Tuesday, January 31, 2012

frozen key lime yogurt•pie

I almost hate to admit this, but I still have a suitcase in my bedroom with a few things in it from our trip to Florida in December.  Maybe it's just that I don't need those things in the mountains in January.  Lord knows we're not wearing shorts.  Or swimsuits, for that matter-- I've sworn off taking the kids swimming at the rec center after a mortifying incident a couple months ago when Oliver's swim diaper leaked and they had to shut down the entire pool.
Or, maybe I leave the suitcase there because it makes me think of sunny, warm Florida every time I see it there, gathering dust on the bedroom floor.
There's a chance that half-empty suitcase inspired this pie.

Shortly after we returned home, Owen came home from preschool with this:

In the event that you're not an expert at interpreting abstract preschool art, in the drawing is an airplane (the cross at the bottom) flying from our house (bottom left) to Grandma and Papa's house (to the right), the beach with sand and water (top leftish), and the pool (far right).  Now it's obvious, right?  
This picture really is a good summary of what the kids do (and look forward to) in Florida, but I have some different favorites.  The beach and pool are definitely nice, but I really enjoy the down-time spent with family, the almost daily bike rides to Starbuck's during nap time, and, of course, the Key lime pie.

I've gone on a trip to Florida with my family every winter of my life, and for as long as I can remember, Key lime pie-tasting has been a big part of our trips.  We all have our favorite variations-- my mom likes the traditional crust and I prefer graham cracker-- but, we all like it tart.  The best variation I've had, though, is one Brock and I came across in Key West.  At any number of places along Duval Street, you can buy a piece of frozen key lime pie on a stick that's been coated in dark chocolate.  It's as good as it sounds-- we ate a lot of those on that trip...
In homage to that Key West specialty, as well as the suitcase sitting on my bedroom floor, I bring you my Frozen Key Lime Yogurt Pie.  This version is healthier than most, as it's made with honey and greek yogurt.  It's also much easier to make than most, with no baking or cooking involved.

Now that I've got some Key lime pie in the freezer, maybe I can go unpack that suitcase.
Eh, we'll see...

the veggies (or, non-veggies, as the case may be):
  • 1/2 cup margarine (or butter), melted
  • 10 whole graham cracker sheets
  • 1 1/2 cups plain greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup Key lime juice
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

the love:

  1. While your margarine is melting, use a food processor to process the graham crackers into fine crumbs.*
  2. Add the melted margarine to the crumbs and pulse the food processor until they're combined.
  3. Firmly press the buttery crumbs into the bottom of a pie plate and up the sides.  Store the crust in the freezer until you're ready to fill it.
  4. Give your processor pitcher a quick rinse, shake out any excess water, and reassemble.  We'll use it to make the filling, too: add the yogurt, juice, honey and vanilla and process until smooth.**
  5. Pour the filling into the crust and freeze until solid, about three or four hours.
  6. Once the filling is frozen, melt the chocolate in a double boiler or microwave.***
  7. Use a small spoon (or pastry bag?) to drizzle chocolate in thin threads onto the pie. Be careful not to get too thick of globs (like some of the thicker spots on my pie), as they're hard to cut through and eat once frozen.****
  8. Put the pie in the freezer another 10 minutes or so until the chocolate is solid, or until you're ready slice it and eat it.

*Low-tech method: crush the crackers in a baggie, then stir together the crumbs and margarine right in the pie plate.
**Low-tech method: whisk filling ingredients together in a bowl.
***I use a bowl that fits tightly over a small saucepan of hot water: heat the water to a simmer first, then remove from heat and place the bowl on top, making sure the water isn't high enough to touch the bowl.  Stir constantly until the chocolate is melted.  In the microwave, heat just a few seconds at a time, stirring between heating.
****When I first made this pie, I melted a full cup of chocolate chips and found that was way too much chocolate.  If, like me, you end up with chocolate left over, scramble to find something to dip in it (graham crackers, pieces of cereal, your husband's toothbrush), then place the random objects on parchment and harden in the fridge after dipping.

