Monthly Archives: January, 2014

Veggie Spring Rolls with Butternut Squash

veggiespringroll1

I’d been wanting to make veggie spring rolls for an eternity, but never did. I always imagined it would require esoteric ingredients from far corners of the earth, and that once I collected all the ingredients I’d be slaving away for hours daintily crafting my professional spring rolls. As it turns out, neither of those things were necessarily the case: all the ingredients I needed were either in the fridge, or at the local grocery store. Maybe my California veggie mix didn’t make for authentic spring rolls from any particular country, but it worked. And as for actually making the rolls, it was much easier than I’d predicted. However: this is not a professional recipe. Don’t make these for the queen of Spring-Roll-Land. She’ll chop off your head.

What I mean to say is, while the rolls tasted great, they were no supermodels in the realm of spring rolls. When it got down to it, I had no idea how to wrap them properly. Yes, I could have gone online and watched a video tutorial…but my hands were all greasy and the oven was hot and all my beautiful vegetables were decomposing by the minute and I really didn’t feel like sitting through ten minutes of some video that might or might not be highly annoying and highly NOT entertaining. I’ve been there before.

So I just kind of played around for a while, trying to figure out how it should be done. I tried several different techniques, a few of which resulted in the wrapper falling open the second I let go of it. I recalled experienced Chipotle chefs effortlessly rolling up burritos in record time as I’d watched, and now tried to emulate their smooth moves, but the rolls just looked like a mess. I tried some fancy triangular trick like I was folding napkins for a formal dinner…let’s just say I’ve never successfully folded napkins for a formal dinner before. Eventually I just let go of the notion that these were going to look attractive, and arranged them haphazardly just so they’d stay closed while they baked in the oven.

trying to make veggie spring rolls

All shapes and sizes…

Ten minutes later, the rolls were out of the oven, and it came time for the real test. Regardless of looks, how did the little packages taste? Could they possibly be delicious enough to compensate for their unprofessional appearance?

veggie spring roll butternut squash with hummus and avocado

First bite, and the results were in: yes. Oh, yes, these spring rolls are tasty enough to eat without prejudice. Slather with hummus, garnish with avocado, and get ready for a crispy, flavorful treat! Hearty butternut squash contrasts well with chopped spring veggies and mushrooms, and itsy bitsy fresh pepper morsels add just enough spice. The only change I would suggest for this recipe is maybe to double it, especially if you have a large family! Enjoy.

Veggie Spring Rolls with Butternut Squash

makes 6 spring rolls

veggie spring rolls out of the oven

Ingredients:

  • 6 Nasoya brand egg roll wrappers
  • 1 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 2 sweet mini peppers, chopped to little bits
  • pinch of sage
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil (I used Lizzie’s Kitchen brand Roasted Garlic flavor Dipping and Grilling Oil)
  • 1 cup mixed veggies (I used Mann’s rainbow salad, a blend of their copyrighted “cauliflower hearts,” cabbage, carrots, & mini broccoli pieces)
  • 1/2 cup white sliced mushrooms, chopped into small pieces
  • another 1/2 tsp olive oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 Fahrenheit. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, and spray with cooking spray.

First, roast the squash and peppers: Toss together the cubed squash, pepper pieces, sage, and 1/2 tsp olive oil. Spread in one layer on prepared baking sheet. Bake in 400 degree oven for 10 minutes, stopping in the middle to rotate veggies.

When done roasting, remove from oven. Leave the oven preheated!

Next, assemble spring rolls: toss together the mixed veggies and mushrooms with the squash and pepper mixture. Lay 6 egg roll wrappers flat on sprayed foil on cookie sheet. (I just re-sprayed the same foil previously used to roast the veggies.)

Place mixed vegetables in the center of each wrapper. Wrap around vegetables using whatever method you like (don’t ask me how to do it professionally; each of my spring rolls ended up different!:) )

trying to wrap veggie spring rolls

Brush tops of spring rolls with another 1/2 tsp olive oil. Bake in 400 Fahrenheit oven for 10 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.

Enjoy warm with soy sauce (my mom’s preference) or Otria brand Roasted Red Pepper Hummus and avocado (my favorite!!!)

butternut squash veggie spring roll

I will definitely be making veggie spring rolls again. Perhaps someday, if I practice my rolling skills, they’ll turn out beautiful enough even for the queen of Spring-Roll-Land to suffer a taste!

