Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Watermelon strawberry yogurt smoothie

[ While I have been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser for this post, all opinions are mine alone. Thanks for supporting the brands that support me! #HappyBlending #CollectiveBias ]

This delicious yogurt smoothie is loaded with protein, probiotics, fiber, fresh fruit and even some secret veggies: healthy breakfast never tasted so good!

watermelon and strawberry yogurt breakfast smoothie


While I love fall and the cool weather it brings, I try not to rush it because it also means the end of summer -- which means the end of bountiful, healthy, delicious summer veggies and fruits.

Other food bloggers may have already gotten started on PumpkinFest 2015, but not me: I'm still buying as much ripe fruit as I can get my hands on!

Which means I knew exactly what ingredients to use when I was chosen to create a smoothie recipe using Chobani Greek Yogurt for Smoothie Week, being celebrated at the Kroger Family of Stores this week. Even though it's September, it's still the perfect time to enjoy watermelon, which will be in season for a little while longer.

For this watermelon strawberry yogurt smoothie, I used fresh watermelon but, once the cooler months roll around, you can use frozen watermelon instead; it's a great way to get the feeling of summer back any time of the year. Because of its high water content, watermelon freezes beautifully. I cut it into chunks, spread them on baking sheets, freeze until just firm, then store all the chunks in zipper bags in the freezer. Freezing them individually means you can easily remove only as many pieces as you need.
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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Make your own kale powder

It's easy to make your own kale powder in the oven or a food dehydrator -- a great way to sneak lots of veggie nutrition into smoothies, soups and more.

Make your own kale powder for smoothies, soups, baking and more

When summer begins to wind down, my preserving instincts kick into high gear.

I start to panic: Fall is coming. What will I do without juicy fresh tomatoes? Or handful after handful of fresh basil? Or ripe peaches? Or fresh greens from right outside my back door?

Right now, my freezer is full of peaches, blueberries, strawberries and watermelon for winter smoothies and my pantry is loaded up with marinated dried tomatoes that I can turn into an amazing pasta sauce or layer on pizzas. And making a winter store of pesto and basil chimchurri is on my to-do list for next week.

So what about the greens?

While I have tried freezing heartier greens like kale and collards, they're really only good for soups and stews once thawed, as their cellular structure really breaks down once frozen. The best way I've found to preserve fresh greens is to dehydrate them and turn them into vegetable powders.

In the past, I showed you how to make tomato powder, which is an awesome way to add a huge pop of fresh tomato flavor to soups and pasta sauces or mix with yogurt or salad dressing to create a veggie dip. All it takes is a few hours in a food dehydrator or on low temperature in your oven.

Making greens powder -- in this case, kale powder -- is accomplished the same way.

My favorite use for this kale powder is very sneaky. Regular readers know Mr. Ninj, who never met a vegetable he liked, is my equivalent of mommy bloggers' picky 3-year-old eaters, so I'm always on the lookout for stealthy new ninja-like ways of sneaking vegetables into his diet.

Mixing this kale powder into his morning smoothies has become my secret weapon!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Tomato and ricotta summer sandwich

Layer the ripest, juiciest tomatoes on fresh, hearty bread with ricotta cheese and avocado for the perfect summer sandwich.

fresh tomato and ricotta summer sandwich with avocado


I know you're back in school, kids -- well, some of you. The ones that live near me here in the South anyway.

And I know apple-picking has begun in Vermont.

And I know that we're dangerously close to the beginning of OMG-EVERYTHING-PUMPKIN-FEST 2015, but I'm still celebrating summer. ( #stillsummer )

Summer veggies, anyway.

Despite the fact that the squirrels ate every single tomato from my plants as soon as they appeared, let alone waiting until they turned even a tinge of orange, I've been noshing on ripe, juicy tomatoes as often as I can -- especially in tomato sandwiches -- thanks to the many apparently squirrel-less local Kentucky farmers.

For about two years now I've been carrying around a page torn from a back issue of House Beautiful magazine, of all publications, that featured an open-faced avocado sandwich from Gabrielle Hamilton's NYC restaurant Prune.

It caught my eye because it featured tomatoes, avocado and ricotta cheese -- probably three of my most favorite ingredients. Evah.

But I never wound up making it because it was a little too fancy schmancy for me. I don't keep preserved lemon peel, pearl onions and poppy seeds on hand -- and the preserved lemon peel was said to be the star ingredients. (Note: I first typed that as "poopy seeds" which I think is an infinitely better and funnier name and would certainly make them the star ingredient. Well, at least the most interesting ingredient.)