(Sorry, Mo.  Chocolate's not good for doggies...)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

cherry velvet•cupcakes with cherry cream cheese•frosting

Give Owen something with artificial food coloring in it, and prepare to watch him transform into a maniac.  He gets this checked-out look in his eyes (his pupils may as well be giant rotating spirals...); he gets extremely hyper and loses all sense of self-control (his head may as well be spinning on his shoulders with steam shooting from his ears...).  
This all sounds kind of comical and cartoon-like, but I assure you, it's not funny.  It's like a scary cartoon.  Freaks me out.
Shortly after Halloween, I made the mistake of letting him eat some Smarties in the car.  Not so smart...  "How bad could it get?"  I asked myself.  The answer was, it turned out: pretty bad.  Kicking, yelling, paying no heed to gentle reminders, then firm reminders, then desperate pleas from me until I was in tears.  Not him-- me.
Give Owen a piece of chocolate, and he's fine.  Six pieces of chocolate, even-- he'll maybe get a slight sugar buzz, but it's nothing like the food color trance.
So, needless to say, we avoid artificial food dyes.  Like the plague.
Let's just say I love him too much to put him through that.  And I love the rest of us in the family too much to make us witness or deal with that.  
So, with Valentine's day coming up, how do I tell my guys I love them without putting them through something potentially scarring?  Red velvet cake seems to be all the rage lately and there's something appealing about the red color.  It's so fun and festive-- especially for Valentine's Day.  I'm often tempted by these ruby-red treats (whoopie pies, big cakes, cute little cupcakes-- all so pretty) when I see them at a coffee shop or bakery-- until I read the ingredients list or a recipe for red velvet cake.   Red # 40 (the devil as far as I'm concerned-- who is appropriately dressed in red) is a big star in most of them.  I came across one recipe that called for a full third of a cup of red food coloring!

Thus my latest mission: red velvet without the Red #40 (or any color # anything, for that matter).  My secret ingredient: beets (with a little help from cherries).  This took a bit of research and testing to get the recipe right, but I think I've hit the sweet spot (please excuse the pun).  These are smooth, sweet, cherry-kissed (not beety), and a fun, festive color, to boot.  They are not the radioactive red of some red velvet treats, but I didn't have to sell my soul (or sacrifice anyone's sanity) to achieve it.  These are, lets say, a nice cherry tone.  Top them with pretty, pink cherry cream cheese frosting and something naturally red (I've used raspberries, fruit spread, and craisins on these), and you've got a pretty, festive, delicious treat that says "I love you" more earnestly than any Red #40-laced treat ever could.

the veggies:
-for the cupcakes:
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 TBS cocoa powder (natural-- not Dutch process)*
  • 1 tsp baking powder**
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 ounces cooked beets, plus any juice***
  • 1/2 cup black cherry fruit spread (like Smucker's Simply Fruit)****
  • 2 TBS lemon juice
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 eggs
-for the frosting:
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese (half an 8-ounce container)
  • 1/2 cup black cherry fruit spread
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar

the love:
-for the cupcakes:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350° and prep a twelve-cupcake pan.
  2. Sift together the flours, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  3. In your blender, finely chop the beets and their juice (if any), stopping to scrape the sides of the pitcher as needed.
  4. Add the fruit spread, lemon juice, vanilla, brown sugar, canola oil and eggs, and blend until smooth.
  5. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined.
  6. Fill your cupcake cups and bake for about twenty minutes, or until cupcakes are firm in the center and/or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool completely before frosting.
-for the frosting:
  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, fruit spread and vanilla and beat with a mixer on high for a minute or two, until light and smooth (except for any cherry chunks).
  2. Add the powdered sugar and beat another minute or two 'till smooth (besides cherry chunks).
  3. To frost the cupcakes, I like to add a spoonful of frosting to the center of the cupcake then gently push the frosting out towards the edges with the spoon.  This frosting is pretty thin and smooths out easily.
  4. Top with naturally red decorations, if desired.  To add a heart: add a dollop of fruit spread slightly higher than the center of the cupcake, then drag a knife through the middle of the dollop, top to bottom, to pull into a heart shape.
  5. Store frosted cupcakes in the fridge, but let them sit at room temperature to warm up before serving.  Brock and I think these pair well with red wine...

