Strawberry-Apple Smoothie

strawberryapple

And, to add to last week’s smoothie, here’s a classic. This one has been my standard for ten years or so. It’s the perfect crisp, sweet treat on a hot day. (Not that we’ve had any of those recently!)

strawberry smoothie

One thing that I like both about this and the mango-peach smoothie is that they are sweet and cool and thick, and don’t require add-ins like bananas (I’m allergic) or protein powders (always optional, but I like the all natural feel of these as-is) to thicken them up. The frozen fruit does all the thickening you need, plus it takes the temperature down a notch, naturally chilling it so that it becomes a fantastic summer treat.

And let me tell you: nothing, but nothing, beats the taste of one of these right after a hard workout!

strawberry apple smoothie recipe card

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Mango-Peach Smoothie

mango-peach smoothie

It’s unseasonably cold here in New York, but my tastebuds don’t seem to care. They’re hungering for lighter, springier fare. So following my run yesterday, I satisfied them with a smoothie to end all smoothies.

I usually go in for smoothie simplicity: I’m not a big “add in” girl. Give me a few fruits, blend them together until thick and smooth, and I’m happy. And that’s just what this is: three fruits (one of them frozen for thickness) and nothing else. No extra protein powders or boosters, just sweet, yummy fruit. The highlight here is the peach, with the mango giving a nice undertone. You really don’t taste the apple here; in all honesty, I use it as a filler. It does add some sweetness, but not much flavor. But since it’s cheaper than mango and peaches, it lets you get your money’s worth.

A note about this recipe: I’ve included two different ways to do this below. The “Vitamix” method can be used with a Vitamix or another high-end, commercial blender that can make juice out of whole fruit. But if you have a standard, department store blender, use a juicer first. The object is to make a mango-apple juice before you add in the frozen peach. (Hence, the addition of water for the Vitamix method; without it, your “juice” will be too thick.) The juice is your base and the peach is your thickener.

Other than that, no special instructions needed. Just stick in a straw and enjoy!

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Lasagna Al’Arrabiata

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When you have a blizzard bearing down on you, there’s only one thing to do, in my opinion: make something warm and spicy and hunker down to enjoy. Which is just what my neighbors and I did in the wake of Nemo: we put some Taylor Swift on and got to baking.

In this case, the baking involved whole wheat lasagna noodles, fresh zucchini, frozen broccoli, and homemade arrabiata sauce. Traditionally, lasagna involves good ol’ marinara, but when have you ever known me to resist adding heat to a dish? So of course, I used arrabiata sauce, marinara’s spicier cousin. It added a nice contrast to the sweet zucchini and broccoli.

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I used whole wheat pasta, which is healthier, and also adds a nice earthy flavor to the lasagna. Take note: this is a case where healthier also tastes better! Between the added flavor of the whole wheat and the spice of the arrabiata, the traditional ingredients (sweet zucchini and creamy ricotta) sing a new harmony that just works.

A quick note: usually, I try out vegan substitutes for recipes, but in this case, I stuck to non-vegan ingredients. If you try it with a vegan substitute, please leave a comment so we know how it turns out!

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Three Bean (Four Alarm) Chili

I’ve lived in New York for the past fifteen (!) years, but there’s still a bit of Texan in me: I love Shiner Bock, Pat Green and George Strait, I can do a mean two-step, and I love me my chili.

Chili is a sensitive subject in Texas, right up there with talking about politics and religion. Some maintain that “Texas style” chili has ham in it, some say it’s just ground beef. Some say it shouldn’t have beans, and some say the only requirement for “Texas style” chili is that it be thick enough to stand up on its own. I fall into the last category, and this chili can stand up on its own and can probably take me on a spin ‘round the dance floor if it wanted to.

This was adapted from the chili my mom made us as kids—of course, the ground beef was chucked first, but I also make mine spicier than my mom’s: this is a true four alarm chili. And, since my mom grew up in Georgia, she adds tomato juice to make hers more like a soup or stew. This is thick as any Texan could wish for: so thick that I love to spread it onto a slice of bread and eat it that way.

One of the things I love about this chili—besides that it’s just darn delicious—is that it’s cheap, makes a ton, and reheats perfectly. In fact, I usually make a pot of this every two weeks or so and then bring it to the office for lunch every day. (I have the rare ability to eat the same thing over and over and never get bored.)

As you’ll notice, this recipe calls for three types of beans, but four cans of beans. As such, you’ll have twice as many of one variety than of the other two. I love black beans, so I usually do a two-fer on those, but if you prefer pinto or kidney beans, try making the 4th can of beans an extra can of those.

A word about alarms and spices: as is, this is very spicy, which is what I love about it. This dish (along with my arrabiata sauce) was the reason that one of my friends joked that my goal is to burn off a few taste buds every meal. I love spice, it’s true. If you’re not looking for something as spicy as this chili, though, there are a few ways to tune it down. The first is to carefully seed the jalapeños, which I don’t do because (a) I’m lazy, (b) I like the texture of the seeds in the chili, and (c) it makes it hotter. Obviously, along with seeding the jalapeños, you also may just want to cut down on the number of them. You can also cut down on the heat by decreasing the cayenne pepper.

A quicker version of this recipe involves buying and using the premixed chili seasoning packets at your grocery store.

And if you’re not vegan, try garnishing with a dollop of sour cream and/or a bit of cheddar for a little added oomph.

Chili Recipe Card

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Sour Cream and Chive Smashed Potatoes

This Thanksgiving, every table will have mashed potatoes. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Truly; I love me some mashed potatoes. But are we just like everybody else? Are we ho-hum, same old dish as everyone else?

