Drinks: Green Juice and Ginger Tea

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Green Smoothies

I love a good smoothie. There’s nothing like drinking something sweet and creamy and smooth that is also secretly packed with vegetables and nutrients. And there’s nothing like being able to throw anything-from-the-fridge into a blender and know your toddlers will drink it…and ask for more.

Last week, my friend let me borrow her Vitamix blender so I could see if the machine was all that it was cracked up to be. I will gladly spill my love of this machine if Vitamix promises to send me a blender in return. (*ehem*)

The machine-of-my-dreams aside, we’ve been making a lot of smoothies recently. One rule for my smoothies is that I have to add something green – kale, spinach, chard, peas, whatever I have on hand. These greens are packed with nutrients and when your smoothie is packed with fruit, the bitterness of the greens is hidden. But how do I do that, you ask? Let me count the ways.

I found this Double Green Smoothie recipe on wholefoodsmarket.com and I’ve made it a handful of times. I love that it calls for lots of greens and the fruit and dried dates make it so sweet.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups unsweetened non-dairy beverage, such as almond, rice or soy
2 dried apricots or 4 pitted dates
1 banana
1 cup chopped kale leaves
1 cup spinach leaves
1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries

Method

Combine non-dairy beverage, apricots, banana, kale, spinach and berries in a blender and blend until smooth.

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Another trick I use for any smoothie I am making is to blend the greens first with liquid (unless you’re using the blender-of-my-dreams, then you can throw everything in at once and it all gets blended up smoothly). For regular-speed blenders, this allows the greens a great opportunity to break down and less of a chance to take a bite out of kale when you’re drinking your smoothie.

I love blending my greens with unfiltered, organic apple juice. The juice adds a nice sweetness to counteract the greens’ bitterness. But if I don’t have that on hand, I might blend it with a little non-dairy milk or even just plain water.

Then I add frozen fruit, bananas, sometimes a carrot or a stalk of celery, yogurt if I have it, flax meal and/or flax oil, cherry juice concentrate and whatever else I have on hand.

Blend and serve.

My girls love to drink with a straw because it’s more fun. Either way, a smoothie is an excellent way to pack more nutrients into your diet in a pleasing and delicious (and fun-with-a-straw!) way.

Enjoy!

(Photo from wholefoodsmarket.com)

Banana, Zucchini and Summer Squash Muffins (recipe)

I adapted this recipe from my friend Molly who is a genius at muffins, cookies and granola.

I baked this recipe tonight and it’s all I can do to refrain from eating the whole dozen. Enjoy!

Banana, Zucchini and Summer Squash Muffins

1 1/2 cups organic whole wheat flour
2 cups organic rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 organic banana (chopped 1/4″ x 1/4″)
3/4 cup grated zucchini
1/2 cup grated summer squash
3 large eggs
3/4 cup apple sauce
2 TBS oil

Preheat oven to 350, spray or line a 12-cnt muffin tin.
Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
Add banana, zucchini and squash and mix.
Beat eggs, then add to mixture.
Add apple sauce and oil. Mix well.
Evenly distribute batter into muffin tin and bake for 30 min.
Allow to cool slightly before turning out to a cooling rack…enjoy!

Lettuce Wraps with Creamy Sesame Sauce

We got some amazing boston lettuce at my CSA pick-up this week. Whenever I see good, buttery, boston lettuce, I immediately think: lettuce wraps!

So today at lunch, I decided to keep it simple and stuff this lettuce with some basics that I had on hand: mainly, brown rice and a homemade creamy sesame sauce.

I made the creamy sesame sauce based on a recipe that I acquired from my CSA this week. I doubled it so that I’d have enough for marinades, salads, and stir-fries.

Creamy Sesame Sauce

1/4 cup sesame seeds (toasted dry on a skillet)
2 TBS dijon mustard
1 TBS honey
2 TBS sesame oil
1 TBS olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 TBS fresh, grated ginger (I keep mine in the freezer: it keeps longer & it’s easier to grate)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

In a food processor or blender, blend all ingredients until smooth and creamy. Store in the fridge for up to 2 months (recipe can be doubled or tripled).

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Then I mixed some sauce with leftover brown rice I had in the fridge. My 15mo loved the rice and sauce, but my 2.5yo claimed it was too spicy (sometimes she’s into spicy, today was not one of those days).

So when I wrapped the rice in the lettuce wraps, I gave her plain rice, but mine was doused in the sauce (I could have eaten just that for lunch…). She was happy as a clam, though.

Zora is really into “tacos” right now – and by that, she means anything wrapped in a tortilla. So as I was eating my lettuce wraps, it suddenly dawned on me that maybe she’d be into wrapping her rice in lettuce and calling it a taco. Well, just using that word worked wonders. She was thrilled about her “salad taco” and ate happily away.

Until I pulled out the camera, of course. I felt like I got a lot of patronizing grins at that point. Then suddenly, just as quickly as she embraced the lettuce wraps, she was announced “Mommy, I don’t want the salad.”

So be it.

But the lettuce wraps themselves were a big hit, and I’m going to re-introduce them again – heck, you can wrap anything in lettuce. And the sesame dressing – well, that is just heaven in a bowl, that’s what that is. It turned rice and lettuce into a delicious meal that felt complete. I love having extra dressing in the fridge for a quick addition to another meal.