* Using non-alkalized cocoa is important because it preserves the low pH of the batter, which helps keep the color bright.
**Double the baking powder at lower elevations.
***For this I just buy a package of peeled, steamed beets, found by the salad stuff in the produce section at the grocery store.  If you're cooking your own you'll need about 6 small, 4 medium, or 2 to 3 large beets.
****Get a 10 ounce jar of fruit spread and you'll use the whole thing between the cupcakes and the frosting.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

baked spaghetti•post revamp

I sort of wish I could re-do today (or maybe I should just be glad it's over?)...  Among other things, Oliver was an emotional wreck and for some reason kept making a giant mess of himself.   I ended up having to change his shirt roughly every two hours this morning, and peel him, crying, off the floor about every hour.  Owen wasn't much better-- he just could not make it to the potty on time-- on repeated occasions.  
Just one of those days...
But, Brock's putting the boys to bed now, which is like pushing the reset button on their world (and mine).  Give everyone a break and try again tomorrow.  The boys will hopefully wake up feeling refreshed and ready for a new day tomorrow.  And hopefully create less dirty laundry, tomorrow, too.
Here's another thing I want to re-do (so I did): my Baked Spaghetti post.  It was the first recipe I posted, and was (obviously) from before I realized the only way to photograph food is in natural light.  I also discovered a food mode (who knew?) on my camera that seems to work pretty well...  
So, I've recently started making blog-dinners early in the afternoon (as I did with this re-do batch of baked spaghetti).  Or, you don't know how many times I've photographed leftovers the next morning (leftovers in natural light look far, far better than fresh-cooked food in fake light).
There are definitely limitations to what my camera and I can do.  It is, after all, just a basic point-and-shoot, and I have not had any practical experience with artistic photography since college.
But, I think you'd agree, it's getting a little better.

real light= something you might actually eat

fake light= no thanks

So, here it is (follow the link):  Baked Spaghetti, Revamped.
I've kept the post in the original place to avoid having multiple posts of the same recipe as well as avoid having to leave those old, hideous photos up.  So, hopefully my new photos will actually make you want to try my recipe.  Baked spaghetti still is one of our favorites-- a comforting dish that pleases everyone in the family.  
And it was perfect for a tough day like today.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


School day mornings are hectic.  I really don't make it easy on myself by staying in bed 'till the last possible minute, then trying to get myself ready in ten minutes while simultaneously trying to get both of my boys dressed.  But, I'm not a morning person.  
Neither is Oliver.  I often end up waking him up a little too late, and feeding him (and myself) breakfast when we return home after getting Owen to school.  But this doesn't cut it on mornings when he goes to school, too.
The other morning I ended up handing him a Kashi banana chocolate chip bar to nosh in the car.  I figured this made a fine in-a-pinch breakfast, but these bars are not cheap.  I made a vow to not make a habit of them. 
But that sure was handy...
Next I made another vow to come up with a recipe for a breakfast bar-- something with all kinds of healthy stuff in them that I could hand to the kids once they're strapped into their car seats, or as they're standing there trying to wake up, wondering why Mommy's always running around like a crazy woman first thing in the morning.  
These bars are my solution.  Bake them the day before, and they're just as handy as the Kashi ones.  I don't know for sure, but I'd suspect these have less sugar, too.  My bars are just barely sweet.  They're not one of those breakfast treats that could also pass as dessert (although maybe with a drizzle of maple frosting or topped with a scoop of ice cream...), but those things always leave a person feeling crappy an hour or two into the day, anyway.  My bars are a wholesome, hearty (yet still yummy) start to the day that will keep you feeling good 'till lunch (or maybe snack time when you go back for more).

So, this morning, I had these around to hand to the kiddos amidst the craziness.  They're easier for them to handle (and therefore a little less messy) than a muffin, but they gobble them up as if they were their favorite muffins.  So, breakfast was taken care of.  Next was to get Oliver's lunch packed, gather Owen's snow clothes, get everybody dressed, fix everyone's hair...  
I always manage to get my act together, but I usually get Owen to school somewhere between five and fifteen minutes behind schedule.  But really, is it reasonable to expect a preschooler to be at school at 7:30 in the morning (or to expect his morning-challenged mother to be able to get him there by that time)?
If I can manage to (at least sort of) meet this crazy expectation, my reward is some quiet time with a cappuccino and a breakfast bar when I return home.  