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A Mini Waffle Triumph!

sunbeam mini waffles chocolate

I’m the kind of person who waits to spend my gift card money until long after the holidays have passed, and I’ve had plenty of time to dream on just how I desire to spend that money. That way, the fun of the holidays can be extended into that depressing cold, holiday-less time that drags on forever after New Year’s. This year, I got several Amazon gift cards for Hannukah. I finally brought myself to spend some of the dough on one of the last days of winter break, and ordered a few things I’d been longing to have in my kitchen cupboard, including a mini waffle maker. I spent the next week or so anxiously awaiting the arrival of a special brown box addressed to me, and when it finally came I was a bit reluctant to open it – I didn’t want the excited anticipation to be over. Finally, when I could no longer stand it, I tore open the ominous package to reveal the glistening blue Sunbeam Mini Waffle Maker I’d ordered. My thoughts were now consumed by the prospect of trying it out.

The next morning, I arose with a mission to put that waffle maker to use. All the recipes included in the manual were for some gigantic yield of waffles, which I’m sure would have served me well if I were the chef for the army of a burgeoning nation, but as it was I only wanted enough for myself (no one else in my family was interested in whatever “healthy” waffles I’d cook up.) So I tried to scale down the chocolate waffle recipe included in the manual for just one batch, but I got a little impatient and didn’t come up with the most accurate ratios, because I just couldn’t wait for my mini waffle destiny! I hopped to the kitchen, whipped up my experimental chocolate batter, popped it in the hot waffle maker…and ended up with 8 burnt chocolatey crisps. I spent the remainder of my morning scraping charred waffle bits off the waffle grids, contempt growing every minute I spent cleaning the accursed thing I’d spent so much time waiting for.

mini waffle maker

It even looks evil…

I spent the rest of that week dreading the weekend, when I knew I’d feel compelled to use my extra free time to try out the waffle maker again. I had a feeling the thing was out to get me…or at least out to sabotage all my attempts at making mini waffles. Still, I’d spent my gift cards, I’d waited this long, and I wasn’t ready to give up just yet.

This weekend, I made a plan. I appeased the waffle maker, following the instructions in that booklet for a huge waffle recipe, with only a few guaranteed-to-work tweaks to make the waffles healthier. With trembling hands, I plugged in the machine, and respectfully spooned in little globs of batter when it was ready. Ever so gently I closed the lid and waited for my waffles to cook. Before my eyes flashed visions of charred chocolate batter, of scraping the grids until I got hand cramps, of the shiny blue horror’s (implied) malicious grin mocking me yet again as it had last week. I had a feeling this week would be no different. All I could do was wait and hope…

3 minutes later, I popped open the lid to discover a batch of soft, round chocolate mini waffles, staring up at me innocently like they didn’t know how much pain and suffering had been endured to engender their existence. I was so happy I could cry. (Almost.) My mom was enticed by the cute size and chocolatey smell and tried one. She told me it was good, but I had to slave away another several batches before the huge bowl of batter was used up and I could taste for myself. When I did, I was not disappointed. The waffles were very chocolatey, and had the perfect texture. Topping them with banana slices and chocolate chips really took things to the next level.

chocolate mini waffles sunbeam mini waffle maker

I think this is the start of a lasting partnership with the Sunbeam Mini Waffle Maker. All it took was compromise, and things ran quite smoothly from there. I would like the contraption to be a bit easier to clean, but this is a problem to be worked out in the future. For now, I’m content to celebrate my triumph  – I got the waffle maker to give me adorable little mini waffles! As a token of my happiness, I will share the recipe with you guys. But be warned –  waffle makers are nasty creatures, and at first will not want to work with you. They have to be won over with kindness, perseverance, and compromise. Once you make friends with your waffle maker, you will have a profitable companionship for years to come.

Chocolate Mini Waffles

based on instruction manual and recipe booklet for Sunbeam Mini Waffle Maker

makes about 46 mini waffles (5-6 batches)

mini waffles chocolate sunbeam waffle maker with banana

Ingredients:

mini waffle batter

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 cup Truvia baking blend
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 banana, mashed
  • 1/4 cup Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter
  • 2 eggs (I used Lucerne brand egg substitute)
  • 3/4 cup So Delicious brand plain coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

for topping

  • banana slices
  • chocolate chips

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. Mix. Add wet ingredients, mix well.