A Healthy Cupcake Recipe

A few months ago I was on the search for a healthy cupcake recipe. Well, first I was on the search for a cupcake recipe for my youngest daughter’s first birthday, but when I came across a recipe I thought I liked and discovered that between the frosting and the cake, there were 6 sticks of butter, I thought:

There has to be a better way!

I ended up using a pumpkin cupcake recipe that was delicious and had pretty good ingredients. I definitely limit the amount of sugar and white flour altogether in our diets, but I’m not a stickler, so when it came to a birthday party, I thought a little flour, butter and sugar (and cream cheese frosting) was okay.

But then when I came across today’s cupcake recipe in a cookbook I’ve been using for years, I just had to make it. Then I made it, and I had to share it.

Really, I wish you could have been at my kitchen table this afternoon as my friend Brooke and I ate away at these cupcakes… Because, frankly, I wish you could taste them before I tell you what is in them – they’re delicious and not even in the, these-are-good-for-being-healthy kind of way. They’re just delicious in the: these-must-be-naughty way.

But they’re not naughty. They are sweetened with natural sweeteners, vegan, gluten free, and guess what’s in the frosting? Oh, I won’t tell…you’ll have to read on…and give it a try…

Trust me? Okay, then let’s continue…

Chief Cloud’s Cupcakes
from Healthy Cooking for Kids by Shelly Null

ALL OCCASION YELLOW CUPCAKES
2 Cups whole-wheat pastry flour (I used gluten-free, all-purpose flour)
1 Tbs baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup spectrum spread*
2/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup well-mashed banana
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup soy milk or rice milk (I used almond milk)
1 cup flaked coconut (optional)

CHOCOLATE PUDDING FROSTING
1 lb silken tofu, well drained
1, 10-oz package dairy-free carob chips (I used dark chocolate chips)
1/4 cup honey
1 Tbs vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a muffin tray with paper cups.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together until well combined.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine spectrum spread, maple syrup, banana, and vanilla. Mix with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy (about 1 minute. Gradually pour in the milk, increase speed and beat for 30 seconds. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixure (in 2 batches), beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients. When the ingredients are fully incorporated, increase the mixer speed to high, and beat for 1 minute to aerate. Pour in the coconut and beat for 10 seconds until well combined. Scrape off any excess batter from the side of the bowl. Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared tins (the wells will be full).

Bake in the middle of the preheated oven for 30 minutes. For uniformity in baking, rotate the tin halfway through the baking. Remove from tin and let the cupcakes cool.

To prepare the frosting: In the food processor (w/ the medal blade), process tofu for 2 minutes until smooth. In a double boiler, combine chips, honey and vanilla until the chips are a fudgy consistency (about 5-6 minutes), stirring consistently. Restart the food processor and add the chocolate through the feed tube and run until smooth and creamy (about 2 minutes). Scrape off excess frosting from the sides of the food processor and transfer to a medium bowl. Cover the surface directly with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour, or until firm.

Spread frosting on the cupcakes and serve immediately.

*Spectrum Spread is the name brand for the non-dairy (but not margarine!) buttery spread substitute you can find at the health food store. I used Earth Balance.

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Enjoy!

One Year Birthday

I’ve been hit or miss on my blog recently. I would apologize, but the weather has been nice on and off, so we’ve been outside – not sorry about that! Plus, I’m working on simplifying, de-cluttering, and purging in my house so my free moments are spent in piles of books, clothes and decorations, deciding what I can live without.

Also, my youngest daughter turned one today. We did a family party and I made dinner and cupcakes. Here’s the menu:

Herb-Roasted Pork Loin

Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

Arugula Salad with Oranges and Dates (I know, I’m obsessed!)

Peas & Carrots (my daughter’s favorite)

I wanted to make my own cupcakes, but I’m a little intimidated by baking – and also didn’t want to go off the sugary, buttery deep end for some cupcakes. So I made the recipe that my friend Luanne used for my older daughter’s first birthday – Pumpkin Gingerbread Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting. So delicious!

I hope everyone else is enjoying the springy(er) weather. Anyone doing spring cleaning? I’ll get back to my regular posts sometime…and I haven’t forgotten about joy…posts coming for that soon, too.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Muffins the Super-Easy Way

Spring is almost here, but in the meantime, I still see snow drifts and it’s cold and rainy. Which means, I’m craving fall foods. Also, nap time has been less-than-lovely, so when I’m tired, I like to bake.

While trying to reclaim and redeem my Monday afternoon, I made these:

Pumpkin Muffins

1 Box Namaste Gluten-free cake mix (you could use a regular spice cake mix box, too)
1 regular-sized can of pumpkin
chocolate chips

Combine, spoon into muffin tins, bake 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.

That’s it. To quote the Barefoot Contessa, “How easy is that?”

I’m not an all-around gluten-free eater, but I think variety is the spice of life. And Namaste makes the best cake mixes – I actually prefer their gluten-free chocolate cake mix to other brands.

Also, keep in mind this is a CAKE mix…so don’t go serving these for breakfast or anything. Unless you’ve had a particularly sleepless night, in which case, I undertand that all bets are off.

Enjoy!

(p.s. one of my goals for this year was to put more pictures on my blog. You can see how well this is going… ehem… Next time!)