No, we are not! You and I, my friends, we are different. We demand something a little more for our tables. We want not simply to please, but to wow at Thanksgiving (and every other dinner, come to think of it). We want to redefine the classics to make them fresh and new. We want…sour cream and chive smashed potatoes!

These are creamy and tangy and yummy. They elevate themselves beyond the ordinary mashed potatoes (though you could do a mashed version of sour cream and chive potatoes). They add zing–yep, I said “zing”–to the Thanksgiving table. And they are anything but ordinary.

Earlier, I mentioned how my favorite Thanksgiving dish to prepare is cranberry sauce. Well, the smashed/mashed potatoes are my favorite Thanksgiving dish to eat, and these are by far the best version down the smashed/mashed path that I’ve had to date.

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish to eat? What’s the best smashed or mashed potatoes you’ve ever had?

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Cranberry Sauce

As a foodie, Thanksgiving holds a special place in my heart. Fall foods, in general, are my favorite kinds: the warm spices, the comforting dishes, pumpkins and cranberries and soups. Yep, fall foods are the highlight of my year, and even though I’m not hosting Thanksgiving this year, I’m still excited about the cooking to be done.

Here’s where I have to confess: I’m not a huge fan of cranberry sauce. In fact, I usually eat about 3 spoonfuls a year, when it’s warm off the stove. After that, it’s not appealing to me. But I love making it. My first kitchen memories are of the night before Thanksgiving, when my mom would pull chairs up beside the stove and my sisters and I would crowd around while she made the sauce so that we could listen to the cranberries “pop.” Some years, we got a great symphony; others, they were silent.

So I still make cranberry sauce every year, though without guests, I usually end up giving it away to a friend. But just the act of standing over the stove, listening for the first “pop,” makes me feel like a kid again. Like everything is warm and simple. Like magic. Like Thanksgiving.

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish to prepare?

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Grilled Pears with Walnut Cream Cheese

Cooler weather always makes me crave comfort food. I love sweet and warm fall foods that make you feel like you’ve just bundled up in flannel pajamas. And if that food also happens to be good for you? Well, what’s not to love?

That’s what this dish is: the crunch of the walnuts and silky cream cheese offer a savory contrast to the sweet of the pears. And grilling the pears adds a smoky undertone to the dish, too. This is so good that I couldn’t figure out where to categorize it: is this a dessert? a side dish? an appetizer? all of the above? However you eat it, it’ll feel like Baby Bear’s porridge: just right.

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Quinoa and Lentil Stew

Weather’s turned, and I’m down with a cold. Like half of New  York, it seems. But that’s ok; I’ve got a warm, healthy and delicious stew to get me through it. Don’t let the pictures fool you: this stew is as tasty as it comes. Yes, it looks a little blah. (In person as well as in the pictures.) But boy, does it pack in the taste!

This stew is rich with flavor. The base flavors are, of course, the onion, garlic, and vegetable broth. But layer on top of that the more prominent nutty flavor of the quinoa and the rich flavor of the lentils, and you’ve got a stew able to stand on its own and fight back the cold drizzle and the cold germs. :)

 

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Coconut Milk Rice Pudding

I know, I know. Slap me on the wrist; I have been a bad blogger. Between work and school and more work (I have two jobs, one in research and the other as a personal trainer), I’ve been doing 14-hour days and just haven’t had time to sit down and blog. So now I have a backlog of recipes that need to be posted..and no time to post them! Argh!

But I’m back now, so worry not. You’ll see more of me again now that my unscheduled break is over. And I wanted to start with this little gem. See, when your dear friend gets married and you spend a weekend in Boston enjoying all sorts of yummy Indian food (oh, yeah, there were some festivities, too…), you come home craving South Asian flavors. Cardamon, jasmine, coconut. Rich, delicious tones that sing on your palate.

And so I made this rice pudding. The coconut milk gives it an incredibly creamy texture and a sweet taste that’ll make seconds mandatory. Add to that the floral note of jasmine and the citrus taste of orange and cardamon, and you’ve got yourself a winner. This is my new comfort food, perfect for the fall evenings when I get home after a long day and just want to curl up with something filling, warm, and delicious.

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Salsa Verde

 

This recipe is a little late, but there’s a good reason for it. I actually made this batch of salsa verde on the 11th, over a week ago, for the Big Game. That is, the game when my beloved Cowboys were going to show up at the MetLife Stadium and show the Jets who’s boss.

I should’ve known better than to make green food on the day we were going up against the Jets. And football fans will understand when I say that I didn’t post this before because I didn’t want to relive the 4th quarter of that game. Sigh.

But I knew that eventually I had to share it. After all, like pico de gallo, this is a classic and very simple dish. A dish that’s a great addition to nachos or quesadillas or burritos or just as a snack dip with chips. A dish that’s perfect for this time of year, when you’re looking to munch while watching football or baseball. Or new episodes of Glee. Whatever floats your boat.

And yet, despite how great salsa verde is, and how familiar it is to anyone who’s ever been to a Mexican restaurant, I’m always surprised by the number of people who don’t have the foggiest idea how to make it. It’s so easy, and so delicious that I promise if you make it once, you’ll want to make it every week.

As with other salsas, salsa verde is cooked. And some people will boil their tomatillos to make salsa verde. That’s ok; we’ll let them continue to make that mistake. But you and me? We want amazing salsa verde, full of levels of flavor and a slight smokiness. So we’ll broil our tomatillos until the skin is slightly charred, and we’ll bring that blackened goodness into the salsa so that it adds to the flavor profile.

One final note: I use serrano chilies in my salsa verde, which are spicier than jalapenos. The number of chilies you use will depend on the level of heat that you want: one for medium, two for hot. If you want it mild, use one (or even half) seeded pepper. (You’ll notice I don’t seed my peppers; I like mine spicy. Plus, as has already been established, I’m lazy.)

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