Maroon Antioxidant Smoothie: Blueberry, Raspberry, Lime, Mint

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Snow is on the ground in New York City, but i’m still drinking smoothies!

Valentine’s day is approaching, and inspiring me to favor anything that’s pink or red or leaning towards one of these two colors.

I added some beautiful frozen red raspberries to my morning smoothie, combining them with frozen blueberries, tangy lime juice, and refreshing green mint leaves. The result was a beautiful maroon concoction full of antioxidants.

This drink is delicious and energizing; in other words, it’s the perfect smoothie to blend up before stepping out the door for a busy day.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and happy cooking!

-Els

It's Almost Valentine's Day Maroon Antioxidant Smoothie

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
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After you blend the smoothie, adjust the lime, mint, and sweetener of your choice to taste.

Ingredients

-1 cup frozen blueberries

-1/3 cup frozen raspberries

-3 or 4 fresh mint leaves. Since mint leaves vary in size, I would just have a small bunch on hand, so that you can adjust the mint to your taste

-1 tablespoon of lime juice

-1/2 cup of water

-1 to 2 teaspoons Stevia or sweetener of choice

Directions

  1. Blend the frozen blueberries, raspberries, lime juice, water, mint, and sweetener in a blender.
  2. Taste your creation and adjust the sweetener and acidity to your taste.

For a Super Smooth Week: Mango, Lime, Mint Smoothie

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Some flavors just go together; mango, lime, and fresh mint perform phenomenally as a trio, especially in smoothie form.

Craving a sweet treat yesterday, post Super Bowl meal, I just happened to have some frozen mango chunks, fresh lime, and peppermint on hand to experiment with.

As the mango was hard and cold, like ice, I thought a smoothie would be an excellent direction to steer this experiment, and it was.

The lime juice and mint added a delightful, sharp freshness, to the flavor of the sweet, frozen mango.

While I had this smoothie as a dessert, it could easily be adapted to a breakfast, lunch or dinner—or even a snack!

If you make this smoothie, I hope it provides a refreshing and nourishing element to your week.

All the best,

Els

Mango, Lime, and Mint Super Smoothie

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
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After you blend the smoothie, adjust the lime and sweetener of your choice to taste. Try a teaspoon or two of regular sugar or honey or agave if you don’t like stevia. Honey will add another element of flavor to the smoothie; I haven’t tried this variation yet, but I can see it being delicious!

Ingredients

–  1 1/2 cups frozen mango chunks

-3 or 4 fresh mint leaves. Since mint leaves vary in size, I would just have a small bunch on hand, so that you can adjust the mint to your taste

-1/2 to 1/3 of a cup of water

-Stevia or sweetener of choice

Directions

  1. Put one and a half cups of frozen mango chunks into a blender with 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of water, depending upon how thick you like you smoothies.
  2. Squeeze the juice of 1/4 of a lime into the blender and 1 packet of stevia. Then add 3 to four mint leaves.
  3. Blend and adjust the lime juice and the sweetness to liking. Add more mint if you want even more kick!

For the Bread Basket: Healthy Honey Wheat Chia Cornbread

img_5678-1I always tell myself that I’m not going to indulge in the bread basket when I’m dining out; this way, I won’t fill myself up with empty calories before my main meal arrives.

More often than not though, I eat my words, especially when warm, sweet, buttery cornbread is placed on the table. Who can resist?

I decided to create a recipe for this delicious quick bread that adds some nutrition to the mix, without sacrificing flavor; in other words, a cornbread that I would feel good about eating from a bread basket.

My honey wheat chia cornbread recipe uses wheat flour instead of white and I swap out traditional white sugar for honey. I use unsweetened almond milk instead of regular milk to make this recipe lactose free, and I replace an egg with “a chia egg.”

When chia seeds are soaked in water, a gelatinous mixture forms that mimics the texture of raw egg. This means that chia seeds can form an egg substitute for baking in addition to providing all of their amazing health benefits.

Usually, the ratio for one chia egg will be one tablespoon of chia seeds to three tablespoons of water. I actually used six tablespoons of water, and my egg substitute turned out fantastically.

