Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ginger spiced plum sauce

Spread this easy ginger spiced plum sauce on grilled chicken or pork, turn it into a jammy vinaigrette or swap it for fruit puree when baking.

ginger spiced plum sauce -- perfect on grilled meat or in a jam vinaigrette

Yep -- it's happened once again. It isn't even October yet, but every yoga-pants-clad food blogger is waxing poetic about all the pumpkin-spiced things that bring her joy. Except The Ninj. I may be wearing the ubiquitous yoga-pants uniform of the work-from-home writer, but I'm still refusing to talk about pumpkin. I'm still hung up on end-of-summer / beginning-of-fall fruit.

Plums to be exact, which you'll recall featured prominently in my recent fresh plum breakfast cake. Good lordy, y'all, I haven't even gotten started on apples yet, let alone pumpkin!

(And, frankly, when the heck did fall become all about pumpkin of all things? Not apples, not butternut squash, but pumpkin? I blame Starbucks.)

Plus, I realized, much to my chagrin that, given my lack of a real garden this year, I haven't canned or preserved very much. And that, my friends, is more than a little TRAGIC.

The lack of canning and abundance of fresh plums brought me to this ginger spiced plum sauce. ERMERGAHD, this stuff is so heavenly spread on freshly grilled chicken or pork -- just the right amount of earthy spice, tartness and sweetness. Shred the chicken and mix in the plum sauce and you've got the basis for an Asian-inspired taco that will blow your mind.

I have even mixed this plum sauce with a little oil and vinegar to make a jammy vinaigrette for a peppery arugula salad. And I also think it would be lovely baked into some marmalade muffins or my favorite homemade granola.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Ginger pear green smoothie

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

Ginger pear green smoothie: an easy portable power breakfast packed with protein that's also low in calories, gluten free, dairy free, vegan ... and delicious!

easy and healthy ginger pear green smoothie

Pears are one of my favorite things about fall. I'm less about pumpkin and more about pears. And lately I've been kind of obsessed with the pairing of ginger and pears (pairing pears -- ha ha! -- I didn't even plan that). And it's not just in recipes: I recently went a little cray cray when I found a ginger-pear hand lotion.

So when I was asked to incorporate Vega Essentials shake powder into a recipe, I knew it would be a ginger pear smoothie. (Which only makes sense because you shouldn't eat hand lotion, no matter how awesome it smells.)

I've really gotten into a smoothie groove lately. When you're trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, smoothies can be so helpful. They make eating a healthy breakfast easy and are a perfect afternoon treat when I'm in the mood for a little snack. Way better for me than answering the siren call of cookies!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Fresh plum breakfast cake

Fresh plum breakfast cake -- a not-too-sweet treat, perfect for showcasing end-of-summer juicy ripe red plums.

Fresh plum breakfast cake

I found some gorgeous, juicy, ripe red plums at a local farm market recently and my brain immediately jumped to plum cake. A plum cake that you could eat for breakfast.

When I was really small, we had an Italian prune plum tree in the backyard of our house in New York. Now, mind you,  I barely even remember this house (we moved when I was three) but the plums factored in heavily. In fact, I have only three total memories of the place:

  1. Dancing in my next-door BFF Nancy's rec room basement to a real jukebox that played my favorite song at the time -- Elton John's "Crocodile Rock"
  2. Being heartbroken when I got sick all over my favorite stuffed elephant pillow (it was blue and I called it "Nelliephant") and it had to be thrown away
  3. Pulling little purple prune plums off the tree in the backyard, rinsing them under the spigot on the back of the house and eating them, still warm from the sun

Seriously. Those are my only take-aways from that house.

But those plums! My mom used to turn them into this amazing, dense plum cake that I loved -- largely because it wasn't too sweet and, after we'd had it for dessert the first evening, she would often let us have a piece for breakfast, too. Because fruit is good for you, I guess.

Unfortunately, my mom was out of town recently when I scored my red plums so I didn't have access to her recipe. And I wasn't sure I wanted to mess with a classic by trying to use the juicier red plum instead of the prune plum, so I turned to my favorite, reliable baking source -- Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours -- for an alternative.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Crockpot chicken tamale pie with cornbread crust

This healthy crockpot chicken tamale pie cooks low and slow during the day and is finished with a spicy, crunchy cornmeal crust.

crockpot chicken tamale pie with cornbread crust

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. As much as I love summer, especially for its t-shirt and flip flops easy-peasy dress code, I'm always excited when fall arrives. Cooler temperatures, snuggly sweaters, crisp autumn leaves -- I love it.

Fall is also a great time for slow cooker recipes. A good slow cooker recipe can make the whole house smell like home-cooked goodness, without your needing to lift much more than a finger.

While this crockpot chicken tamale pie with cornbread crust is technically finished off in the oven, it's still a hugely easy recipe, perfect for weeknight dinners or for when you have a house full of guests to feed and you actually want to spend time with them instead of locked away in the kitchen.

We normally think of tamale pie as being made with fattier pork cuts; to keep this dish on the healthier side, I've used boneless skinless chicken breasts.

The flavors are bold and just a little spicy, so it's totally kid-friendly. But if you're more adventurous, feel free to add the other half of that jalapeƱo in the ingredient list to the sauce.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Five minute healthy chocolate pudding

No-cook five minute healthy chocolate pudding: perfect for a brown bag lunch, a healthy snack or a guilt-free dessert. #backtoschool #glutenfree 

5 minute healthy chocolate pudding: no cooking, no refined sugar, no dairy

OK. Labor Day was yesterday so now I can be excited about fall and back-to-school time!

(Although I refuse yet to be excited about pumpkin. Plums and apples haven't even had their chance to shine yet, people. Let's save all the pumpkin hooha for October, shall we?)

Anyway, back to back to school. I'm not going back to school nor are my dogs (although they could probably use it), but I'm excited regardless. And the reason I'm excited is this super easy, five-minute healthy chocolate pudding.

Yes, pudding. Why do pudding cups excited me? Because I pack lunches. Healthy lunches. And who could possibly say no to a healthy chocolate pudding cup in his lunch bag?

Not Mr. Ninj, the recipient of my healthy lunch bags.

Let's be honest. Whether you're 8 or 48, it's pretty sweet to have a little dessert-y type item in your lunch bag to finish off your noontime meal. In fact, it has been proven that eating something sweet at the end of a meal signifies to your brain that you're full and you should stop wanting to eat more food. (It's a true fact because I read it somewhere once. Yep, super scientific, you can quote me on it.)

Heck, I even went out of my way to style the photos of my five-minute healthy chocolate pudding in such a way that the lunch-bag-packing intention was entirely obvious.

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.