When waffle maker is ready, pour batter onto grids. Cook for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes, or until steam no longer escapes from waffle maker. Remove waffles with a plastic fork or wooden tongs. Close waffle maker until Ready light indicates it is ready to make another batch.

When waffles are done, serve warm with sliced banana and chocolate chips. (I microwaved the chocolate chips a bit so they were a little melty, almost like fudge sauce.)

chocolate mini waffle with banana

(These directions are based on my Sunbeam Mini Waffle Maker. Refer to instruction manual for your own waffle maker for the most accurate directions for your own waffle maker.)

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Perfect Pumpkin Pancake for One

pumpkin pancake for one with chocolate yogurt raisins and cranberries

People Are Like Pasta

various-shapes-of-italian-pasta

Today I had a marvelous revelation: people are like pasta. In more ways than one.

Most all pasta noodles are made of the same basic ingredients, but they come in tons of different shapes and sizes. From the tiny, rice-like beads of orzo to the elegant tendrils of angel hair spaghetti, from playful bow-ties to whimsical seashells, each type is good for a pretty specific purpose. For instance, mac and cheese simply wouldn’t work if the macaroni noodles were swapped out for orzo. And an orzo salad made with macaroni wouldn’t be orzo salad, now would it? These particular contortions were all designed deliberately, to perform a certain culinary duty.

People are similar in that we are all cut out for a certain type of work. Everyone is good at something. And everyone is also bad at something. Some people can paint masterpieces, but could never memorize their multiplication tables. These people, if they have any common sense, don’t even attempt to go to engineering school. Hopefully they find some way to make a living and cultivate their talents and passions. If they cast aside their art for a more lucrative profession, they may just find themselves miserable and ready to cut off their ear.

Self-Portrait-with-Bandaged-Ear-and-Pipe

This isn’t to say that people should never try new things. Sometimes we think we won’t be good at something, until we try it and realize, with practice and commitment, we can excel in ways we never imagined. I never thought I could bake without a mix until I took a deep breath and hauled the box of real flour out of the deep freeze. Now I’ve learned a lot about the principles of baking, and even begun to expand my knowledge into cooking. But there are boundaries when expanding one’s breadth of knowledge and ability: the territory one enters must be one that will complement, not write over, the person’s intrinsic talents and characteristics. For these are unchangeable, just as rotini cannot become tortellini.

Pasta should also explore new fields of employment, within the aforementioned boundaries. Some pasta dishes can be very repetitive, to the point of making themselves unwelcome to the palate due to boringness. Lasagna is one that some home chefs make over and over, the same old combination of boring ingredients, to the sarcastic serenade of an ungrateful audience (“lasagna AGAIN?!? Aw, man!”) I can see lasagna noodles thriving in a different setting, just as every once in a while ravioli abandons the heavy butter sauce in favor of a lighter salad environment, to the applause of health enthusiasts and creative food connoisseurs alike. You never know where a new path will take you until you try it for a while.

newpath

I had plans this weekend to make lasagna noodles step out of their comfort zone a little. A lot, actually. First off, I was going to cook them in ramekins for cute single portions. Secondly, the added ingredients had to be switched up. I thought of using pesto and some Tofurkey sausage, or maybe altogether abandoning the traditional Italian flavors that go with lasagna for Mexican or Mediterranean ingredients, and then I thought of some even more outlandish idea that would have totally wiped out the identity of lasagna noodles. Thank goodness I came to my senses, or you’d be reading about a very weird recipe right now. I won’t even go into the details beyond this disclosure which speaks for itself: the idea included apples. I know.

This would have been a disaster for the poor lasagna noodles, who only wanted to be loved and accepted for what they are, just like people do in their deepest wishes. Realizing this, I decided not to push things too far. I bought a whole wheat variety of noodles, already a little close to the weirdness boundary as pasta dishes go, and baked them into ramekins, a different home than lasagna noodles are used to. But I paired them with their old-time favorite companions: robust veggies, succulent tomato sauce, and the indispensable shredded cheese. In doing so I allowed the noodles to explore a region outside their worn-out role of white carbs in a casserole dish, but also allowed their tried-and-true talent to take center stage, rather than smothering it with ingredients that would have compromised their personality (and my appetite!)

lasagna ramekins

So, if you’re cut out for the culinary craft, try making these little lasagna ramekins! They look adorable and taste fine – how could you go wrong with the best-loved ingredient combo out there? My only suggestion is to add some more spices to make it a little more interesting. Other than that, make the recipe as is. Or maybe, if you’re feeling creative, you could try experimenting with some different types of cheese or veggies. But whatever you do, keep it agreeable to the personality of the lasagna noodles (and agreeable to your palate!) and the dish is sure to live up to its fullest potential.

