of sunflower seeds with no recipes’ planned and thus a great curiosity to use them.

PB Energy Ball - cover 

I utilized my Blendtec blender for this recipe but you can use a food processor if that’s your kitchen tool of choice.

PB Energy Ball Ingredients

 

The ingredients are as follows:

1/2c Sunflower Seeds

1/4c Rolled Oats

1/2c Dried Apricots

1/2c Peanut Butter (or other nut butter)

1oz Honey

1/4c Vanilla Protein Powder

2 tbsp Ground Flaxseeds

*Optional:

Coconut flakes, cocoa powder or chia seeds to roll and coat energy balls in.

 

What I like about this recipe is that I am able to get 16-19 balls and each bite is less than 100 calories. I can take a zip lock of 2 or 3 balls to school and have a quick snack before each class that I know is healthy and tasty. I ran my recipe through Spark People to generate a Nutrition Label to show you just how great these snacks are!

PB Energy Nutrition

First up you’ll add the sunflower seeds and oats to the blender and pulse until you have a flour like mixture.

PB Energy Ball - Step 1

Second, add in the apricots to the existing mixture. You’ll pulse until you have a crumbly mixture.

PG Energy Ball - Step 2

Add in the remaining ingredients to the blender and pulse until the components are well mixed.

PB Energy Balls - Step 3

Lastly, remove spoonful’s of the mixture and form into 1” diameter balls.

(At this time you may roll the balls into one of the optional ingredients to coat the energy balls with a topping.)

PB Energy Balls - Step 4

Store energy balls in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks and voilà! 

Stove Top Chili Lasagna

Here in Houston I have minimal kitchen supplies as I left my whole kitchen in Indiana for the summer. I didn’t have the time or space to move it down and that makes me really sad now…but I’ll be really happy when I have to move back North in 5 weeks. I guess you can’t win ‘em all.

 

I have one pot and one 8” skillet to make it through the summer so I have to get creative if I want to eat food that isn’t take out or microwaved. I am an avid Pinterest user and I make a point to actually attempt the recipes I pin along with the arts and craft ideas. Understandably, not everything turns out well when I first try it so I took two trials to test out this recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Café, to my great surprise even though I had a tiny 8” skillet and had to break the recipe in half and mix it together in my one pot, it turned out perfectly!

 

If you’re looking for an easy and quick dinner that will save nicely for further lunches and dinners then BOOM-BABY, this is your dish!

In total you’ll spend 25-30 minutes with prep work, cooking and plating this meal, I spent about 7 minutes eating each serving throughout the week. Let’s get to the good stuff…

Skillet full of yum

Skillet full of yum

 

Ingredients

2 tbls. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 tsp. Chili Pepper *Suggested: Chipotle Chili Pepper

1 Chopped Yello Onion

4 tsp. Minced Garlic

2 cans (28oz.) Diced Tomatoes *Suggested: Fire Roasted Style

10+ Curly Edged oven ready lasagna noodles

2 small chopped zucchini

2 small chopped yellow squash

1 chopped Japanese Eggplant

1 cup Skim ricotta cheese

Sprinkle Parmesan Cheese

Chopped Veggies

Chopped Veggies

Supplies
–       12” skillet

Directions

  1. Heat the extra virgin olive oil in the skillet at medium heat
  2. Add onion & cook until soft
  3. Add garlic to skillet and cook for 1 minute
  4. Drain cans of diced tomatoes and add to skillet
  5. Break Lasagna noodles and place on top of the diced tomatoes, allow mixture to simmer then reduce to a medium heat and cook for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally
  6. Mix in chopped zucchini, squash and eggplant. Cook for 8-10 minutes on medium heat.
    1. You want the veggies to be tender
  7. Remove skillet from heat and add ricotta cheese, plate and sprinkle parmesan cheese for serving
Fully cooked and fully cheesed stove top lasagna.

Fully cooked and fully cheesed stove top lasagna.

Fancy Franks For the Fourth

All along on my Hot Dog Research Journey I knew that I would be purchasing my own weenies and take the inspirations from Happy Fatz and Frank along to make some bomb-dot-com hot dogs.

 

The 4th of July is this week and I want to share some information from the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council from www.hot-dog.org,

On Independence Day, Americans will enjoy 150 million hot dogs, enough to stretch from D.C. to L.A. over five times.

During Hot Dog Season, Memorial Day to Labor Day, Americans typically consume 7 billion hot dogs or 818 hot dogs consumed every second during that period.

Los Angeles residents consume more hot dogs than any other city (over 95 million), beating out Baltimore/Washington and New York.

 

As discussed in my previous post about Franks (address here) I found that I can dress a hot dog with any elements that I would usually pair with turkey, beef or pork. My all time favorite pizza is the Hawaiian with Canadian bacon and pineapple so I set my sights on making the Hawaiian Weenie.

 

I took myself to the grocery store in search of supplies for my dogs where I spent 20 minutes in front of the meats reading the back of hot dog packages, trying to determine which one’s had fewer mystery and unpronounceable ingredients. Lesson 1: Do not read the ingredients in hot dogs. There is nothing gross in them but there are many elements that are processed, it’s just like buying fast food or packaged meals, there are ingredients that you can’t pronounce so you decide to ignore them. I went with the Hebrew National’s because they’re Kosher. I myself do not require a Kosher diet but I felt like I was winning the mystery ingredient battle this way.

 

I do not own a grill, while I acknowledge that hot dogs taste a million times better when cooked on a grill outside while enjoying a cool beverage on a fine summer day, I have to work with what I’ve got, a pan and boiled water. I filled my pot and allowed the water to start simmering but not to a full boil, next I placed my weenies into the water for 8-10minutes. I removed them from the water after 8-10 minutes and let them sit as I finished up my dressings.