the veggies:

  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder*
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup flax seed meal
  • 1 1/4 cups almond milk (or whatever kind of milk you have on hand, divided)
  • 1 really ripe banana
  • 1 cup shredded sweet potato
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds (or other nuts, chopped)

the love:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375° and oil a 10 by 15 inch baking pan.**
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the flours, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a blender, blend together the flax meal and 1/4 cup milk for about a minute, until gooey. 
  4. Scrape down the sides of the blender pitcher, then add the banana, sweet potatoes, 1 cup milk, canola oil, maple syrup and vanilla and blend until smooth.
  5. Add the oats to the blender and pulse a couple times, until most of the oats are mixed in.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients in the bowl and stir until just incorporated (batter will be pretty thick).
  7. Fold in the dates and almonds.
  8. Spread the batter evenly into your prepared pan, and bake about 25 minutes, or until firm in the center.
  9. Cool slightly before cutting into bars,*** and cool completely before storing in an airtight container until breakfast.

*Double the baking powder if you're at low altitude.
**A slightly larger or smaller pan would also work fine with these, but would obviously affect the thickness and texture.  My theory: thicker bars would be more muffin-like, and thinner ones would be chewier and possibly less messy in the car.
***I like to cut them widthwise into four, then lengthwise into four to make 16 big rectangles.

Monday, January 23, 2012

spaghetti with lemon-arugula•pesto

Oliver loves to sit on the potty lately.  This is generally a really good thing-- especially considering he's not even two.  I really only have two issues with this:
1. The fact that it's often hard to get him off of the potty.  This is especially an issue when, say, it's time to go pick up Owen from school and he won't budge.  I end up having to pluck him off the potty, pin him down to get a diaper and pants on him, then carry him kicking and screaming to the car.
2. The fact that he sits there almost constantly screaming, "POOP THE POTTY!" at the top of his lungs until I come check if he did, indeed, poop the potty.  It turns out that most of the time, he did not.
Another big plus, though: it gives me a few minutes to do something uninterrupted while he's in there mindlessly playing with himself and paging through a book about animals.  That is, if I can do it while listening to him scream "POOP THE POTTY!...  POOP THE POTTY!... POOP THE POTTY!..."  If I hurry, it's just enough time, for example, to throw together some pesto for tonight's dinner.  
Having the pesto ready ahead of time makes dinner super-easy to put together later.  Sometimes we keep it simple and just eat a big bowl of this stuff solo, which means simply boiling pasta and tossing everything together at dinner time.  If I have the time, though (say, if Ollie wants to sit on the potty again right before dinner) I'll also steam a green veggie for on the side and slice up some whole-grain french bread.  
Surprisingly, despite the fact that it contains arugula (a green I honestly didn't like until about five years ago), my kids love it.  Owen once said, while slurping a lemon-arugula noodle, "I could eat this all day!"  
Ollie really likes it, too.  But not as much as he likes sitting on the potty.

the veggies:

  • about 2/3 box (or roughly 10 ounces) of Barilla Plus spaghetti (or other pasta)*
  • zest and juice from one lemon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2  cup shredded parmesan, plus more for garnish (optional)
  • leaves from one large basil stem (about 1/2 cup loosely packed leaves or roughly half a .66 ounce package)
  • 3 cups baby arugula, loosely packed
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

the love:

  1. Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente, then drain.
  2. In a small food processor, blend the lemon zest and juice, salt, parmesan, basil and arugula until well processed.
  3. With the processor running, add the oil in a stream and process until evenly incorporated.
  4. While the pasta is still hot, toss it with the pesto sauce in a large bowl.  Add salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste.
  5. Serve garnished with extra shredded parmesan, if that sounds good.


