New Smoothie for the New Year

HAPPY 2015!!

Just a short post to share this new recipe I concocted today.  It is delicious!

I used my new Oster MyBlend 20 oz.  I am in LOVE with this thing.  Single serve and it’s already in the bottle?  So convenient.  It mixes way better than my old blender (which shall remain nameless), and it’s quieter, too.  Highly recommend.  I got it at Lowe’s for $20.  Worth every penny.

Anyway… here’s the recipe rundown:

2 Cups greens mix, any (mine was Attitude greens, idk what kind)

Eyeball about 1/2 cup Almond milk coconut/almond blend unsweetened

3-4 ice cubes

Handful frozen blueberries

Handful frozen cherries

Half banana, ripe

1/2 pack Vega Sport protein powder, vanilla

1 packet Justin’s Maple Almond butter

1 scoop collagen powder

No frills, but your taste buds won't mind.
No frills, but your taste buds won’t mind.

MIX!  Enjoy!  It’s not too slushy and not too thick and SO yummy.  You can add infinite things to this, no sweetener required, the fruit really takes care of that.  I sprinkled some roasted sunflower seeds on top because I enjoy sweet and salty together. Normally I might add hemp seeds but I had them with my oatmeal this morning.  I also try to add ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric to EVERYTHING I eat lately because they soothe my tummy and the holiday eating has it upset.

Resolutions/Goals for this year:  Eat more plants, write more blog posts, finish the book, travel, be kind, be fearless.  OH and I am going to try to read the Bible front to back.  A daunting task, but something I have always wanted to do.  What are your resolutions or goals this year?

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My First Overnight

[Oats, that is.]

Perusing some new and some of my old favorite vegan blogs yesterday, I ran across an idea.  Overnight oats.  Never heard of them?  Do a search on Pinterest.  Oh, sometimes I loathe technology but in this instance I like it very much.  There is a wealth of cooking and creative inspiration at my fingertips.

So, I kept seeing posts about overnight oats and I decided to try a variation of a pumpkin recipe.  Since it’s Fall, and pumpkins are everywhere, and mostly because I had a can of pumpkin in the cupboard that I wasn’t quite sure what to do with.

Here’s what I used:

1/4 cup rolled oats

1/4 cup canned pumpkin

1/2 tbsp agave nectar

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 tbsp chia seeds

splash vanilla

sprinkle of Vega Sport vanilla protein powder (about 1/3 packet)

cinnamon, ginger, ground allspice – just dashes and splashes of each.

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Mad scientist-ing at the zero hour.

It smelled WONDERFUL.  I put on a “Best of Beethoven” CD I purchased at a discount store years ago. I love Beethoven. Classical music in general, pairs extremely well with creative endeavors, in my opinion.

In theory, all these ingredients, once given a good stir, settle and mix and mingle and expand and absorb flavors overnight, and become something brilliant for breakfast.  I had my doubts.

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The finished product.

So this morning I woke up and made a bee-line to the fridge.  I was hungry and curious and hopeful.  I got a spoon and took a big bite.  How was it?  In a word, disappointing.  Texturally it was satisfying.  The chia seeds were new for me, and I love texture in my foods. That’s actually one of the perks of eating vegan/vegetarian. The variety of tastes and feels is sometimes overwhelming. (In a good way.)

I have two theories about why I didn’t like the oats.  First I’ll say they did settle and absorb quite nicely.  Again, texturally I have no complaints.  I think I didn’t love them because 1) I don’t love pumpkin and 2) I am not a fan of cold things for breakfast.  What’s that you say?  “Well if you’re not a fan of pumpkin, what were you thinking making pumpkin oats?”  Astute of you.  I was actually hoping to form a relationship with pumpkin.  I believe in it, as a healthy food.  I know there’s a way to sneak it into some things, but this particular dish for me was a fail.

Positive notes: I think if I make the same dish with sweet potato, I will knock my own socks off.  Particularly if I am able to heat it up.  OR I was also thinking of adding banana.  Creativity begets creativity.  Can’t be bummed about that.  I did also eat this, even though I wasn’t into it, because it’s packed with nutrients and I do not waste food.  Never. Waste. Food.  It’s a thing with me.

So much of cooking and creating is trial and error. I’m honestly feeling that this was a positive experience.  Would I recommend this recipe?  Not unless you are a pumpkin fiend and really like the flavor.  Otherwise, I’d say add something that will mix well or even overpower the pumpkin flavor. It was just too much for me.