To get an idea of the ratios of fats and liquids and flours I would need while creating the recipe, I referenced an article called “The complete guide to making Quick Breads” by Cara Eisenpress, which was quite helpful. It might help you too, if you decide to formulate your own bread basket friendly quick bread recipe!

Enjoy!

Honey Wheat Chia Cornbread (Lactose Free)

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

-½ cup wheat flour

-½ cup cornmeal

-1 teaspoon baking powder

-½ teaspoon baking soda

-1 healthy pinch of salt

-1/4 cup honey (Add 1/3 cup if you want a sweeter versus more savory cornbread; I prefer less sweet)

-½ cup of unsweetened almond milk (I use Blue Diamond Vanilla)

-1 chia egg (1 heaping tablespoon of chia seeds, six tablespoons water)

-¼ cup vegetable oil

-½ cup corn kernels (I used canned) to fold in before baking

Directions

  1. Place a tablespoon of chia seeds and six tablespoons of water in a small bowl and stir the mixture. Place the bowl to the side while you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients (flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt)  in one bowl, and the wet ingredients (honey, almond milk, and canola oil), in another.
  3. Once the chia egg mixture is gelatinous, and looks like the texture of a raw egg, mix it in with the honey, almond milk, and oil.
  4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients together and fold in the corn kernels. Try not to over mix.
  5. Line a small pan (10.2 x 7.2 x 2.8 inches) with foil (I didn’t bother greasing it) and pour the mixture in.
  6. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

 

 

Microwaving Spaghetti Squash: A Skeptics Tale

I am not a fan of the idea of a massive spaghetti squash exploding in my microwave; this is one reason I’ve held off trying this method of cooking it for so long.

Also, I was skeptical that the texture of the squash would turn out correctly if microwaved, as i’ve never been a fan of preparing any vegetable in this way.

Well, I tried it, and the squash did not explode! And, to my delight (and surprise), the texture was as it should be: al dente and stringy.

There are some recipes that this method of cooking probably won’t work for: for example, when trying to obtain a crunchy or caramelized texture, as this isn’t the texture one will produce via this method of cooking.

For some dishes though, like in those that use the squash to replace pasta, this cooking technique will be a time saver; the microwaved squash mimics the texture of pasta wonderfully.

My favorite method to eat the squash–which the microwave method works perfectly for– is to simply shred it and top it with a hearty tomato sauce and parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast. Sometimes i’ll add vegetarian “meat” balls for extra protein.

If you want to save even more time: microwave the squash and store it shredded in the fridge. When you are ready to eat it, put the squash into a pan and it heat up with some good pasta sauce, and then serve it up!

The nutritional value of the spaghetti squash is also something to cheer about. And if you are looking for a great post workout or yoga meal, look no further!

I followed the directions for microwaving in the YouTube video “Spaghetti Squash 101” by Dani Spies of Clean & Delicious.

Step 1: After cleaning the squash, puncture it a few times with a knife. This step is important; it stops the squash from exploding in the microwave, which wouldn’t be a pleasant experience for you or your kitchen.

Step 2: You’ll want set the timer according to the size of the squash being microwaved. Spies suggests four to five minutes per pound of vegetable.

Step 3: Cut the squash open, do away with the seeds, and use a fork to remove the flesh; the spaghetti-like strands should form easily when you run a fork over it.

 

Happy cooking!

 

 

 

 

 

For the Hungry Yogi: Farro, Sweet Potato, and Pesto Salad

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Farro, sweet potato, and pesto, sprinkled with toasted pine nuts and sea salt.

When I have a busy yoga schedule it can be hard to figure out how to feed myself a satisfying meal without weighing myself down on the mat.

If I need energy for an intense session, and I feel that a piece of fruit just isn’t going to cut it, I chow down on cold farro and sweet potatoes with vegan pesto and sea salt an hour or two before I head into the studio.

I usually bake some sweet potatoes to store in the fridge and I boil farro to stash away as well. This way, if I’m in an “I need food now” state if mind either before or after practice, I can just pick up some fresh vegan pesto from the store and put the dish together in no time.

