Breakfast smoothies

Kale-mango-pineapple-coconut smoothie

Smoothies have dominated my breakfast landscape for the past few months. They’re delicious, and oh hey, they’re also extremely healthy and help to fulfill that pesky fruit/veggie daily requirement.

Inspiration for smoothies: the almighty Alton Brown and his tips for breakfast smoothies from Live and Let Diet.

Here’s what I use for my smoothies:

  • Immersion blender, and the handy 2-cup plastic beaker that comes with it. I imagine a blender or a food processor would work just as well.
  • Frozen bananas. As per Alton Brown, I buy big bunches of bananas (the riper the better), and let them ripen for a bit longer in my produce bowl before peeling, transferring to a large resealable freezer bag, and tossing in the freezer.
  • Additional rotation of frozen fruit. I tend to favor mixed berries, mango, and pineapple.
  • Leafy greens, i.e. spinach or kale.
  • Non-dairy milk, usually almond.

Here’s how I make them. If I’m responsible and planning ahead, I do this before I go to bed and place the filled beaker in the fridge, then blend in the morning. Lately I’ve been lazy, however, and fill the beaker in the morning, pop in the microwave for 1 minute, then blend. The night before method is preferable, however.

  • Fill 2-cup plastic beaker with 1 cup of non-dairy milk.
  • Break 1 frozen banana in half, and add to beaker.
  • Add roughly 1 cup of spinach or kale leaves, stuffing down to the bottom of the beaker.
  • Add additional frozen fruit to top (usually between 1/2 and 1 cup, depending).
  • Optional: add 1 tablespoon of almond or peanut butter. I haven’t been doing this lately, but it does help boost the protein/flavor content.
  • Blend and drink.

Most days, I use 1 cup of almond milk, one banana, some spinach, a few chunks of mango or pineapple, then a small handful of mixed berries. Today, however, was extra special. I started with 1/4 cup of coconut milk (we had some left over after making soup last night), then added 1/4 cup of almond milk and 1/2 cup of water (since full-fat coconut milk is so rich). From there, leftover kale was added, as well as both mango and pineapple. It was both delicious and visually pleasing (see photo).

Banana/applesauce granola

Banana/applesauce granola

Homemade granola, mixed with yogurt, is a wonderful thing. It’s delicious, filling, and so easy to make. However, while many granola recipes are technically healthy, they’re not exactly light, due to the use of oil and sweeteners. I recently saw this recipe that used pureed banana, and saw an opportunity.

I decided to use applesauce as well, for additional moisture and sweetness. This recipe definitely tastes of banana, and (if you like banana), this is a good thing – almost like banana bread in granola form.

Feel free to use any combination of nuts and dried fruit for this! Pecans and dried cherries would be particularly lovely, I think. Also, this was a very wet mixture – 2 bananas might have been a bit too much, but the end result was still quite good.

Banana/applesauce granola

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 – 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of ground ginger
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
2 bananas, very ripe*
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped dried fruit (I used apricots)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients (oats through salt) in a medium/large bowl. Set aside. In a separate container, puree the bananas, applesauce, and vanilla extract together until blended and smooth (I used my immersion blender).

Add the banana/applesauce mixture to the dry mixture and stir to combine (the mixture will be thick). Spread the mixture into a rimmed baking sheet or casserole pan (preferably spritzed with cooking spray).

Bake the granola in 15 minutes increments, stirring after each, until it reaches the desired toastiness and texture. Stir in the chopped fruit for the last 10 minutes or so of baking.

* If you only have not-very-ripe bananas, you can roast them first and they’ll be perfect. Roast the whole banana(s), peels on and everything, on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, then remove and let cool. The peels will be completely blackened and the bananas will be very soft.

Freezer breakfast burritos (light and healthy)

Freezer breakfast burritos

For me, breakfast has become one of the most important meals, but also one of the most challenging. I need a filling meal that’s also light and healthy, providing enough energy and sustenance to last me until lunch (save for a piece of fruit or something in the interim). And I also need the meal to be relatively quick. My commute is long (almost an hour, door to door), and while I used to wait and eat breakfast once I got to work, I find that I’m much more energetic throughout the day if I eat within an hour of waking up.