Whatevs. Ninj ain't got that kinda time at lunch, dig?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Basil chimichurri

Basil chimichurri is slightly spicy and full of summer garden-fresh herbs: a perfect marinade for grilled flank steak or skirt steak.

Basil chimichurri sauce

I've been rockin' the hashtag #StillSummer on all my social media posts this month, lest we all get caught up in the back-to-school rush and forget to enjoy the warm, wonderful weather.

Which for me is largely about grilling and eating al fresco!

Truth: Part of why I love grilling so much is because I don't do it -- Mr. Ninj does. Which means that I get a little bit of a break in meal prep whenever we grill. Sure, I still make the salads and sides but it's fun to have my load lightened a little, especially during the week.

(And he's such a good sport. I'll just call out, "You're grilling tonight!" and he's completely OK with it.)

Another reason I'm reminding myself and everyone else that it's #StillSummer is because of fresh summer produce. Seriously, is there a better time of the year to be a healthy eater? I could pretty much live on sun-warmed fresh tomatoes, corn and peaches during July and August and never get sick of them. Plus, the basil in my yard, which, sadly is the only thing that the squirrels and deer haven't completely decimated, is prolific to the point of being out of control.

At this point, I usually make a ton of pesto and pop it into the freezer to enjoy during the fresh-veg wasteland that is winter.

Since I have so much basil this year, I decided to use it to make this riff on chimichurri, substituting basil for the usual cilantro. It turned out to be the perfect sauce marinade for grilled flank or skirt steak.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sweet and spicy slow cooker pork bowls

Sweet and spicy slow cooker pulled pork, combined with quinoa and fresh veggies, is a no-effort, tasty weeknight dinner that's also gluten-free.

sweet and spicy slow cooker pork bowls -- easy and gluten free

I think this is going to be one of my favorite posts ever. And not only because these sweet and spicy slow cooker pork bowls are just about the best thing I have ever eaten. (Truth.)

Let me tell you why.

Regular readers are aware that I am a fur mom to a couple of nutso dogs. I consider them my babies (and, OMG, when did I become that crazy pet lady??!!). But apparently sometimes I think of them as too human and forget that they are really just food-crazed wildebeests who only occasionally listen and do what they're asked.


By now, you're probably asking yourself, what the heck does this have to do with slow cooker pulled pork?

As a food blogger, I'm always trying to get the perfect hero shot when I photograph my recipes. This photo shoot was no exception. Since I don't have a swanky expensive tripod with a crane arm like many of my blogging compadres, if I want to get a good overhead shot of a recipe, I often have to photograph my recipes on the floor.

Read that again: On. The. Floor.

I bet you can see where this is headed.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Lightened blue cheese potato salad

Lightened blue cheese potato salad, made with Greek yogurt, is the perfect side for late summer BBQs or back-to-school weeknight dinners.

light blue cheese potato salad made with Greek yogurt


I can't believe it -- kids are already headed back to school.

Seriously: that's cray cray. I feel as if summer has barely gotten started yet the new bus drivers are driving training routes through our area in preparation for the first day of school next week.

I grew up in New England, so I associate the first day of school with, roughly, Labor Day, not the first week in August. In my book, August should still be summer, given that it is still summer according to the calendar. And the thermometer as well.

Lordy, who can think about back-to-school corduroys when it's in the 90s outside? All I can think about is grilling out or eating salads so as to not heat up the kitchen.

Long live the August BBQ cookout!

And, of course, what's the best thing about cookouts? The side dishes! And nothing says "cookout side dish" like a good, creamy potato salad.

Am I right?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sweet and savory summer peach recipes

Enjoy fresh, juicy peaches in not only sweet recipes but also savory ones: try these five easy, delicious recipes while peaches are in season.

Sweet and savory recipes for juicy summer peaches

PEACHES!!

There, now that I have your attention, let's talk about peaches. I'll admit, there's little better than eating a ripe, juicy peach, still warm from the sun, on a hot summer day. But when I've gotten a haul of fresh peaches, I can't eat all of them single-handedly. After freezing them for winter smoothies or canning them as peach puree for my homemade granola, I turn to these five recipes.

For your sweet tooth, I've got a grab-and-go breakfast muffin, an easy crumble and an unusual cobbler. But peaches are just as fantastic in savory dishes, especially when paired with their summer cousins, fresh tomatoes, or even tangy blue cheese.