The farro: I can’t remember when I was introduced to this nutritious ancient grain, but since it’s been in my life, I’ve loved it more than any other grain. Its delicious, nutty flavor, lends itself well to both hot dishes and cold salads, and it’s similar to pasta or rice in how versatile it is; the flavor and texture of farro is distinct, yet it can easily act as a base for many dishes. All you need to do to prepare the farro is to boil it in water.

The sweet potatoes: These are easy to make. I just scrub each one well, puncture the skin with a fork, and place the potatoes in the oven on some foil. Set the oven at a high temperature. The sweets are done when you can easily puncture the potatoes with a knife; the sugars will start caramelize.

The pesto: If you have time to make everything on the spot, creating your own pesto is very easy. The base of a traditional pesto is fresh basil, olive oil, salt, pepper, toasted pine nuts and parmesan cheese. All the ingredients are simply blended in a blender, a food processor, or with a mortar and pestle.

Today, I made my own pesto with a bit of kitchen improv, using some fresh spinach along with the small amount of basil I had in the fridge. It worked well. I used a blender to combine the following items:

  • Two garlic cloves
  • A good few pinches of sea salt
  • A few grinds of pepper
  • Toasted pine nuts
  • A few good glugs of olive oil
  • Lemon juice (about 3/4 of a lemon)
  • An absurd amount of greens (basil and spinach today). Because I love greens.
  • A good few sprinkles of nutritional yeast. WHAT IS NUTRITIONAL YEAST?! It’s not scary, I promise. If you aren’t familiar, it’s a great alternative to using parmesan, as it lends a similar flavor and it has no lactose. Those who are lactose intolerant know that parmesan is much lower in lactose than other cheeses, so if you can tolerate it, as many lactose intolerant people can, go for it! Add it right into the blender!

Pesto is one of those sauces that is easy to alter to suit your taste, just like dressing. If you like a bit more kick, use more garlic and lemon juice; season to your liking with salt and pepper; make the pesto thinner or thicker by adding more olive oil and/or greens.

If you are hitting your yoga mat in less than an hour, i’d suggest waiting to eat the meal until after. I’d snack on something light, like apples (or bananas) and peanut butter; dried fruit; some clean granola (and by that I mean not laden with sugars and fats) or even dark chocolate!

Happy cooking!

 

 

 

 

 

For Someone You Love: Dark Chocolate Hearts with Freeze Dried Raspberry and Strawberry Dust (Lactose Free)

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I’m sure there is someone in your life who will appreciate you showing them some love by making him or her these dark chocolate hearts. And don’t forget to save a few (or a batch!) for yourself. Self-love is important too!

This entry has a double purpose: the first is to provide a recipe that is friendly to lactose intolerant individuals (that anyone will enjoy!), and the second is to mention that it is important to show people that you love and care about them, even before Valentine’s day has come. If you have a friend or relative that you sense needs some good cheer, make them a batch of these hearts! You don’t have to wait until Valentine’s day to pass out the love.

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I’m lactose intolerant, and I’m sure my fellow sufferers can sympathize when I say my pantry is packed with dairy free desserts; restaurant menus are usually crammed with lactose heavy items like ice cream, tiramisu, and Crème Brûlée– so when I get home, it’s usually time to raid the kitchen for a little something sweet.

My quick go-to dessert items? Dark chocolate and dried fruits (unsulfured): apricots, Medjool dates (if I want to eat like royalty), apples, raisins, pineapple, ginger, pears… you name it, I’ve likely got it in my pantry.

My methods of consuming these items varies: sometimes I put dried fruit (like an apricot) in between two small squares of dark chocolate and eat it like a petite sandwich; sometimes, I eat a bite of fruit, and then a bite of chocolate; and, sometimes, I melt the chocolate via bain-marie, and dip the fruit into the chocolate (fondue style).

I recently experimented with a new method of eating this fruit and chocolate combination: chocolate bark with dried fruit sounded like a good plan, but then I saw some heart molds, and the idea formed to make dark chocolate hearts with beautiful, fiery red goji berries pressed into them.