*This is also good on cheese tortellini, but you'll need to play with the pasta-to-pesto ratio to get it right.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

monkey cheese•muffins

I will, without shame or regret, put shredded carrots into just about anything...  Cookies, cake, oatmeal, rice, pasta, and certainly into the kids' mac and cheese (which comes out sounding like "monkey cheese" when Oliver says it).  That's why I was really excited to find this simple and really yummy recipe for Carroty Mac and Cheese on Epicurious.  Mojo was happy, too.  He loves carrots and comes running (or more truthfully, at his age, ambling) from anywhere in the house at the sound (or smell?) of me shredding carrots.  
Honestly, my kids still prefer their Annie's (with or without carrot shreds) to this version, but will tolerate this.  Baking it into muffins makes it a little more fun thus a little more acceptable.  
But, really, this one's not so much about them-- Brock and I prefer this one by far.  And baking it into muffins, in our humble opinions, makes it even better-- there's more area to get crispy and chewy.  Comfort food at it's epitome...

the veggies & the love:

Prepare as instructed in the original recipe at: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Carroty-Mac-and-Cheese-367160, except bake in muffin tins.  Mini-muffins will take about 12 to 15 minutes, and regular-sized muffins will need 15 to 20. 


I make this pretty true to recipe, with a few simple substitutions (Barilla Plus elbows for the macaroni, plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, and margarine instead of butter) based on what I usually keep around the house.
* From this recipe I made 12 mini-muffins and 8 regular-sized ones.  We thought the mini ones were the best, but I, sadly, only own one mini-muffin pan.  I'm guessing this would make about 3 dozen minis or about a dozen regular-sized ones, if you just did one size.
* Be sure to grease the muffin tins really well before adding the pasta mixture-- this will be key to getting the muffins out in one piece once they're done.
* Don't forget to reserve a half cup of the cheddar for on top.  Once I wasn't reading the recipe closely enough and I mixed the entire three cups into the pasta, and it didn't come out as good-- it was a little too greasy.
* Let the muffins cool for as long as you can stand it before removing them from the tins (though don't wait 'till they're cold).  The longer you wait, the easier they'll come out in one piece. 
* To remove them: run a knife all around the edge between the muffin and the tin.  Then, use a spoon to lift the contents out in one piece.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

creamy•"pad thai"

To my chagrin, our (only) local Thai restaurant recently shut down.  After mourning the loss, I came up with this recipe partially to compensate for the lack of ethnic restaurant options around here.  Not that this is real Thai food (hence the quotes around "Pad Thai")-- I'm guessing the authentic version doesn't contain spaghetti or ketchup.  And this is a lot creamier and saucier than most Pad Thais I've seen (due to the peanut butter).
Part of my reasoning for using the ingredients I do is to make it accessible.  After all, it's easy to find a Thai recipe that looks fantastic, but often it will contain at least one ingredient I've never heard of that's only available at specialty stores.  However, everything on the list below can easily be found at any regular grocery store.  In fact, most of the ingredients are things I usually keep around the house.  
And don't let my strange combination of ingredients deter you-- this peanut butter-ketchup-spaghetti concoction is actually really scrumptious, despite how weird it sounds.  It's so good, in fact, that maybe I didn't need the Thai restaurant after all...

the veggies:

  • about 2/3 box (or about 10 ounces) Barilla Plus spaghetti
  • 8 ounces fresh mung bean sprouts, rinsed
  • 1 block (14 to 16 ounces) of extra-firm tofu
  • 1/2 cup smooth natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 TBS brown sugar
  • 3 TBS lime juice
  • 3 TBS ketchup
  • 3 TBS canola or peanut oil
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper, or more to taste
  • 6 to 8 scallions, chopped (about a cup)
  • chopped peanuts, fresh cilantro leaves and lime wedges, for garnish (optional)

the love:

  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions, adding the sprouts to the pot for the last three minutes of cooking.  When the pasta and sprouts are done, rinse in cold water, drain, and set aside.
  2. Squeeze the excess water out of the block of tofu, pat dry with a clean tea towel, then slice the tofu into cubes.  Pat dry again and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, veggie broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, and ketchup, and set aside.
  4. Heat the oil in your largest skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the tofu and let it fry for several minutes on each side before carefully turning over.  Continue cooking and turning like this until almost every side is golden and crispy on the edges.  Then, turn once more and scoot all the tofu over to one side of the pan.
  5. On the open side of the pan, add the carrots, garlic and cayenne and cook, stirring just the carrot mixture, for a couple minutes, or until carrots are softened.
  6. Add the scallions, spaghetti and sauce and toss everything together until it's heated through.
  7. Serve garnished with peanuts, cilantro leaves and lime wedges if you want to get fancy. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