This means that I need to eat at home before leaving, but since I have to get up early already, I can’t spare more than a few minutes preparing and eating my breakfast. Making breakfasts ahead of time and reheating leftovers has been my solution for this, with oatmeal being the best option, but that’s grown old at this point. And I need a break from granola and yogurt once and awhile. Conundrum!

Then I saw Shutterbean’s freezer burritos post. Then I did some searching on freezer breakfast burritos and found Skinny Mom’s Kitchen. Inspiration abound, I decided to whip up some freezer breakfast burritos of my own.

These burritos are good. Really good. Super quick to reheat and eat, filling, and tasty. I am a fan. This recipe is infinitely adaptable, since there are a variety of fillings to choose from. Here’s what I went with:

Freezer breakfast burritos
Inspired by Shutterbean and Skinny Mom’s Kitchen
Makes 10 burritos

Ingredients

4 pre-cooked chicken sausages (I used Trader Joe’s garlic/herb chicken sausages), chopped into small pieces
1 package (10 ounces or so) mushrooms, chopped into small pieces
3-4 cups spinach
5 eggs, beaten
5 egg whites, beaten
2 1/2 cups lite shredded cheese (I used a Trader Joe’s lite shredded mix)
1 can refried beans (I used Trader Joe’s fat free refried beans)
10 flour tortillas

Instructions

In a large pan, cook the sausages and mushrooms over medium heat, stirring often, until the mushrooms have browned and released their liquid. Toss in the spinach and saute until just wilted. Pour in the eggs and egg whites and stir continuously until cooked. Add salt and pepper to taste, or any other seasonings as you see fit. Set aside to cool for a few minutes before assembling the burritos.

Lay a piece of foil about the width of one tortilla on a work surface, and place a tortilla on top of it. Spread three tablespoons of refried beans in the middle of the tortilla (roughly a 3 inch wide by 4 inch long rectangle). Sprinkle 1/4 cup of shredded cheese on top of the beans, and top with 1/2 cup of the cooled sausage/veggie/egg mixture.

Roll up the burrito to your liking – mine were just sort of rolled and folded together (I wasn’t too concerned about perfecting my wrapping technique; there are plenty of YouTube videos about wrapping burritos if you’re interested). Wrap the burrito in the foil and set aside. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, to make 10 burritos total.

You could probably stick the foil-wrapped burritos in the freezer as is, but for extra protection from freezer burn, you may want to consider storing the individual burritos in plastic freezer bags as well. I was able to fit five burritos in one large freezer bag (two bags in total).

To reheat, remove a frozen burrito from the foil, and loosely wrap in a damp paper towel. Microwave for 3 minutes, or until hot. Enjoy!