Classic Lasagna Ramekins

based on recipe from Our Family Eats

makes four 5 1/2 oz ramekins

ramekin lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 4 pieces dry whole wheat lasagna pasta (I used Eating Right brand Whole Grain Lasagna)
  • 1 1/2 cups mixed cut roasting veggies (I used a pre-cut mix of butternut squash, yellow squash, zucchini, baby carrots, etc.)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce (I used Ragu brand)
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheese (I used 365 brand Mild Cheddar and Monterey Jack)

Directions: Break lasagna noodles each in half. Cook according to package directions. Allow to cool.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit. Spray 4 5 1/2 oz capacity ramekins with nonstick spray.

When noodles have cooled, arrange four of the pieces in the ramekins like so:

ramekin lasagnas step one

Top with about half of the tomato sauce. Top that with about half of the mixed veggies, and sprinkle on a healthy portion of shredded cheese.

ramekin lasagnas preparation

Add the remaining lasagna noodles, and top with the rest of the veggies, tomato sauce, and cheese.

lasagna ramekins in the oven

Bake in 375 Fahrenheit oven for 16-20 minutes or until cooked through.

Serve warm and enjoy!

lasagna ramekin veggie lasagna

Non-lasagna Image credits: (in order of appearance)(pics of lasagna are mine!)

http://afkra.blogspot.com/2013/01/10-foods-thought-to-be-healthy-but-are.html

http://www.vangoghgallery.com/misc/van-goghs-ear.html

http://ryanaweaver.com/?attachment_id=1216

Tropical Sunshine Quesadilla

sky of hope

Winter can be a really depressing time. The freezing air and biting wind inflict themselves until our extremities turn brittle like ice and crack off. The sun sets early and leaves us in melancholy darkness. For students, winter is packed with work, tests and finals, and the end of the school year is a barely visible pinprick of light at the end of a looooooong tunnel.

For me personally this is the time of year when my intrinsic pessimism really shines through. I spend the spring and summer months basking in the warm weather and concealing the negativity bound into my DNA as best I can. But when winter comes around, everything seems so tough I just can’t help but start to act a little tough myself. I think this is true of lots of people – they’re nice in the summer, but often border on evil in the winter. It’s like everyone’s sprightly spring character has flown south, to be replaced by a harsh winter personality bent on surviving the cold and biting off the heads of anyone who ventures to get in their way.

However, numerous studies have shown that an optimistic outlook serves a person better than a pessimistic one. Optimists, those who see the proverbial “glass half full,” live longer, are healthier, and probably more likely to succeed, which makes sense since they aren’t hindered by negative voices in their head all the time. I’ve always wanted to become an optimist, but none of the lauded “transformational” techniques I’ve tried have gotten me too far. Probably because I thought to myself, “this will never work,” and gave up almost immediately. It seems I’m just a pessimist by nature, and probably doomed to remain one all my life.

flower of hope

Still, I would like to improve my well-being, if not by entirely changing my personality, then maybe by being mindful of my outlook and any unreasonable negativity. And if I do happen to bite someone’s head off this winter, I’ll try to be mindful of that too. 🙂

One way to be happier is to be healthier. This can mean different things for different people. There are some general rules, however: for one, exercise is great for most everyone, and nourishes the mind and soul as well as the body by releasing endorphins and providing a sense of accomplishment. Eating healthy can help individuals reach their wellness goals and increase self-esteem, as well as keeping their brains awake and well-fueled throughout the day (this might reduce the chances of irritability.) In my opinion, healthy foods should also be happy foods: foods that you can feel good about eating, but that also taste great and fulfill your cravings. These are the types of recipes I strive to create on this blog.