insane•chocolate cake

While things at my house often feel a little insane (thus is the nature of living with energetic young boys), that is not the namesake of this cake.  The original recipe for this has been around for as long as I can remember, and came to me from my mom.  I think she may have gotten it from her mom.  It was originally called "Crazy Chocolate Cake", but I've done a few things to it that make it even less mentally stable, so to speak.
For instance, some people might think adding whole wheat flour to a cake is a little nuts, but that's just how I do things.
Doubling the chocolate in an already chocolatey recipe might seem a bit crazed, but that's how I like my cake.
Skipping the frosting on a cake may come across as slightly wacko, but I personally think frosting would just ruin this one.
The method of mixing the batter also seems a touch loco, but I'm just being faithful to the original recipe on that count.
In any case, this cake is insanely good-- moist, dense, dark-- and crazy-easy to make...

the (non)veggies:*

  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 TBS apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 medium banana, mashed
  • 2 cups cold water
  • powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)

the love:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350° and prep a 9-inch bundt pan (or a 9x13-inch cake pan).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, brown sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa.  Smash any large lumps of brown sugar with the back of your mixing spoon.
  3. Make three holes in the flour mixture, and put the vanilla, vinegar, and oil each in a separate hole (but don't ask me why).
  4. Dump the mashed banana and the water over the top of everything and stir it all together until it's just combined.
  5. Pour into your prepared pan and bake for about an hour (or closer to 40 minutes if you're using a flat pan), or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  6. Let the cake cool in the bundt pan for a few minutes before carefully inverting it onto a plate.
  7. Dust the cake with powdered sugar once it's cool, or serve with a scoop of ice cream, chopped pecans, a drizzle of dark chocolate syrup, and/or berries...  Go nuts.


*Of all the things I've done to this recipe, I've never bothered to adjust it for altitude.  Somehow, it still comes out great (I know, crazy).  So, anyway, unlike with most of my baking recipes you probably won't have to re-adjust this one if you live at a lower elevation.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Owen's always pretending to be a spy these days.  According to him, a spy is someone who goes on a secret mission.  There are two types of spies, depending on the intent of their mission: good and bad.  I'm pretty sure he learned this from watching Cars 2.  
I've gone on my own secret mission lately: to sneak more green vegetables into my kids (and myself and Brock).  While my kids might beg to differ if they ever found out, I consider this a good mission so I'm calling myself a good spy.  This smoothie recipe is the result of my good spy efforts.  
My cover was almost blown the other day when I was making these and Owen saw the contents of the blender pitcher just before I fired up the blender. 
"That's not lettuce in there, is it Mom?" asked Owen.  "I don't like lettuce."    
"Lettuce!?" I laughed nervously, "That's just the stuff that makes it green.  Don't be ridiculous -- lettuce in a smoothie?!"
Hmm...  Lettuce-- I hadn't thought of that...
Anyway, Owen seemed satisfied by my answer and I managed to avert that disaster. And, I was so excited to see both of my kids happily slurping down their smoothies.  Brock and I liked it too-- it was fruity, slushy and sweet, but not crazy sweet, like some smoothies.  And I couldn't taste the greens!  Woo hoo!  Get out the "Mission Accomplished" banner and the flight suit-- I was ready to declare it a success...
Until I made them the next time and Oliver didn't want any.  Drat!  At least the rest of us were still excited about them.  But for Oliver, I had to go super-stealth: I dumped it in an opaque sippy cup with a little extra juice and called it juice.  And, voila-- he happily slurped it down and my mission was again accomplished.  Whew-- that could have been embarrassing, with the banner and flight suit and all...

the veggies:*
  • 2 cups lightly packed spinach**
  • 2 cups lightly packed torn kale, stems and tough center veins removed
  • 1/2 avocado, scooped from the peel
  • 1 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 3 cups frozen mangoes and/or peaches***
  • 2 cups apple juice

the love:
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a blender until smooth, pulsing to break up any larger frozen fruit chunks.