Stuff I’ve made recently, January 2012

Grapefruit

  • Beer bread (Alton Brown): The ultimate weeknight bread recipe, for when you want something starchy/tasty to go with soup, etc. Super easy and super quick. My changes: used dried dill instead of fresh, subbed in part skim mozzarella cheese for cheddar, omitted the sunflower seeds. I also used Lagunitas IPA, with great results.
  • Carrot soup with miso and sesame (Smitten Kitchen): I have a long-standing hatred of carrots. So much so that it’s become a default joke with my loved ones. Something about the texture and the underlying sweetness just doesn’t work for me, despite my best efforts to overcome the distaste. I want to like them! Really! They’re so good for you! Despite all this, something about this recipe called to me, so I just ran with it. And you know what? It was pretty darn good, even for me. The miso helps offset the carrots’ sweetness, and the toasted sesame oil is just perfect. The texture still bothered me at times, but I ate three servings of it over the course of three days, so there you go.
  • Chicken lima bean soup (Taste of Home): I made this because I was dying to use my bag of Rancho Gordo Christmas lima beans, the recipe looked easy, and I wanted a nice sturdy soup after a whole holiday vacation of splurging on baked goods. It’s a very good soup, although I think the chicken may have been a tad overcooked. My changes: used Christmas limas, used kale instead of spinach, used dried parsley and other random seasonings instead of fresh.
  • Cottage cheese muffins (101 Cookbooks): Like every 101 Cookbooks recipe ever, these were really good. I made them for an office holiday potluck, but when I make them again, I’ll have them for breakfast instead.
  • Grapefruit yogurt cake (Smitten Kitchen): I had extra grapefruits, I had leftover yogurt that was threatening to go bad, I had everything else needed for this simple loaf cake. So I made it. And I’m really glad I did. It’s very, very good, and very, very easy. Next time, I’ll try the Ina Garten original lemon version, or a lime version with coconut milk yogurt and coconut oil. My changes: I used nonfat plain yogurt instead of whole milk.
  • Macaroni and cheese pizza (Food Network): For Jeffrey‘s birthday dinner! We used the Quick Beer Crust from King Arthur Flour, which is quickly becoming my favorite go-to pizza crust recipe. This is one of the more indulgent things I’ve ever made. Wow. We sort of winged it with this recipe – I don’t remember most of the changes that we made, however. The main thing is just stovetop mac and cheese, put on a pizza crust, and baked. Yum.
  • Meyer lemon fresh cranberry scones (Smitten Kitchen): I made these for my Bay Bridged comrades to enjoy while we set up for the Bay Brewed. They were a big hit. My changes: used regular lemons instead of Meyer.
  • Rustic lentil soup (Soup Addict): Delicious, hearty stew. That’s really all you need to know. Really, really good. My changes: I didn’t have any pancetta so I used more bacon instead, omitted the fish sauce, used 3 small leeks instead of celery, and used dried rosemary instead of fresh thyme.
  • And of course, I’ve made several more 30 before 30 items. Just need to actually sit down and write them all out!

Christmas lima bean soup with kale

Macaroni and cheese pizza

Curried potato-squash-leek soup

I made a clean-out-the-pantry-and-fridge soup last night. I had some potatoes and a delicata squash left over from dinner the night before, plus a leek in the fridge and some leftover cooked lentils that were threatening to go bad. So, I took Mark Bittman’s potato-leek soup recipe and adjusted to include some extra ingredients. No photos, sorry. 😦

P.S. I have about three 30 before 30 posts in the vault, just need to actually sit down and crank ’em out!

Curried potato-squash-leek soup

3 tablespoons butter
4 medium red potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 delicata squash, peeled and chopped
3 leeks (white and light green parts only), chopped
4-6 cups broth (veggie or chicken)
1 cup cooked lentils (mine were cooked with broth and some cumin)
1/2 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon curry powder
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, potatoes, and squash and gently stir until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add enough broth to just cover the vegetables, bring to a boil, then adjust the heat so that the soup bubbles gently. Add a few shakes of salt and pepper and cook for about 20-30 minutes, until the potatoes and squash are tender. Stir in lentils.

Turn off the heat, and puree the soup until smooth – either with an immersion blender, or regular blender or food processor. Stir in the garam masala and curry powder, plus additional salt and pepper to taste, and re-heat over the stove if necessary.

Microwave nectarine pie steel-cut oats

Nectarine pie steel-cut oats

When I don’t make steel-cut oats ahead of time, I still like to have the option of eating them at work for a late breakfast (or sometimes lunch if need be). For this, I take advantage of Trader Joe’s Quick Cook Steel Cut Oats. They’re not as creamy and awesome as the pure ones cooked on the stove, but they still do the trick.

This past week, I had a bag of big, gorgeous nectarines from the Alemany Farmers Market, and I was out of the frozen berries that I normally stir into my microwaved oats with honey. So, I improvised, and “nectarine pie” steel-cut oats were born.

Microwave nectarine pie steel-cut oats

1/4 cup Trader Joe’s Quick Cook Steel Cut Oats
3/4 cup hot water
1-2 tablespoons honey
1 large nectarine
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon

Chop  the nectarine into bite-size pieces. Add the oats and water to a bowl (preferably one with high sides, since the mix will rise up – otherwise you need to babysit it as it cooks and pause to stir if it starts to boil over).  Cook for 3 minutes in the microwave. Stir, then cook for an additional 1.5 minutes.