Today, I made myself a healthy and happy breakfast: a warm, satisfying quesadilla packed with high-protein Tofurkey and nutritious cheese, and bursting with the flavors of summer. A gustatory reminder of my happiest season instantly added cheer to my day, and reminded me that there is always something to look forward to. Sometimes just a little thing, like pretty flowers, a smile from a friend, or in this case a yummy meal can make a big difference in someone’s day and in how they see the proverbial glass of water. So serve this tasty meal to someone who’s been feeling grumpy lately: it’s sure to bring a smile to their face and warmth to their heart!

Tropical Sunshine Quesadilla

makes 1 quesadilla

flat out quesadilla cranberry mango goat cheese tofurkey

Ingredients:

  • 1 Flat Out brand light original flatbread
  • 1 slice 365 brand Mild Goat Cheese (found in sliced cheese section at Whole Foods Market)
  • 2 slices peppered Tofurkey
  • about 1/3 to 1/2 of a mango, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tbl dried cranberries

Directions:

Spray a small to medium pan with cooking spray.

Arrange cheese, Tofurkey, mango pieces, and dried cranberries on one side of the flatbread, as shown below:

mango goat cheese tofurkey cranberry quesadilla

Fold over the other side of flatbread so it covers the filling ingredients.

Place quesadilla on prepared pan, and heat to medium-high. Cook until bottom side has browned a bit, then flip and cook the other side. When that side has browned as well, remove from heat and place quesadilla on serving plate. Cut and serve with a smile!

flat out mango cranberry quesadilla goat cheese tofurkey

Words for a Sick Girlfriend

So I hear you’ve been going with Ed

As your friend, I would rather you not

Like a spider he spins a love web

You’re his prey, so enthralled to be caught

Many girls he has had in his bed

(So if you think you’re special you’re not)

In his poisoned mind he wished them dead

Some surrendered, the stronger ones fought

spider with prey

When he takes you to dinner, they say,

He comes in like a voice in your brain

Taking your sense of reason away

So you order a platter of pain.

While you nibble, he gets in the way

Makes you feel like you’re going insane

He’ll keep saying you’re fat every day

Like some stupid song stuck in your brain.

broken record

And oh, the promises he makes!

He’ll have you hooked on a string of desires

Just so you’ll do whatever it takes

To lose all the pounds that he requires

And needless to say, they’re all fakes

All those promises; Ed is a liar.

And one without shame when he breaks

Your spirit, your soul and your fire.

sad girl fire

Tell me, why do you cling to his arm?

For there are others out there for you

Real men, who’ll keep you from harm

(And take you on better dinner dates, too.)

Ed is handsome, appealing, with charm

But he’ll leave you the second he’s through.

His charisma is cause for alarm

For a true friend who wants to save you.

heart puzzle

So the next time Ed knocks on your door

With his critical snide and his doubt

Throw a box of his things on that floor,

Say he’s got to pack up and scoot out.

If he calls you, then you must ignore,

For you’ve chosen a healthier route.

The path of well being, smiles galore,

And learning what real love is about.

happy couple Hawaii

Image credits (chronological order):

http://www.jaxshells.org/72019.htm

http://gmellor182.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/examples-of-broken-records/

http://isetfiretotherain.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/embers/sad-black-woman/

http://prinsesamusang.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/bakit-hindi-ka-crush-ng-crush-mo-book-review-its-more-fun-if-youre-heartbroken/

http://abcnews.go.com/meta/search/imageDetail?format=plain&source=http://abcnews.go.com/images/Travel/gty_hawaii_vacation_nt_111109

A Few of my Favorite Things…

blackandwhitecookiedonutsmosaic3

Above are four of my favorite black and white items that are changing my life at the present moment: Clockwise from bottom left, they are:

1. Sephora Formula X Meteoric nail polish: a fashion-forward top coat that’s currently revolutionizing the world of nail art! Pricey but worth it!

2. White Tiger: Gorgeous. Majestic. Endangered. Need I say more?

3. Skinny Cow Ice Cream Treats: if you haven’t filled your freezer with these healthier ice cream miracles, do so now. They offer novelties and portion-controlled ice cream cups to serve all taste buds, and each one is lower in calories and higher in calcium and protein than your typical mainstream frozen dessert.