But, of course, the store was out of goji berries.

Plan B went into action:

I recently discovered freeze dried berries, and the raspberries and strawberries looked festive in their gorgeous red and pink hues. I used these in place of the goji berries.

The consistency of freeze dried berries is so delicate that they can easily be crumbled into dust. Intrigued by this, I separated the berries into small plastic bags and crushed them by hand into two separate rough powders (strawberry and raspberry). I then melted dark chocolate by placing it in a bowl over a pot of boiling water (bain-marie style, just as one would for chocolate bark).

I sprinkled the dried fruit powders into my molds and then poured my smooth, melted chocolate over the berry dust and into the molds, before topping off the chocolate with more dust.

The chocolates then sat at room temperature for around forty minutes, until they were solid enough to pop out their molds.

There are a few things to note:

  1. Read the labels on dark chocolate bars or chips that you buy, it’s surprising how many have dairy in them!
  2. If you are not lactose intolerant, you can easily make the hearts with milk chocolate or a chocolate of your choice.
  3. Some alternative ideas for the toppings: goji berries, cranberries, cherries, regular dried strawberries (if you are not a fan of freeze dried). You could also use coconut, apricot, dried bananas, even mix in some nuts! Try a sweet and salty approach by adding salted peanuts, cashews or almonds.
  4. If you don’t have molds (I used silicone ones), not to worry! You can easily make this into festive chocolate bark by pouring the chocolate onto parchment paper using the same method you would with the molds.

Happy cooking!

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No Fear Apple Crisp

Apple crisp is definitely one of the dishes that I always wanted to learn to make well, but that was a bit intimidating, since my mother uses no measurements; she just adds the ingredients by eye and feel and taste. It’s a beloved recipe inherited from my grandmother, who passed it on to my mother.

The first time I tried to bake apple crisp by myself (no mom around) was in 2016, when I had a guest coming for dinner.

I’m convinced a recipe can tell when you are afraid to bungle it up: I was too stingy with spices (out of fear), and I left out the “cardamom,” the ingredient my mother claims adds a very special element to the dish; it was her own addition to the recipe.

I didn’t leave out the cardamom because I forgot, but because I was afraid that my guest wouldn’t like it.

The crisp I made didn’t turn out badly, just not as my mother makes it.

I’m convinced that part of what makes my mom’s cooking so amazing is that she is fearless in the kitchen. She adds whatever strikes her fancy in whatever quantities she feels like (within reason). If she forgets something in the oven “oh well, extra crispy.” It still somehow tastes good!

The lesson that I learned from this? Don’t be afraid when you are baking. Just have fun. Because in the end, who cares! You learn from what works and what doesn’t…just as with everything in life. But also, practice makes perfect…So, maybe try it out for the first time before a guest comes over???

Without further ado… the much beloved recipe of my grandmother’s. This is for the topping. I guess she just figured everyone knew what to do with the apple part?

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The first time I made this dish in 2016, I took a photo of my mother’s notebook with the recipe in it. My grandmother never wrote anything down, so my mom had to take notes! You can tell what a popular recipe this is in my family by the state of the page!

To make the topping: Place the ingredients above in a bowl and crumble them together with your hands (make sure your butter is cold). Once the mixture has formed into a crumble, you are going to spread it on top of your apples to form a crust.

For the apple portion of the dish: peel a dozen or so granny smith apples and cut them into slices. The apple will bake down and you can choose to add more or less fruit. My family likes the crisp piled high with fruit: my mother has to put a pan under the ceramic deep dish she cooks it in, so that the juice (bubbling over the dish from the apples) will have a place to go!

Put the apple slices in a bowl and add a good squeeze of lemon juice; this will stop the apples from browning, and give them a nice zing! Add some granulated sugar, a good few pinches, depending on how sweet your fruit is.

Now it’s time to spice to your taste. I like to add cinnamon and nutmeg. My mother likes to skip cinnamon (since my dad doesn’t like it) and she just adds a bit of cardamom.

This dish is perfect for creating your own interpretation!

Happy cooking!