Stir in the honey, nectarine pieces and cinnamon, and return to the microwave for an additional 1.5 – 2 minutes (depending on how firm/soft you want the nectarine pieces). Stir and let sit for a couple of minutes before eating (don’t burn your tongue!).

Make this soup: Red lentil soup with lemon

I have no photos. I have nothing to give besides words. Sorry.

But you should make this soup. It is so very delicious.

I got it from my copy of The Essential New York Times Cookbook, and I mostly tried it because a) I really wanted to make some type of lentil soup, and b) I’ve been dying to use my new immersion blender.

The full recipe, plus more gushing about the greatness of this soup, can be found via both Orangette and Sassy Radish.

My additions/substitutions/notes:

  • I added one leek to the mixture (since I like leeks), and I used coconut oil instead of olive for the sautéing (since I’ve been digging coconut oil recently). I found both additions to be extremely pleasing, especially the coconut oil.
  • I increased the number of garlic cloves by 3 or 4, since garlic is boss.
  • I left out the cilantro because I didn’t have any, but I’m sure it would have been divine.
  • Lastly, the recipe dictates “juice of 1/2 lemon, more to taste” – I ended up using the juice from almost the entire lemon.
MAKE THIS SOUP.

Cherry-vanilla baked oatmeal

Cherry-vanilla baked oatmeal

I’m obsessed with oatmeal for breakfast. However, due to my long commute and extreme disdain for early mornings, it’s difficult for me to actually make breakfast in the morning. Anything that requires more than pouring into a bowl or heating in the microwave isn’t realistic for me in the long term.

Cherry-vanilla baked oatmeal

That’s where making steel-cut oats overnight and this awesome baked oatmeal come in handy. Both can be made in big batches and store beautifully in the fridge throughout the week.

Cherry-vanilla baked oatmeal

Cherry-vanilla baked oatmeal

This cherry-vanilla baked oatmeal is an adaptation of Heidi Swanson‘s baked oatmeal from the gorgeous Super Natural Every Day. I’ve made her recipe verbatim before and absolutely loved it. This past weekend, I wanted to make it again but only had cherries and vanilla soy milk on hand, so Cherry-Vanilla Baked Oatmeal was born.

Cherry-Vanilla Baked Oatmeal
Adapted from Super Natural Every Day (original recipe can be found via Lottie + Doof)
Serves 6-8

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/3 cup sugar or maple syrup
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Scant 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2 cups vanilla soy milk
1 large egg
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups sweet cherries, pitted and halved

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place a rack in the upper third of the oven. Spray a 9×13 glass casserole dish with cooking spray (or use butter).

In a medium bowl, mix the oats, half the walnuts, sugar (if using), baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, whisk the maple syrup (if using), soy milk, egg, butter and vanilla.

Arrange 1 cup of the pitted/halved cherries in a single layer at the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Cover with the oat mixture, then slowly drizzle the wet mix over the oats. Give the dish a couple of gently thwacks on the counter to ensure even distribution of the wet mixture through the dry. Scatter the rest of the cherries and walnuts on top.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the oatmeal is set. Let cool for a few minutes before serving, and store leftovers in the fridge (will keep up to a week or so).

Red lentil curry with leeks and tofu (slow cooker)

Red lentil curry with leeks and tofu

This recipe is so simple, and so tasty. And to top it all off, it’s quite healthy – full of lean protein and veggies and fiber (lentils are a total superfood). As healthy as this dish is, however, it does not skimp on flavor (and as an unexpected bonus, it’s vegan!).

Red lentil curry with leeks and tofu

This recipe originally comes from a Weight Watchers slow cooker cookbook, which I made a couple of times before making some significant modifications. The original recipe calls for shrimp as the add-in at the end of the slow cooking process, which was pretty good, but not my favorite (I prefer shrimp that’s been grilled or stir-fried – plus, 2 pounds of shrimp can be really expensive if you’re not buying on sale), so I used tofu instead. I also increased the amount of garlic (because 1 clove is never enough).