4. (I’m most excited about this one at the moment…) Baked Black & White Cookie Donuts! Who knew it was possible? Soft, light cake donuts infused with luscious lemony flavor, dressed to impress half in chocolate, half in vanilla. These are one of my best baked donuts of all time. They do not taste healthy, but they are: made with whole wheat pastry flour, sweetened with agave and lemon curd instead of sugar, lower-calorie than traditional baked goods, and with the vanilla glaze featuring Truvia baking blend, these donuts are a guilt-free treat to make in celebration of one of the most delicious cookies in history. So go! Make them now! Full recipe here.

Black and White Cookie Donuts pic

I made the mosaic above using Big Huge Labs, a free online photo editor with lots of cool gizmos. After searching the web for an eternity looking for a free site that WORKS to make cool images out of my photos, and a big dramatic incident where I spent over an hour editing a photo on a bad site and then the page froze, I finally reached out to my aunt for help. She really knows her way around the internet, and gave me the link to this site that I’ve been frequenting ever since. May not be strictly black and white, but I guess Big Huge Labs is also on my favorite object list. (And no, they did not pay me to write this!)

The lower image, with the cool text, was made on Ribbet, a site my mom and aunt both love that I decided to give a spin one day. It has a lot of different options, especially with text, frames, and customize-able effects. Personally, I find my Ribbet photos end up looking fun and artsy, whereas with Big Huge Labs I feel my finished product looks a bit more professional. Neither site is better or worse, it’s just a matter of your personal preference and needs. Go ahead and check them both out!

Image credits for mosaic (clockwise starting with top left)

http://www.freewebs.com/claimingblackhills/Characters/jaya_mishka_seon_ge-tae.html

http://thehealthyapron.com/2011/05/31/is-it-healthy-skinny-cow-ice-cream/

Donut pic is mine!

http://pianofingernails.blogspot.com/2013_12_01_archive.html

Popeye’s Green Smoothie

green smoothie spinach coconut

For those who may not know, “Popeye the Sailor” was a 1930s kid’s cartoon featuring Popeye, a man who became superbly strong and was able to defeat villains only after eating spinach. They should probably have had a disclaimer at the end of each show: “Results may vary. Do not attempt to defeat bad guys after eating spinach without appropriate training and license.” Although I doubt kids back then were any more likely than kids today to be convinced by such a transparent attempt to glorify the consumption of leafy green veggies. One time, when I was in elementary school, we were shown a Popeye cartoon at lunch on a rainy day. I remember being one of a mass of kids munching on pb&j and thinking the cartoon was pretty unrealistic. None of us at that age would probably have eaten spinach unless our lives depended on it – and unless it was bathed in olive oyl! 🙂

As mature adults, we all know (hopefully) that the benefits of eating spinach are manyfold and extend to everyday folk, not just saviors of the world. For instance, spinach is a high in fiber and iron. It is also a great source of lutein,  which according to some studies can help prevent age-related eye diseases and macular degeneration. It is also high in potassium when served raw, which is a great hearth-healthy nutrient. When spinach is cooked, it remains somewhat healthy, but many of the health benefits disappear or decrease. This is why raw spinach is truly the way to go. This smoothie is one way to get your raw spinach, and reap maximum benefits from eating your greens!

ingredients in blender for spinach coconut green smoothie

Popeye would sure be pleased to be served this smoothie. With a full cup of spinach, it would be awesomeness-delivery through a straw! The addition of several other green fruits, protein-packed peanut butter, and nourishing coconut milk makes this smoothie a perfectly balanced breakfast. Since it’s not super sweet, sweetened coconut flakes on top are a welcome addition.

I won’t lie. This smoothie tastes healthy. It literally tastes like pure balanced nutrition flooding through your system with each sip. It doesn’t taste bad, but I don’t recommend serving this to a  kid with a discriminative sweet tooth. If you need to feed someone (or yourself 🙂 ) who needs a smoothie to be indulgent and dessert-y, try my chocolatey Seventh Heaven Secret Ingredient Smoothie. If you’re a health food junkie who wants a lower-sugar, higher-nutrition drink, then Popeye’s Green Smoothie is the one for you.

Disclaimer: after drinking this smoothie, do not attempt to exercise superhuman strength unless you are a bodybuilder. DO go out and have an active, productive day fueled by protein and fiber to keep you full and maximize your potential.

Enjoy!