BBQ Pulled Pork in the Crock Pot

I am good at everything I do.  I am successful at everything I attempt.  These are just an example of positive self-talk statements that I use  when starting something I’ve never tried before.  Usually, I believe me.  And usually, I am right.  There is certainly something to this kind of thinking.  I did say these before trying this recipe, which was made up on the fly, However, this is a FOOD post and not a Law of Attraction post, so let’s get right to the food…

Boston Butt is not something I have attempted to cook in my adult life.  I’m not sure why; as a kid it was a favorite, and one of my dad’s favorites to prepare.  Last week I was thinking about the 4th of July and how to celebrate it.  We weren’t taking a beach trip, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to take the kids downtown to see fireworks.  (In my experience, the level of difficulty/frustration in doing anything downtown that late with a 3 year old and a 16 year old is about one billion-point-two.)  So we decided that since we have a large swimming pool and we’d both be off work this weekend, let’s cook!  Just us, some fresh watermelon, and lots of sun and fun.

I went to the grocery store a few days ago and I’ve just been chomping at the bit to cook this roast.  Last night I perused a ton of recipes, using Google and Pinterest, looking for inspiration.  I didn’t find anything that I really wanted to try.  Granted, my bar was a little high because 1) this is my first pork roast and I want it to knock my socks off, and 2) I needed something that listed the ingredients I have in my cabinet.

So, as per usual, I decided to make something up.  I didn’t write everything down, because I was moving quickly and chattering to myself, mad scientist style, so I could get the roast in the crock pot and get some sleep.  Here is, to the best of my recollection, here’s how it went down:

Unwrapped the Pork Butt (mine was from Publix, 3.78 lbs) and assembled the following: salt, black pepper, cumin, ginger, yellow onion, low sodium soy sauce and barbecue sauce of your choice.  (What I used was Kraft Original, because it’s what we had.  They do make a “light” version, which I did have but wanted to use on some chicken later in the week.)  I chose ginger because it’s a flavor that I always associate with Asian dishes, and I knew it would go well with the soy sauce, so I figured what the heck.

First I chopped the onion and placed it in the bottom of the pot. Next I placed the pork in the pot and salted it moderately and sprinkled some pepper on top.  Also some shakes of cumin, maybe 1 tsp and ginger, maybe 2 tsp.  Rub all of that in, the top and sides of the pork.  (Note: When I say I salted moderately, I mean moderately for me, and I rarely use seasoning so my moderate might be your “light”.  Just use your discretion here.)  Then, in a measuring cup, I poured soy sauce until my inner culinary guide said “when”, which happened to be right at 1/4 cup.  Sure, sounds good.  We’ll go with it.  Then into the same measuring cup I poured the barbecue sauce.  I kept going until the liquid reached just over 3/4 cup line.

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I stopped for a minute to take in the smells.  One of my FAVORITE things about cooking and creating recipes, are the smells.  Before they become flavors, they are sweet, sour, tangy, seductive aromas wafting all around me.  My kitchen smelled delicious.

I mixed the soy sauce and barbecue sauce together with a fork, not paying attention to lumps and bumps since it’s a crock pot, which tends to be very forgiving of things like that.  Poured it on top of the rubbed pork butt roast and added maybe 1/2 cup of water.  Set the crock pot to HIGH.

Rubbed, sauced, ready to go!
Rubbed, sauced, ready to go!

 

Yes, I set it to high!  Everything I had read about crock pot roasts said to set it to low or medium, which is what I meant to do.  However when I woke up this morning to check the roast, the pot was on HIGH!  Of course, there was a fair amount of freaking out before I found the courage to look inside.  Thankfully, the roast was not a charred, stinky, inedible mess.  It looked PERFECT!  But was it perfect?  Only one way to find out.  I gently transferred the roast from the pot to a plate, and THIS is what it looked like:

Did someone say rump roast?
Did someone say rump roast?

It’s everything I dreamed it would be!  Hard, flavorful outer “shell” with tender, juicy, fully cooked but not dry meat inside.  Just look at that juiciness!  I grabbed a fork and started pulling this pork!  I was (I still am) elated at how this “not a recipe” recipe turned out!  Here’s the final product, off the bone and ready to be devoured:

The only pig I ever loved.
The only pig I ever loved.

Does that not look amazing?!!  Let me tell you, it tastes even better than it looks.  My socks are decidedly off.  I’ve said it before about other dishes, but this truly is one of my best.  The taste was right on, all the flavors blended well together and for me, it was everything I want my barbecue pulled pork to be.  It isn’t too sweet, and I’m glad about that because one thing I cannot eat is sweet barbecue.  So, thanks for reading, and PLEASE try my recipe and give me feedback!  I’d love to hear what you think!  (Good news if you are Paleo/Atkins/low carb, I don’t know the exact macros but I can tell you that the sugar and carbs in this dish are negligible.  If you go with a sugar-free or “light” barbecue sauce, they’re even less.)

