Magic Mint Chocolate Smoothie

Magic Mint Green Smoothie

Ok. So I have officially changed my stance on smoothies in the morning. I know I said that I’d rather have a meal with all the smoothie ingredients, but that was until I discovered the magic of chocolate and mint.

The real magic here is that the smoothie is made up of all vegetables, except for one frozen banana. Yep, one banana, and the rest is straight veggie goodness. No more sugar head rush or instant hunger 10 minutes after drinking it. Normally, this would taste like a sweet salad in slime form (yuck!) but add some cocoa powder and peppermint oil and BAM, you have a mint chocolate milkshake.

The natural bitterness of the cocoa powder masks any bitterness from the vegetables (kale, I’m looking at you, here) and the peppermint really brings out the natural sweetness of the banana. You can use almost any vegetable that is mild in flavor and isn’t too stringy. I’ve used:

  • kale
  • spinach
  • beet greens
  • carrot
  • broccoli stalks
  • cauliflower (stalks and head)
  • mild mushrooms (these add a strong flavor, try only a tiny bit at a time)
  • turnip
  • asparagus

Pretty much anything goes except for the obvious like garlic or onions.

And my favorite way to eat them lately? Popsicles!

Magic Mint Fudgesicle

It’s finally been getting warm here in San Francisco, and there’s no better way to celebrate it than a icy cool  mint fudgesicle! My smoothie was about 300 calories, and made 6 popsicles. That means each one was only 50 calories! The molds I just bought are the best popcicle molds that I’ve ever used.

You can experiment as much as you want, to get the perfect combo of veggies.

Magic Mint Chocolate Smoothie

  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 1 cup mild leaves, such as spinach
  • 1 cup chopped vegetables
  • 1 frozen banana (very ripe)
  • 6-10 drop stevia extract (or sweetener to taste)
  • 10-15 drops peppermint extract (use less if using peppermint oil)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-3 Tbs cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup ice cubes

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until well blended. If not using a high-speed blender, make sure to chop vegetables finely.

Pirate Mint Chocolate Smoothie

Arrr! Pirate Green Smoothie!

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Strawberry Chocolate Chia Pudding

Chocolate Strawberry Chia Pudding

If you asked me, “what is the one food you would bring to a desert island?” I would answer: Strawberries. I love strawberries more than any other nourriture out there. Whenever I go grocery shopping, my fiancé will often lose me for a few minutes, only find me standing in the produce department, holding a container of berries, simply inhaling the glorious smell.

I Heart Strawberries!

I Heart Strawberries!

When the fiancé and I started dating, I would visit his mom’s place and join them for dinner. She is an incredible cook, and always had a feast laid out that would make a king envious. After a few visits, she noticed I wasn’t eating very much. My fiancé finally cracked and told her that I don’t eat cheese, that I detest cheese. Being Italian-American, a good part of her meals were oozing with cheeses of all kinds. She had a whole shelf devoted to cheese alone in her fridge. So she asked him, “what does she like to eat?” He replied simply, “Strawberries.” And so the next time I visited, she handed me a great big, Costco-sized bowl of sliced strawberries, a fork and told me that I wont go hungry that night! She has kept it a tradition that every time I visit, she always makes sure to stock up on the strawberries. I think I won the MIL lottery!

So this brings me to the pudding recipe. I was craving chocolate dipped strawberries, but had just finished off the fresh berries the night before. I have frozen strawberries stocked in the freezer always, but those don’t exactly make the best ‘dipping’ strawberries… I had tried making chia pudding before, with limited success, and thought I would give it another go. Blending the chia seeds sped up the gelling process by over double for me, and it also solved the ‘texture’ issue I had with the whole seeds.

Sparkling Frozen Strawberries

The frost on these made them look like they had been dusted with glitter

This was rich and delicious, and just as satisfying as a chocolate dipped strawberry. I saved the last bit for the morning, and had it over a bowl of oatmeal, for an incredibly decadent breakfast!

Strawberry Chocolate Chia Pudding

Inspired by Chocolate Chia Pudding by Susan Voison

  • 1 cup milk of choice (I used almond milk)
  • 3 Tbs chia seeds
  • 1.5 Tbs cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or paste
  • 2-3 drops liquid stevia OR
    1-2 Tbs sweetener, to taste
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries or other fruit of choice

Place all ingredients except berries into a blender. Blend on high for about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides so that all the chia seeds have a chance to absorb liquid. Let sit for about 30 minutes, pulsing at least once to break up any clumps. After the chia has thickened, add frozen fruit and blend on high until smooth.

Serves 3, 1/2 cup servings.