Popeye’s Green Smoothie

serves one

green smoothie with coconut spinach

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh, washed baby spinach
  • 1/2 Granny Smith apple, chopped roughly into chunks
  • 1 kiwi, chopped
  • 1/2 banana
  • 8 frozen green grapes
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (I used So Delicious brand)
  • 1 tbl creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 small ice cubes
  • optional topping: 1 tbl sweetened coconut flakes

Directions: Place all ingredients except coconut flakes in blender. Blend for a minute and a half or until thoroughly combined.

Pour smoothie into tall glass. Top with coconut flakes.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popeyehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lutein#In_nutrition http://home.howstuffworks.com/spinach3.htm

Star of the Show: Sweet and Savory Salad

It had to happen at some point. And I guess today was the fateful day my mom and brother and I decided to take the train and see Hollywood.

I don’t have anything against Hollywood in itself, but I must say I felt like I hadn’t done my homework. Being a 21st century kind of chick, I had never heard of most of these stars from the 1930s, and felt a little uncultured walking down Hollywood Boulevard.

Hollywood stars

But not for long until I discovered Hollywood has caught up with modern times by installing a bunch of Starbuckses, Sephoras, and Taylor Swift advertisements to appeal to the ignorant masses like myself. Apparently you don’t need to know who Gene Autry was to have fun stepping on his name as you sip your Frappuchino. Below is what we tended to see in the tourist-y areas of Hollywood today:

Hollywood food storesGodzilla star Hollywood

I guess even monsters deserve a star. Kind of sad that none of the people who worked their hearts out writing all these movies, and directing them, etcetera, get a star to commemorate their monumental contribution to the film industry. Although, as I mentioned earlier, no one really remembers anything about movies from the ’30s anymore, neither the writers nor the stars, save a few timeless pieces of history like Marilyn Monroe, Snow White and several others that even I could recognize.

We also went to see the sidewalk where all the stars wrote their names and messages in the cement. Even in my ignorance, I had a general idea of who Shirley Temple was:

Hollywood Shirley Temple signature

One of the more exciting moments of our trip: a dinosaur nearly bit the clock off Rigley’s Believe it or Not Auditorium!

dinosaur Hollywood

There were a bunch of outlandish food stores, such as this sausage sandwich shop. Apparently your sandwich only includes bread if you order the Italian:

sausage sandwich shop in Hollywood

Of course, there were also a billion souvenir shops and tourist attractions. We encountered several street performers dressed as Iron Man, Spiderman, Bumblebee, you name it, but my brother pretended he’d outgrown his interest in superheroes.

Hollywood

Souvenirs of Hollywood

Some cool building art:

building art Hollywood

The Dolby Theater:

Hollywood Dolby Theater

The Roosevelt Hotel:

Roosevelt Hotel Hollywood

It seems Disney movies and Ghirardelli Chocolate have partnered to create a single irresistible soda/Disney store.

Disney Ghirardelli Hollywood

The one piece of culture I think I gleaned today was this story my mom told us kids about some incident where an aspiring actress got “discovered” at a soda fountain, and it was her gateway to fame, and after that all the young girls flocked to the soda shops in the hopes that they would get “discovered” too. I don’t know how anyone can possibly exhibit their talent while drinking soda, but maybe this actress was a multi-tasker. Anyway, I’d rather have healthy teeth and remain “undiscovered.”

I think Hollywood is a really quaint and fun tourist attraction, though you do have to be wary of a few seedy-looking smoke shops, tattoo places, and other unsavory goings-on.

Seeing all the different stars of the past made me realize how different the world was back when film was the cutting edge of entertainment, and being on the silver screen was the height of fame. In today’s digital age, the very definition of fame is different, and anyone can be mildly famous on the internet. If you want to get discovered, you’re much better off making a Youtube video of yourself talented-ly sipping soda than visiting an actual soda shop. But society as a whole has been shaped in part by the major motion pictures of the past. And by all the people who wrote the scripts, held the cameras, etcetera…I hope someday society come up with a way to honor the backstage people without whom these world-changing films would never have been possible.

This spinach salad was world-changing for me when I made it for lunch yesterday. Fruity flavors sweet as Shirley Temple’s smile mingled with savory Bleu cheese and crunchy almonds to create a real production to remember. Not to mention the amazingly delicious gardein brand crispy fake meat tender featured atop the bed of flavorful fresh ingredients. Found in the frozen aisle at Whole Foods Market, these Seven Grain Crispy Tenders are truly the star of the show in this salad for one. As a bonus, you can be as ignorant as you like and still enjoy this yummy salad! 🙂

Low in calories and high in iron, fiber, protein and vitamins, this salad is a healthy petite meal or side dish for one. Enjoy in style while watching your favorite sophisticated Hollywood film! (Or football.) 🙂

Click here for the full recipe.