*If someone's on to you and you need to go super-stealth, you could try my method above (mix with extra juice and serve in an opaque cup) or you could hide the green-ness of this with the bold color and flavor of berries.  Let's call them Smoothies Rojos: Substitute the mango and peaches with strawberries and raspberries, and the apple juice for cranberry-raspberry juice.  You could also use vanilla or strawberry yogurt instead of plain to sweeten it a little more.
**I like to buy the big 16 oz clamshell packages of pre-washed baby spinach for this-- it's super-convenient (just throw it in the blender), and much cheaper per ounce than the smaller clamshells.
***A combination of both fruits is nice-- it seems to have a more complex flavor that covers up the greens a little better.

Friday, January 6, 2012

avocado, clementine and tofu•quinoa salad

I do love the holidays, but I always come out of them feeling run-down and asking myself a lot of questions, like, "When was the last time I went to the gym?", "When was the last time I consumed a whole grain?" and "Why are my skinny jeans so much skinnier than they used to be?".
This meal may just be an (indirect) answer to many of my questions.  What I need is something simple and fresh, yet satisfying enough to keep me away from those glazed nuts we still have laying around.  It was inspired by a recipe that recently ran in Sunset Magazine and the fact that clementines are in abundance at the supermarket (and my kitchen) right now.  It was veganized (and therefore made more awesome) by yours truly.
While quinoa is not technically a grain, take heart that you're eating what many call a "supergrain" for it's awesome protein content.  This, along with the tofu and healthy fats in the avocado mean it will satisfy you like no Christmas cookie can.
Now I just need to get to the gym sometime this year...

the veggies:

-for the quinoa
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water*

-for the tofu
  • olive oil, for prepping your pan
  • 14 to 16 ounces extra firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • juice and zest from 1 key lime or 1/2 Persian (regular) lime**
  • 2 TBS soy sauce

-for the rest
  • 5 clementines, peeled and segmented
  • 2 ripe avocados, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (about 1/2 bunch)
  • juice and zest from 1 key lime or 1/2 Persian lime
  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

the love:
  1. Preheat your broiler to high, and prep a broiler-safe pan with a thin layer of olive oil.***
  2. Cook the quinoa: Rinse and drain your quinoa then add to a pot with the water.  Cover, bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes****, or until all the water has evaporated and quinoa is no longer crunchy. Fluff with a fork and set aside, covered, until ready to use.
  3. Make the tofu: Squeeze the excess water out of the block of tofu, pat dry with a clean tea towel, then slice the tofu into cubes.  Pat dry again.  Combine the 1/4 cup water, minced garlic, juice and zest from one key lime, and the soy sauce in a large mixing bowl.  Add the tofu and very gently toss until it's coated.  Dump into your prepared pan and place under the broiler for 15 to 20 minutes, turning carefully a few times during cooking.  The tofu is done when it's firm on the outside and all the braising sauce is gone.
  4. Prep the other stuff:  Combine your clementines, avocados, cilantro, the remaining lime and the 3 TBS olive oil in a large bowl.*****
  5. Combine it all: Add the quinoa and tofu to the other ingredients and gently toss.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.


*At a lower elevation, you may need to reduce the amount of water to as little as 1 1/2 cups.
**If you use a Persian lime, make sure you zest it (then divide the zest) before you halve the fruit (I've tried zesting a cut lime before, and it's not very easy).
***I used my 10-inch cast-iron skillet for this and it worked beautifully.
****For lower elevations, reduce cooking time to about 15 minutes.
*****Save on dishes and reuse the bowl you used to toss the tofu.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

recipe link•snobby joes

I'm working on a couple of original recipes to post, but in the mean time I thought I'd share a link to one of my family's favorites: Snobby Joes.  
I make this pretty much true-to-recipe every time.  This says a lot for the recipe, because I'm definitely a meddler (and if I do meddle with this, it might be to switch out the green pepper for red and throw in a little frozen corn for color-- minor stuff in my kitchen).  We like this with baked sweet potato fries on the side.
I first discovered Snobby Joes in the cookbook, Veganomicon, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.  They're the authors of several other fantastic vegan cookbooks, along with the website, Post Punk Kitchen.  Check them out-- Veganomicon and Vegan with a Vengeance, especially, have been indispensable to me.
Without further ado, the link: http://www.theppk.com/2009/11/snobby-joes/.