Crispy Coconut-Kale Barley Bowl

Crispy coconut kale

I am so glad I learned to cook in the age of the internet. I have tried so many new and interesting recipes, using ingredients and combinations that I never would have tried if I was just picking out cookbooks. There is something appealing about getting a first-hand review of a recipe, rather than speculating whether the meal will actually be good or not. I don’t know about you, but I have had my fare share of cookbooks where I swear the recipe was never tested. There was actually a cookbook that was so bad, after about 5 flops I was convinced I was a terrible cook. That thing went to goodwill, but it may have done more good in the trash!

I stumbled upon this recipe on Lemongrove Avenue, and I was immediately intrigued. Kale is a relatively new ingredient for me, and I’m always excited to try using it in new ways. Plus, add coconut to anything and I’m down with it. The original recipe called for 1/3 cup olive oil, which I just couldn’t stomach. Too much oil always makes me feel drowsy headache-y. I was able to cut it down to 2 tablespoons, which means I shaved off about 350 calories! The whole meal is extremely easy, and only took me about 30 minutes. Plus it was absolutely delicious, and is going on my “must make again” list.

Roughly shred the kale. I usually tear the leaves off the stems, roll them into a cigar and cut with my kitchen scissors.

Chopping Kale

Mix the olive oil, sesame oil and soy sauce well. Pour a little more than half of the sauce over the kale and coconut and toss well.

Crispy Coconut Kale

Bake kale and coconut for 15-20 minutes, until crispy.

While the kale is cooking, pour the rest of the sauce into a blender. Add tofu, ginger, pepper and water and blend well.

Sesame soy dressing

Once the kale has become crispy, serve over grains and top with the sesame soy dressing. Enjoy!

Crispy Coconut-Kale Barley Bowl

Inspired by Lemongrove Avenue

  • 4 cups kale, roughly shredded
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 Tbs soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup lite silken tofu
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ginger or 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • black pepper
  • 2-3 Tbs water
  • 2 cups cooked barley, rice, quinoa or other grain

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the olive oil, sesame oil and soy sauce into a small jar or bowl. Shake well or whisk to combine. Pour a little over half of the sauce onto the kale and coconut. Toss well to combine, and spread evenly in a large pan.

Cook kale mixture for 15-20 minutes until crispy, stirring occasionally.

While kale is cooking, pour remaining sauce into blender. Add tofu, ginger, cayenne, pepper and water. Blend until smooth.

When kale is finished cooking, place over grains. Drizzle about 2 Tbs tofu sauce over bowl.

Serves 2.

Almond Joy Nut Butter

Almond Joy Nut Butter

Tied up pretty and ready to be gifted!

Growing up, each member of my family had their favorite candy bar. My brother liked Twix bars, I was a nerds loving fiend, my mom coveted Salted Nut Rolls, and my father inhaled Mounds bars, although he said he would prefer Almond Joy if they just used dark chocolate. My tastes have changed over the years, and while I still could eat a box of nerds in one sitting, I now usually prefer the much healthier dark chocolate.

After making a coconut butter and banana sandwich with cocoa powder sprinkled on it, I’ve had the idea for this nut butter floating around in my head. I wanted it to taste like my father’s dream version of Almond Joy, with lots of coconut and rich dark chocolate. When I got invited to a friend’s birthday party, I figured this was the perfect chance to try it out!

Almond Joy Nut Butter

Making this nut butter couldn’t be simpler. First, toast the almonds until they are hot and fragrant. Don’t cool the almonds, because their heat will help melt the chocolate and make everything blend smoothly. Place the almonds, coconut flakes and chocolate into the blender and blend on low. The mixture will first look like nut meal.

Almonds, Chocolate and Coconut

Chopped Almonds, Chocolate and Coconut

Scrape down the sides, packing the mixture down each time. Continue blending on low until it begins to liquify. Blend on high until smooth. Add brown sugar to taste. It was so difficult to part with this, but I only allowed myself a few bites. I will definitely be making this again to keep! And since I’m on a roll, I think I may need to try a nut butter version of the salted nut roll…

Almond Joy Nut Butter

  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1.75 oz dark chocolate (about 1/2 of a Trader Joe’s 3.5oz chocolate bar) OR
    1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbs brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread almonds on baking sheet and bake almonds for 10-12 minutes, stirring halfway though. Roast until almonds become fragrant or begin to split. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

Once almonds have cooled enough to touch but still hot, combine almonds, coconut flakes and chocolate into blender or food processor. Process on low until nut mix rides up onto the sides of the container. Scrape down the sides and pack the mixture down.

Continue alternating and blending and scraping until mixture begins to liquify. Blend on high until smooth.

Taste the mixture, then add sugar to taste.


Almond Joy Nut Butter Next to Dr. Nut

Hanging out with the Dr.