Red lentil curry with leeks and tofu

Lastly, I replaced the celery in the recipe with leeks. Because you know what? Celery is stupid. It’s flavorless, it smells more like sterile cleaning liquid than food and while some will argue that it provides “texture” to soup and stews and the like, I find it annoying and useless. So, I used leeks instead, because leeks provide robustness without significantly changing the main flavor.

Red lentil curry with leeks and tofu, in the slow cooker
Adapted from Weight Watchers

2 1/2 cups veggie broth
1 cup dried red lentils
1 large red onion, chopped
2-3 leeks, thinly sliced and chopped
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon peanut, grapeseed or canola oil (any neutral oil)
16 oz. firm/extra firm tofu (firmer the better)

Add the broth, lentils, onion, leeks, ginger, garlic, curry powder, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne pepper (first 10 ingredients) into your slow cooker. Stir together, cover, and cook on high for 2-3 hours (I let mine cook for the full 3 hours). I believe you can also cook the ingredients on low for 4-6 hours – the mixture is done when everything is soft and broken down.

When there’s about 45 minutes or so left on the timer, brown your tofu on the stove as preparation before adding to the slow cooker. Slice the tofu blocks into bite-sized pieces. Heat up some neutral oil (peanut, grapeseed, canola – just not olive, if you can help it) in a skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and let it brown, stirring frequently after a couple of minutes so that all the pieces brown somewhat evenly (this took about 15 minutes for me, but cooking times may vary). Add the browned tofu to the slow cooker, stir, replace the lid, and continue cooking.

Serve in bowls and enjoy! The leftovers for this recipe keep quite well – in fact, they get a little spicier after sitting in the fridge, which is a nice bonus. I imagine you could also serve this dish over some grains (couscous or rice), but it works great on its own.

Strawberry jam crumb cake, lightened up

Strawberry jam crumb cake
It’s not exactly pretty – but it’s quite tasty.

Over at theKitchenSinkRecipes, Kristin posts a recipe for strawberry jam crumb cake and talks all about a visit to the Bay Area, where she relaxed and whipped up a buttery, indulgent breakfast treat. I wanted to try out her concoction for a number of reasons: 1) I had all the ingredients on hand, including tasty strawberry jam, 2) I’ve been wanting to try out the springform pan I got for Christmas, and 3) baking is fun and I’m sort of addicted and will take any excuse to try a new recipe.

However – I’ve lost about 25 pounds in the past year and am still plugging away down the weight loss path, and my waistline can’t quite afford to freely enjoy my rich baking habits. Therefore, while I still bake and cook a lot, I watch what I actually eat very carefully, give away the extras and lighten up the recipes whenever possible.

With this strawberry jam cake, since it’s a very simple recipe, I saw the opportunity to swap out about half the butter with some unsweetened applesauce. I also cut the amount of crumb topping in half. It may not be as perfectly buttery and wonderful as the original rendition, but this lightened up version is still pretty darn good – moist, very sweet (almost too sweet – I might cut down the amount of sugar next time), and satisfying.

Strawberry Jam Crumb Cake
Adapted from TheKitchenSinkRecipes

Cake:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup strawberry jam

Crumb topping:
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Rounded 1/2 cup flour

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. To make the cake, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate (larger) bowl, whisk the butter, applesauce, milk, eggs and vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and whisk together until combined.

Spray a springform pan with cooking spray and pour in the batter. Dab spoonfuls of the strawberry jam on top of the batter, and gently swirl with a knife.

To make the crumb topping, whisk together the butter, applesauce, sugars, cinnamon and salt. Add the flour, gently stir to just bring the ingredients together, then use your fingers to fully blend. Sprinkle the mixture in clumps across the top of the cake.

Bake the cake for 25 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for at least 5 minutes. As mentioned before, this is a moist cake, and it might not be super sturdy (especially in the middle), so be a little careful when slicing and serving.