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).

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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

Cookies Swap 2011: Toffee Cookies

Toffee Cookies

Welcome to my contribution for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011!

I had very different plans for this cookie recipe. I envisioned, specifically, an Apple Cider Toffee Cookie, with a pronounced apple cider taste, enhanced by buttery toffee. Unfortunately, I was left with a cookie with a strong toffee flavor and only a hint of apple – which, by all means, is not a bad thing, just not what I originally wanted.

My original plan was to use this recipe for Maple Syrup Cookies and produce an apple cider syrup to use instead of the maple syrup. Brilliant, I thought! I am a genius!

Except making apple cider syrup proved more difficult than I thought. With my first batch, I kept waiting for the cider to get a thick, syrupy consistency, and I ended up with a tasteless, sticky substance that became hard as a rock once cooled. With my second batch, the consistency was thinner than I would have liked, but it tasted great, so I decided to just go with it.

While making the cookies, I found that a more syrupy consistency would have been helpful. When I added the syrup to the wet mixture, there was a lot of separation that occurred. It came together fine once I added the dry mixture, but upon tasting the dough (before stirring in the toffee), I found with disappointment that the apple cider flavor was subtle at best.

But these cookies are still tasty. They’re just not apple cider cookies. It’s probably not worth the effort to cook down the apple cider and add the brown sugar just for this recipe, but I’ll include the instructions anyway, just in case. Perhaps I will purchase some honest-to-goodness boiled cider and see what that produces.

Toffee Cookies
Adapted from The Cooking Photographer
Yield: I can’t exactly remember. I think it was around 4 dozen.

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup apple cider syrup [note: I doubled the recipe but used only 2 cinnamon sticks, and omitted the brandy]
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 8 oz bag toffee bits/pieces (I used Heath; use less if you want a less pronounced toffee flavor)
Granulated sugar for rolling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and put racks in the bottom and top thirds of the oven. Sift or whisk the flour, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl (I used my stand mixer) until light and fluffy. Add egg, apple cider syrup and vanilla, and mix until blended. The mixture will separate a little bit, but will come back together once you add the dry ingredients.

Stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Add the toffee bits and stir until well-distributed. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes to an hour (optional, but I found it to be helpful).

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Shape dough into 1 inch balls, roll in sugar, and place on baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes, switching racks halfway through the baking time. Remove from oven and let cool, preferably on a wire rack.

Toffee Cookies

30 before 30: Thin Mints

30 before 30: Thin Mints

Oh my.

30 before 30: Thin Mints

This may have been one of the most indulgent recipes I’ve ever made.

30 before 30: Thin Mints

I mean, homemade Thin Mints. Look at that chocolate!

30 before 30: Thin Mints

Making Thin Mints at home is clumsy, messy, a bit time-consuming, and, well, sticky. Is it worth it? YES.

30 before 30: Thin Mints

We spent an afternoon tempering chocolate and dipping cookies, and brought the cookies to a friend’s birthday party that evening. They were a huge hit. I brought them to a meeting the next day. They were a huge hit. Sensing a pattern here?

30 before 30: Thin Mints

A caveat: these cookies should be kept cool. When we brought the cookies to the aforementioned birthday party, the cookies became a bit messier to eat as the night went on, as the chocolate had a tendency to melt all over people’s fingers.

No biggie. No use crying over some melted chocolate.

In case you were wondering: just like the original Girl Scouts’ version of this cookie, the homemade Thin Mint tastes even better after being stored in the freezer.

30 before 30: Thin Mints

For this piece of 30 before 30, I used the Thin Mint recipe posted on the Tastespotting blog, who got the recipe from Desserts by the Yard.

Next time I make these (oh yes, there will be a next time), I’m trying out the 101 Cookbooks version.

30 before 30: Thin Mints

More 30 before 30 posts coming soon: hamburgers/hamburger buns, macarons, chicken nuggets!

Skillet chocolate chip cookie (one bowl)

Skillet chocolate chip cookie

This is the ultimate lazy baking recipe. This is for those nights when you really really want a warm chocolate chip cookie, but really really don’t want to go through the whole song and dance of measuring, creaming butter and sugar, dirtying multiple dishes and carefully spooning out dough mounds onto baking sheets.

Don’t get me wrong: I love a well-crafted, perfectly executed chocolate chip cookie, and most of the time, I don’t mind the extra effort. But tonight, I did mind the extra effort (and I only had half a cup of chocolate chips left over), so this skillet cookie was just what I needed.

Note: I forgot to put salt in the mixture, so I guessed that about 1/4 teaspoon would have worked and added to the below list. Also, this is a pretty sweet cookie, overall, so I may reduce the amount of sugar next time. Lastly, this yields a thin cookie – the recipe could probably be doubled and baked in the same size skillet for thicker results (left in the oven for longer, of course).

Skillet chocolate chip cookie
Adapted from: SparkRecipes

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 egg
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Measure all ingredients into a bowl and mix (either by hand or electric mixer) until they all come together. Lightly spray a 10-inch cast-iron skillet (or other ovenproof skillet) with cooking spray, and spread the batter into the skillet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool before slicing and enjoying.