Maple Apple Smoothie With Cinnamon Toast Dippers

apple cinnamon smoothie with cinnamon toast maple cranberries

When my little brother was really little, like six years old, he was a very picky eater. Well, actually the same can be said of him today, but back then he was ultra picky. It was a struggle for my parents to get him to eat anything, and anything new was out of the question. So we’d end up going to the same diner pretty much every time we went out to eat together – thankfully this diner was a prevalent chain and could be found even when we were on vacation in the middle of nowhere.

This restaurant had an innovative children’s menu, which boasted several unusual and fun items that were clearly an attempt to get the kids to eat healthy food and enjoy it at the same time. One of these dishes was “Applesauce with Swimmers,” which quickly became my brother’s go-to. It consisted of a bowl of applesauce – this was the “pool” – and Teddy Grahams sprinkled on the surface as if they were lazily backstroking in this serene pool of doom. My brother would always be very excited to order this dish, and seemed to get some peculiar enjoyment out of plunging his spoon into the lumpy lake, scooping up one of the innocent honey-flavored swimmers, and popping the victim in his mouth before returning to strike terror in the hearts of all Teddy Grahams once again. At that time, I began to fear my little brother was shaping up to be a dangerous individual. Luckily, it seems sadism in eating Teddy Grahams doesn’t translate into criminal violence, and my grim predictions were not fulfilled.

One time we went out to eat, and, as usual, my brother wanted “Applesauce with Swimmers.” A while after we ordered, the waiter came to our table and apologetically informed us that the kitchen was all out of swimmers. Not being one to try something new, my brother elected to just get the applesauce without the swimmers. A few minutes later, the waiter returned once more with our food. A sad little bowl of sloshing, lumpy applesauce was placed in front of my brother, who slowly nibbled at it as the rest of us chowed down on our dinners. When we left the restaurant, he had hardly made a dent in the applesauce, which looked like an empty pool on an early autumn day too cold to play outside. Clearly, the applesauce without the swimmers was just not the same.

Lately, I’ve been feeling the same way about my smoothies that my little brother used to feel about his applesauce – it needs that extra something to make it worthwhile. Instead of smooth, homogenous smoothies, I tend to prefer something with a little extra crunch or munch – cookie chunks or globs of brownie batter are welcomed. And an interactive smoothie is even better!

For this “interactive” smoothie, I blended the flavors of tangy yogurt flavorful fresh apple and banana with the subtle sweetness of maple and cinnamon. Tart dried cranberries on top add a touch of sassy flair. The fun part is plunging the “dippers” – toasted bread bites spread with buttery Earth Balance and sprinkled with the comforting combo of cinnamon and sugar – into the cool smoothie for a treat that’s fun to eat. And the best thing about it is, it’s cruelty-free and Teddy Graham approved. 🙂 Get your fruit, whole grains, and protein the awesome way with this yummy breakfast smoothie.

Maple Apple Smoothie with Cinnamon Toast Dippers

serves one

cinnamon toast smoothie with apple maple cinnamon cranberry

Ingredients:

for smoothie

  • 1 frozen banana (or use fresh but add more ice)
  • 1/2 of a large Gala apple
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 container Brown Cow brand Maple flavored yogurt
  • 1 tbl organic 100% pure maple syrup
  • small dash cinnamon
  • 1 small ice cube (more if not using frozen banana)
  • 1 tbl dried cranberries

for cinnamon toast dippers

  • 1 slice whole wheat bread
  • 1 tsp Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • generous dash cinnamon

Directions:

Smoothie: Place all smoothie ingredients (except dried cranberries) in blender. Blend until smooth. Pour smoothie into desired glass. Chill in the fridge while you make the cinnamon toast!

Cinnamon Toast Dippers: Toast the whole wheat bread. Then, spread Earth Balance on bread, and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Cut into two-bite-sized pieces.

When ready to serve, remove smoothie from the fridge and sprinkle dried cranberries on top. Dip your cinnamon toast in the smoothie for a unique and delicious treat!

cranberry apple maple cinnamon toast smoothie

cinnamon toast dippers

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