 

Mango Banana Ice Cream

Happy Memorial Day! I don’t know about your family, but for mine today marks the traditional beginning of Summer. The weather outside was gorgeous here, all blue skies and sunny but not sweltering. The pool is lovely, if a tad chilly, but the kids were brave enough to swim for a bit. Lunch was hot dogs, nothing too fancy. The real Summer time celebratory treat came for dessert.

I had a ripe mango in the fridge. I don’t know a lot about mangoes, or even how to cook with them, so I thought a day when the husband is home and I have some free time would be perfect for experimenting. After looking around at breakfasts, smoothies, and a few odd beauty masks, I decided to follow my own path. Mango Ice Cream! Yes! Sounds delicious, I’m sure I can make something work. I have a fancy new “retro” ice cream maker I bought on Amazon.com for quite a good price, I’ve only used it once and I’ve been itching to use it again. Perfect.

Retro, turquoise, and all kinds of snazzy.
Retro, turquoise, and all kinds of snazzy.

This is a recipe of my own design, and I’m not one to use measuring tools, I trust my “eyeballing”, but I’ll be as detailed as I can in case any readers are interested in making it for themselves.

I am Mango.
I am Mango.

I assembled my ingredients and went to work. I began with one mango, very ripe as I wanted to get the full sweetness when I used it. Cut and peeled it on the cutting board, which is the messiest part of this, but honestly I like how it feels to squish mango in my hands. Moving on… I had half a banana in that had been chilling in the fridge, since my daughter wanted some on her cereal this morning. My mouth was watering. This is going to be GOOD. For a moment I felt all “love it when a plan comes together”. It’s a good amount of banana to add flavor and sweetness but not overpower the mango. I hate it when I buy something that has banana in it and banana is all I can taste. I tend to avoid smoothies or yogurts or other products that are “Something AND Banana”.

Just the right amount of banana.
Just the right amount of banana.

My food processor is small (by the way, I’m taking donations), but thankfully everything fit. I used:
1 ripe mango
1/2 chilled banana
“eyeballed” almond milk, (Almond Breeze vanilla flavor) probably 1/4 C
“eyeballed” Fage 0% Greek yogurt, probably 1/4 C
3/4 C granulated sugar

Greek yogurt to add thickness
Greek yogurt to add thickness

Greek yogurt is wonderfully bitter, and acts to dial down the sweetness of the banana a bit. It worked perfectly for this recipe, and I like to use it in recipes that call for heavy cream. Heavy cream is just so… heavy. I wanted this to be light and fresh and guilt-free.

All mixed up.
All mixed up.

Pulse in the processor on “high” for maybe 30 seconds, just until the mixture is smooth. And voila! Ready for the ice cream machine. My wonderful husband took care of the ice and rock salt, and 30 minutes of churning later, here’s what we had:

31 Flavors has nothing on us!
31 Flavors has nothing on us!

Beautiful, no?

It was cold enough to serve immediately, but I put it in the freezer for a couple of hours so it would get a bit harder like store-bought ice cream. To each his own, but I’m glad I did this, as it melts quickly. It came out like a cross between ice cream and gelato. The flavor is off the charts, maybe a little too sweet for me so I might use less sugar next time. I got “thumbs up” across the board from husband and kids. My three-year-old said “This is TASTY!” That’s it. I’m ready for “The Chew.”

Almond Meal Protein Pancakes

Long title, short recipe, amazing results.

First, an explanation: I have made a concerted effort in recent months to decrease my intake of processed foods and grains.  I do still eat carbs, but only from whole foods as much as I can help it.  I don’t endorse or advocate any specific diet or lifestyle for ALL people, but higher fat, moderate protein, low-ish carb works wonders for me.  My tummy is happy, my skin is happy, and I am sleeping like an old man at the opera.  It’s wonderful!

This pancake recipe is something I came up with on the fly, in an effort to reproduce my “old” favorite breakfast without the oats.  Not so difficult, actually.  If you’re familiar with the Paleo way of eating or the Primal Blueprint, you know there are lots of flour substitutes out there.  One of the easiest to buy or make at home is almond flour.   I SORT-OF used almond flour.  [You’ll see.] Again, the mood to try this hit me when I didn’t have a way to get to the store, but I find necessity and creativity make for some pretty cool dishes.

Here’s what I used:

Ingredients, minus coconut flakes
Ingredients, minus coconut flakes

Raw Almonds – about 1/4 cup, maybe a little more.  I just emptied out my Blue Diamond bag and crossed my fingers it would be enough.

Roasted, Salted Almonds – 7 or 8.  Just to mix it up a little.

2 Raw Egg Whites

Cinnamon, as much as I want.  [And I want a lot.]

Dash of Vanilla Extract

Unsweetened Coconut Flakes [Coconut is a staple in the PB, and it just so happens my mom left some here last time she visited.]