Yep, The Ninj is serving peaches for dinner.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Blueberry peach crumble

Super-easy blueberry peach crumble with juicy summer fruit and a toasty oat crumble topping. Enjoy it for breakfast or dessert -- or both!

Easy blueberry peach crumble

It's pretty much the perfect storm of summer fruit out there right now, isn't it? Everything I love is happening all at once: the strawberries and cherries are winding down, while the blueberries and peaches are totally kickin' it.

My freezer is a sea of vacuum-sealed bags of frozen summer fruit, ready to make the best winter smoothies (I don't know where I'd be without my FoodSaver vacuum sealer!).

But I'm not just freezing all my summer fruit: heck no! I'm eating it like there's no tomorrow and I'm also cooking with it.

One way I've used fresh peaches and blueberries (they are just THE BEST partners, aren't they??!!) is in this super-easy blueberry peach crumble.

Now, little known fact: a lot of people misuse the words "crumble" and "crisp" when describing their baked fruit desserts. I grew up on apple crisp that included oats in the topping. Apparently, that was a crumble, not a crisp. By definition, a crumble is just a crisp with oats in its topping -- or maybe it's that a crisp is just a crumble without oats.

(What the ... ?)

Regardless, this blueberry peach crumble is ridiculously easy to make and is so good and fresh that I almost enjoy it more for breakfast than I do for dessert.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Mediterranean pasta with no cook olive sauce

Mediterranean pasta with no-cook olive sauce: an easy weeknight meal featuring key ingredients from the Mediterranean diet to support health and longevity.

Mediterranean pasta with no cook olive sauce

You've probably heard about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet (namely living longer -- yay for living longer!) -- the diet that's rich in good-for-you foods like whole grains, seeds, legumes, veggies, fish, olives and olive oil. Couldn't we all use more of these healthy ingredients in our diets? You betcha. So, just for you, I've created a pasta dish, featuring California Black Ripe Olives, that pays homage to the healthy Mediterranean diet.

I have never met anyone who doesn't love black olives. And, if you're like me, you almost always have a can of them on hand in the pantry, right? Which makes them totally handy for creating quick, weeknight meals. Plus, black olives contain a variety of vitamins and fiber -- and, of course, you can wear them on your fingers.

For all of these reasons (not the least of which is the finger-wearing, if we're being honest), California Black Ripe Olives were the perfect choice to star in my new Mediterranean pasta dish. I paired the olives in a no-cook sauce with tangy capers, lots of fresh herbs from my garden, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some mashed anchovies (trust me -- they add an awesome yet subtle umami flavor that you will love!), then tossed them all with healthy whole-wheat pasta: it's an easy weeknight meal that's not only delicious, reminiscent of an olive tapenade, but also incorporates many key components of the Mediterranean diet.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Avocado goddess dressing

Jazz up your next meal salad or roast chicken dinner with this 5-minute, herb-filled, healthy avocado goddess dressing.

easy 5 minute avocado goddess dressing


Sometimes it's the little things that can make or break your meal.

Am I right? Can I get an amen?

Like salad dressing. I've been in a simple balsamic vinaigrette rut lately. Not that the vinaigrette isn't good, it's just that I feel I should be whipping up batches of shallot dressing or sushi-restaurant-inspired ginger dressing or even classic buttermilk ranch dressing ... but I just haven't. And it's bumming out my salads.

Until recently.

And it's because of herbs. My "garden" this year, post-relocation, consists of a couple of planters of vegetables on our back patio. Given the end-of-days, seemingly non-stop rain storms we've had nearly all summer long, coupled with the 30,000 crafty, tomato-stealing squirrels and deer, my supply of homegrown veggies so far has been two half-sized cucumbers and four measly Sun Gold cherry tomatoes.

It's a pathetic situation. Thankfully, I've got plenty of farmers' markets around to make up the difference.

But my little in-ground herb garden, on the other hand, has been doing quite well. (Apparently the wildlife prefer their meals to be heartier.) So I've been trying to come up with herb-filled recipe ideas that aren't simply pesto, although a good (or unique) pesto is nothing to scoff at, that's for sure. Trust me, my freezer will be full of it come September!

Enter this avocado goddess salad dressing. Chockful of fresh herbs, this healthier riff on traditional green goddess dressing gets its rich creaminess from avocado and yogurt. And it's the most delightfully cheery green color you could ever hope to add to a salad.