 

For my Hawaiian Weenie I created a smoky Hawaiian BBQ sauce with a combination of Sweet Baby Ray’s Hawaiian style BBQ sauce, Tomato Ketchup, Honey Mustard BBQ Sauce and brown sugar. Them I chopped up some pineapples to garnish and BOOM, hot dog perfection!

Smoky Hawaiian

Fast-forward a few hours from lunch and I hunger again, for dinner I made myself a Chipotle Chili Pork Dog. Combining mayonnaise, chipotle chili powder and lemon juice I had a small batch of chipotle chili mayo that I paired with two slices of cooked bacon and a freshly heated hot dog. Beware: First start with a small amount of chili pepper and increase as desired and add more mayo and lemon juice to the mix if it’s too spicy. By the end of my meal my nose was running it was so spicy!

Chipotle Chili Dog

 

Recipes

Smoky Hawaiian BBQ Sauce

Ingredients:

¼ cup Ketchup

2 Tbsp. – Honey Mustard

1 Tbsp. – Sweet Baby Ray’s Hawaiian BBQ Sauce

1 ½ Tsp. – Packed Brown Sugar

Combine all ingredients and mix. Taste and add additional amounts of ingredients to desired taste.

 

Smoky Hawaiian Hot Dog

Ingredients:

Desired number of Hot Dogs

Smoky Hawaiian BBQ Sauce

Cut Pineapples

Optional Ingredients:

Cooked bacon

Grilled onions

 

Directions:

  1. Heat water in pan until simmering, not boiling
  2. Place hot dogs in simmering water for 8-10 minutes & remove from water after that duration
  3. Dress the dog!
  4. Insert food in mouth

 

I hope you enjoy these recipes & I hope you share your weenie-spirations with us in the future.

 

Have a fun & safe Fourth of July weekend with your friends & families!

Summer Veggies & Pasta

 

 

Lightly tossed with extra virgin olive oil and S&P

Zukes and cherry tomatoes ready for roasting.

 

Just look at them! Aren’t they beautiful?? I have been craving summer veggies like crazy. Maybe it’s because I have been eating out way more than I would like lately.

During the last few weeks of the spring semester, I had all these wonderful plans of how I would cook and bake and write blog posts and take lots of pictures because I would have all this newly acquired time, right? …wrong. I have been just as busy now but in a different way. So my goal is to post once a week, and it will probably happen on Sundays. Be on the look out and feel free to call me out if I don’t stick to it.

Ok, let’s talk summer veggies. Saturday night I waited way too long to figure out what I wanted to eat for dinner. Honestly, I was avoiding it because I knew that no matter what I decided to make, it would require a trip to the grocery store. That’s a bad place to be when you’re hungry. And here in Texas, where “everything is bigger”, it takes so long to get anywhere…Ok I must admit my concept of “long” might be a bit skewed – in Indiana we live less than 5 minutes away from the nearest grocery store. On the flip side, Austin has some really great natural food stores that make the extra drive well worth it (I’m looking at you, Whole Foods). 🙂

Anyway, I was lacking some serious motivation but I did make it to my laptop to start searching for what would satisfy my palate. I started with Gena’s vegan and raw food blog, Choosing Raw and landed me on this delightful dish. My dinner search was over and my motivation found! I made it to the grocery store and back with all my items just before 11pm. The only thing left to do was eat a bowl of cold cereal with almond milk and call it a night. The zukes, tomatoes, and fresh corn would have to wait.

Sunday afternoon, I prepped all the veggies while Christi, my partner in crime (and sister), made us pink smoothies (beets, carrots, strawberries, dates, water, and cashews) to get us through our hangry hankerings.

Pink smoothie - hangry crises averted. Thank you, Christi!

Pink smoothie – hangry crisis averted. Thank you, Christi!

We needed that smoothie too because the veggies require some serious oven time – 45 mins to be exact. I was pretty tempted to just sauté the veggies to speed up the process but that would have been a serious mistake. The oven time (and a little patience) allowed the veggies to marinate in the extra virgin olive oil and freshly crushed garlic. Mmm…. the smell radiating from the oven was divine.

The final fare was even better.

fulldish

 

 

straighton

 

It took some serious self-control to wait long enough to snap a couple quick photos of this and not just shovel it all in my mouth.

What’s to love about Gena’s penne with sweet summer vegetables, pine nuts, and herbs recipe @ChoosingRaw:

  • it’s easy to make
  • fresh summertime veggies, including zukes, cherry tomatoes, and corn (off the cob)
  • the fresh basil really brings it to the next level and the oregano too (you can settle for dried oregano if you don’t have the fresh stuff on hand but don’t skip out on the fresh basil)
  • it’s sauceless but you won’t miss it one bit
  • pine nuts – so the recipe clearly calls for it and I had them but…I forgot about them. They’ll make their first appearance in the left overs though
  • it’s vegan!

Subs or suggestions:

  • the recipe calls for onions but I opted out because sometimes they don’t agree with me.
  • try a yellow squash or another one of your favorite veggies.
  • the recipe recommends adding the corn in to roast for the last 15 minutes of oven time, but I think our corn could’ve had a little more roasting time. Maybe try adding them in a bit sooner.

So what’s the final consensus? I think it’s obvious by all my raving but just in case any shadow of doubt remains, it was an absolute hit. You should try it. Check out the recipe here.

Dessert: vegan chocolate chip cookies

xo