Smokey Sweet Carrot Hummus

Roasted Carrot Hummus

Hummus is one of my go-to dishes when attending or holding a get-together. It’s incredibly easy, and yet people are endlessly amazed and impressed by it. People seem to think it is difficult to make, and until I tried making it, I did too! Now, I think I make hummus on nearly a weekly basis, using it as a healthy snack, sandwich spread or salad topping. I make it a little different each time, so I never get bored.

Today, I was craving something lighter and sweeter than my usual spicy garlic variety. I remembered this carrot hummus from Fat Free Vegan, and decided to give carrots a try. I love dipping raw carrots in my hummus, so I figured roasted ones would be even better. And it was! The sweetness that the carrots gave just begged for a smokey counterpart, so I added some smoked paprika.

I roasted the carrots along with some other leftover vegetables, and I ate the veggies while I prepared the hummus. After the hummus was finished, I snacked on it with the remaining carrots. Best lunch ever!

Vegetables ready to be roastedRoasted Carrots

Smokey Sweet Carrot Hummus

  • 2 Medium carrots (about 1.5 cups chopped
  • 1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbs toasted sesame oil
  • 1 Tbs tahini
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Water as needed, approx. 6 Tbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Chop the carrots into 2 inch chunks. Spread evenly in non-stick pan, and lightly coat with oil.  Roast for 50 minutes, or until tender. After 25 minutes, coat peeled garlic cloves in oil, wrap in tinfoil (make a little package) and place with carrots. Optionally, leave raw for a spicier hummus.

Combine garbanzo beans and the rest of the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth, adding water as needed. After carrots and garlic have finished roasting and cooled slightly, add to hummus and blend well.


Nutritional Info: per 2 Tbs: 40 cals, 1.5g fat

Roasted Carrot Hummus

Green Smoothie vs a Meal: a comparison

As I mentioned earlier, I have had a hard time getting into the green smoothie craze. I love all the ingredients, but I have a hard time enjoying ‘thick’ food. I also have had trouble with getting strange headaches right after drinking them, like I’m having a sugar rush.

This weekend I decided to try an experiment. I made a green smoothie on Saturday, and on Sunday I made a meal using the very same ingredients. Here is my comparison.

The ingredients:

  • 1 apple
  • 1 kiwi
  • 1/2 banana
  • 3 large leaves of kale
  • 5 cashews
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp coconut butter
  • 1 Tbs flax seed meal
  • 5 cashews
  • 1 cup almond milk

For the meal, I chopped up the fruit, and tossed it with the lemon juice. I used the coconut butter and made a massaged kale salad, and sprinkled the flax seeds on top.

Ease of preparation:

The smoothie wins hands down. With my trusty Blendtec, I barely had to chop the fruit. I just threw everything in the container, pressed the smoothie button and presto! smoothie done. The meal took about 15 minutes to make, with all the chopping and massaging.

Green Smoothie

Flavor and Enjoyment:

Due to my ‘thick food’ aversion, it’s pretty easy to guess that I enjoyed the meal more. The fruit salad was of course delicious, and the massaged kale salad was better than expected, but not something I’d ever crave. The almond milk was enjoyable as usual, and I really relished munching on the cashews. The smoothie on the other hand, was pretty much right down the middle of the two in flavor. Don’t get me wrong, it was very good, just not fruit salad good.

Satiety:

I drank the first half of my smoothie rather quickly, and it was very filling. I first felt heavy and full, then the usual light headed feeling and slight headache kicked in. However, I sipped the second half slowly, and the feeling quickly dissipated. I wasn’t hungry, but I did have the nagging desire to chew on something, out of sheer habit.

The meal took longer to eat than the smoothie, so didn’t have any trouble with a “sugar rush”. It’s definitely something that I could eat on a daily basis, it I had time. I was able to wait for my next meal, just the same as with the smoothie.

Green Meal

The Verdict:

I think I still prefer to have a meal for breakfast, but the smoothie was pretty good. You can’t beat the ease and speed of the prep! As long as I drink the smoothie really slowly, I think I can prevent the ‘weird’ feeling. In the mornings during the week, I barely have time to brush my hair, let alone massage some kale. I think I may have to same a meal like this for the weekends. The smoothie, I might give another chance. The key is, make it fast, drink it slowly!

 

Super Green Kiwi-Limeade

Super Green Kiwi-Limeade

Ok. I have a secret. It’s quite unsavory, and many will disagree heartily.

I don’t really like smoothies.