Here’s where I came off the rails, Paleo/Primal wise:  I added about 3/4 Scoop of Body Fortress Vanilla Whey protein, and one packet of Splenda.  Go ahead, judge me.

I promise this is coconut.
I promise this is coconut.

First, I put all the almonds into my food processor, pulsed on low a couple of times, then high, then low…  I’m kidding.  I just let it go until the almonds were chopped, but not powdered.  I wanted the texture to be stout, since it is oatmeal that I’m replacing, which is hearty and quite satisfying.  I measured out 1/4 cup of the almond meal, and added all the dry ingredients.  [If you have leftover almond meal, just dump tupperware container.  It’s great with everything – waffles, pancakes, even in grilled chicken wraps at lunch.  But that’s an entire post by itself…]

Almond Meal
Almond Meal

I gave the dry stuff a stir, and put it back into the processor.  Next, crack those eggs and put both whites in a small bowl or container.  Add just a pinch of vanilla and stir.  Add to the processor with the rest.  By now, the kitchen should be smelling wonderful.  Both of my kids started wandering in and out, curious about what was cooking.

Wet Ingredients, Dry Ingredients
Wet Ingredients, Dry Ingredients

Personally, like I said earlier, I enjoy texture.  So I didn’t mix this much, but if you want a smoother mix just blend to suit you.  Your skillet should be warming on the stove top, with butter or oil or nonstick spray [I don’t judge].  Grab a spoon and start cooking these babies!  Here’s my first one:

Super YUM, right?
Super YUM, right?

At this moment I am kicking myself for making these at night, because along with the delicious smells and the sense of accomplishment comes the agony of knowing I must wait all night to devour them.

The finished product?  Oh, I’m so glad you asked!  Fluffy and golden brown and beautiful.  And the taste?  Even better than I’d hoped!  The coconut and mealy texture of the almonds hits the taste buds “just so”.  Definitely a keeper.  I cannot WAIT to eat these tomorrow, with fresh berries on top and maybe just a hint of butter and syrup.  Thanks for reading!  If you try this recipe for yourself, please let me know what you think!

Look how fluffy!
Look how fluffy!
Gorgeous, no?
Gorgeous, no?

Calamity Cookies

Sounds exciting, right?  Ooh, I promise, they are!

This evening after dinner my husband decided to cut the grass.  Our lawn is rather large, so I knew it would take him a while, and I figured I’d use my free time to bake something.  Usually, the mood to bake strikes at a time when I am not able to go to the store, and tonight was no different.  As a result, I end up foraging in the pantry and fridge to see what I can put together.  This accidental mash-up just happens to be a masterpiece.

Here are the ingredients I found and mixed together.  I didn’t do any exact measuring, sorry. I don’t really cook that way.

Calamitous Ingredients
Calamitous Ingredients

[Preheat oven to 350 degrees.] I started with one medium-ripe banana, mashed with a fork.  Add some oats.  Eyeballed, I’d call it 1/2 cup.  Sprinkle some cinnamon, because I put cinnamon in everything.  Cut up some Green and Black’s Organic 85% Dark Chocolate, wipe drool from face, wash hands, continue.

Mmm...chocolate
Mmm…chocolate

Add a generous serving – maybe 2 tsp – of Agave nectar.  [Not pictured is a packet of nuts from a popular fast food chain.  It was really just a handful of pecans, so I chopped them up and added.]   As the ingredients fall into the bowl, this mixture already smells amazing.  I don’t really love the idea of chewing raw oats, otherwise I probably would have just eaten it all with big spoon, no baking required.

Smells even better than it looks.
Smells even better than it looks.

I suppose you could put these on parchment paper, if that’s your thing, but like I said before these were spur-of-the-moment fluke cookies, so I just lightly sprayed a cookie sheet with non-stick spray and scooped them out.  I ended up with 6 cookies.  Perfect.  Five for me, one for husband if he finishes mowing the lawn in time.  Maybe.

Before baking
On the cookie sheet and ready to go.

Place the cookie sheet with these divinely aromatic balls of sweet misadventure into the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes.  Mine took closer to 15 minutes.  Be careful not to leave them in too long expecting them to harden like cookies do.  These are made of banana.  They are supposed to be squishy.  Scoop onto a rack or plate and allow to cool [if you can stand the wait.]  Me, I ate one piping hot and it was worth the burn on my lip.

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I must say, particularly for something I didn’t mean to do, these “Calamity Cookies” are one of my finest culinary achievements.   Pros: they took all of about 20 minutes, start to finish.  There’s virtually no clean-up.  And the nutrition!  These cookies are totally healthy, great for kids’ snack or for when friends pop over.  I made sure to scribble on a notepad a rough estimate and description so that I can make them again one day.  Oh, and if you’re wondering, Husband did finish his chores in time to try one.

A photo of deliciousness.
A photo of deliciousness.