Yep. I don’t dig those sweet, cold, frothy, drinks that everyone is raving about. You’ll never find me at a Jamba Juice, and while I’ve tried to have green smoothies for breakfast, I can never stick with it. It’s not that I don’t like the flavor. I love all the ingredients that go into a smoothie, and the endless combinations you can make. It’s the texture. I just don’t like thick anything . My oatmeal has to be so milky it’s drinkable, my peanut butter MUST have a crunch to offset the texture, and don’t get me started on ice cream that’s on the “too creamy” side.

So when I discovered whole juices, I fell in love. You get all the flavor, nutrients and fiber like a green smoothie, but the drink-ability of a cold glass of juice. Today’s favorite is a tangy kiwi-limeade that reminds me of spring, relaxing on my front porch, watching life go by.

Super Green Kiwi-Limeade

Super Green Kiwi-Limeade

  • 2 ripe kiwis, peeled
  • 2 cups mild greens, such as spinach
  • 1 medium carrot, broken into pieces (for sweetness and to mellow the flavors)
  • 2 Tbs lime juice, or juice of 1 one lime
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1 cup ice (about 6 cubes, for me)

Combine ingredients into high-speed blender in order given. Blend on high until well blended (Blendtec users press the “Whole Juice” button). If using a regular blender, chop greens and carrots into small pieces before blending.

Makes 3 large servings or 4 small.

Nutritional Info: 1 of 3 large servings: 42 cals, 1g protein, 6g sugar, 2g fiber, 75% vit A, 90% vit C

I actually prefer this recipe with one kiwi, since I like things tart, but my fiancé preferred the sweeter, 2 kiwi version by far. Enjoy!

Crispy Apple Chips

Baked Apple Chips

Mmmm, sweet and crispy

Last Sunday I discovered that my neighborhood has a small (tiny!) Farmer’s Market just a few blocks away. Serendipity! One of my favorite finds was a big bag of “cosmetically challenged” apples. These apple were funny shaped, scarred or small, but were still loveable. I couldn’t resist, especially since a large bag was about the same price as two apples at my local big-box grocery store.

But what was I to do with all those apples? I ate most of them raw (with peanut butter, mmmmmm), and made a few apple-kiwi-kale smoothies. But at the end of the week, I still had one big, beautifully-ugly apple left. Looking for something different, I decided it’s time to try out apple chips! I am still recovering from a Girl Scout cookie overload, so I opted to keep these simple and without extra sweetener.

Apple Slices

Hard not to eat these BEFORE baking!


Apple Chips

  • 1 or 2 large apples, rinsed and patted dry

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.

Slice apple as thin as possible. I used my beloved mandoline at the thinnest setting, but you can use a good kitchen knife too. Don’t bother coring the apple, since the seeds will fall right out, and you get an adorable star shape, too!

If you are making a large batch with multiple apples, I recommend letting the apple slices sit in a bowl of water and a squirt of lemon juice while cutting so they don’t brown. Don’t toss the water out though! You can drink it as a lovely apple-infused water while you are waiting for the apples to bake.

Lay the slices on parchment paper or a pan lightly sprayed with cooking oil. Bake for about 2 hours until dry, flipping the chips over about halfway though. The baking time will vary depending on how thin the slices are, so check after each hour to see.

Nutritional Info: 1 large apple: 100 cals, 22g sugar, 0.5g protein, 17% dv vit c

Green Julius

Green Julius

Growing up, I used to love the delicious, frothy drink that is the Orange Julius. I think I would get one pretty much every time I stepped foot in my local mall. However, at 230 calories and 59 grams of processed sugar for just the small, I’ve since given up on my old mall-erific treat.

Recently I was hankering for that sweet orange-y drink from my childhood, but without all the calories and dairy. I whipped up a healthy vegan version – with a twist. Adding some kale gives this a nutritious boost and a fun green shade. You can’t taste the kale at all, I promise!

Green Julius

  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 3 clementines or 1 orange
    I like the clementines because they have less pulp
  • 1 medium kale leaf OR
    1/4 cup greens such as spinach
  • 1/4 frozen banana
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla*
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice (optional but gives it a citrus-y boost)
  • 4-6 ice cubes (about 3/4 cup)

Place all ingredients in a high speed blender in order given and blend until frothy. If using a Blendtec, use the ‘smoothie’ button. If you don’t have highs peed blender, chop the kale or greens into small pieces before adding to blender.

Serves 2 large glasses or 4 small as pictured.


Nutritional Info: 1 large serving of 2- 96 calories, 12g sugar, 2.5g protein, 100% vit C, 50% dv vit A, 14% calcium (percentage of daily value)

 *when making cold or uncooked desserts, I prefer to use vanilla bean paste since it doesn’t have that booze-y taste that extract has. It delivers an incredibly rich vanilla taste, and is a great value too. I use mine in every sweet treat (including tea!) and after 2 years I still have half left.