Drinks & Smoothies · kid-friendly · Recipes

Strawberry Peanut Butter Smoothie

Though it hasn’t felt very summery out there so far this year, something about this time of year prompts me to want to get moving more, lighten up what I’m eating so I can feel lighter myself, and spend less time cooking and eating big meals. Enter smoothies, the perfect on-the-go food with built-in health benefits. Of course, the other way to look at it is that these balance out all the inevitable hot dogs, cold beers and after-dinner trips to get ice cream that come with summer, so cheers to that, too!

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This smoothie is vegan, easy to make as well as to digest, tasty, portable, and perfect for post-workout because of the great balance of carbs to restore glycogen burned during exercise and muscle-building protein.

A healthy and filling after-exercise smoothie will ideally contain a foundation of greens and fruit, like we have here, plus a protein source such as nut butter, silken tofu or plain yogurt, and also a liquid, such as coconut water or almond milk.

I used peanut butter, but you could also use almond butter. You can sub half Greek yogurt and half almond milk — especially to boost the protein ratio for exercise recovery — or all almond milk in place of coconut milk.

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Strawberry PB Smoothie

INGREDIENTS

  • 1-2 cups frozen strawberries
  • 1 ripe banana (mine was frozen)
  • 1 can reduced-fat coconut milk OR 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 heaping TBSP peanut butter OR almond butter
  • optional: toss in some spinach or other greens

DIRECTIONS

Add all ingredients to blender, starting with liquid first, and process on high until smooth. It helps to have a high-speed blender like a Vitamix if you want to throw in a handful of greens and have them pulverized, which I did to get an extra veg boost, but otherwise this should be fine in a conventional blender, too.

The amount of berries can vary by however much you want. I used what I had on hand, which was a little less than a full two-cup bag in the freezer.

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I’m not even going to talk about the weather anymore because I think I’ve personally jinxed it from ever being nice this year. We are having a small cookout the weekend after next for Mark’s birthday, and if it’s rainy or cold still, I’m going to lose my mind.

Today, however, we got a peek at the sun, so I strolled on over to The Scooper Bowl in City Hall Plaza, which is an ice cream extravaganza that also benefits The Jimmy Fund. It’s still going on tomorrow from Noon to 8 p.m. outside Boston City Hall, right at Government Center. Perfect for an after-work outing. Or “lunch,” like I did!

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If you liked this smoothie, share it with a friend, and pin it for later! Have a great rest of the week, everyone. 

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kid-friendly · Recipes

Cream Cheese Stuffed Strawberries

It’s strawberry season in New England! These berries have a very short window of availability each year, and this summer the crop is peaking late — like right now — so it’s time to pick up some fresh berries at the farmer’s market and get baking. My brother’s girlfriend Michelle, who you may remember from this popular Stuffed Mushroom recipe at Christmas, makes one of the best strawberry treats I’ve ever had: strawberries stuffed with sweetened cream cheese. Auntie Shelly, as Georgia calls her, brings these to every summer gathering and they are always the absolute most popular item on the potluck, including last weekend when we had a barbecue for Mark’s birthday at our house. They were gone in a flash and I felt lucky to grab a couple before they disappeared. In addition to being a crowd pleaser, they are very simple to make. Read on to find out how.

Cream Cheese Stuffed Strawberries

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 packages of fresh strawberries
  • 8 oz of regular cream cheese
  • ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • Graham crackers (optional)

DIRECTIONS

First, take the cream cheese out of the refrigerator. It needs to be at room temperature in order for everything to blend well.

Wash the strawberries, and remove the stems. Cut the bottom off of each strawberry where the leaves are so they can stand up on their own.

Make an “X” cut on the pointed side of each strawberry and set them aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add all the ingredients and start mixing on low speed. Start slow to make sure the confectioner’s sugar doesn’t splatter everywhere! Increase the speed to medium/high until the mixture is a light, fluffy texture. This usually takes about 3-5 minutes.

Put the cream cheese mixture into a piping bag with a small tip. An easy way of doing this is to use a tall, empty drinking glass, which holds the bag so you can have both hands free when pouring the mixture.

Insert the piping tip into the middle of the “X” cut on each berry, and squeeze the filling in until you can see it starting to peek out the sides.

Finally, an optional last step is to put some crushed graham crackers on top of the berries. This can make them look extra fancy!

{{ Serve at room temp and watch guests devour }}


If you really, really love strawberries — as Georgia does — try these Strawberry Mini Muffins, my Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble, this Strawberry Yogurt Cake or my Creamy Strawberry Smoothie. We really love strawberries in our house!

Looking for places to pick your own strawberries this month? Here’s a great guide to you-pick spots and local strawberry festivals in and around Boston in June. Or, just follow the Facebook and Instagram posts from your family and friends for of-the-moment tips. Happy picking!


Tiny Prints - Flash Sale

Tips and Tricks

The New Dirty Dozen & Clean 15

If you don’t already shop with this list of the most important produce items to buy organic, now you no longer have an excuse! In honor of Earth Day, here’s a handy dandy printable from the Environmental Working Group, just released last week. You can click the link below the image to download your own PDF to print and cut along the dotted line for your wallet, or just pin this picture for later 🙂  

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Click here to download the printable

The biggest news this year is probably the fact that strawberries skyrocketed to the top of the list, displacing apples as the #1 most pesticide-contaminated fresh produce item even after being rinsed in the field and washed again before eating.

I don’t know about you, but my family eats A LOT of strawberries, and buying these organic is a priority for us. The cost difference is usually $1 or $2 per 1-pound container, shopping at Target, Aldi or Trader Joe’s. And don’t forget that Costco has a large and impressive selection of organic produce, pantry, dairy and frozen items, if you have enough mouths to feed and enough storage to accommodate their package sizes (which we do, even with just a 1,100 sq. ft. house and a 20-year-old refrigerator. It might be more doable than you think!)

I’m also relieved to see that some items — namely avocado, mangoes and onions — are solidly on the clean 15 list, because those can get pricey when you buy organic, and there may not be a reason to. Studies have shown that the nutrition in organic- and non-organic foods is the same, so the real reason to invest in organic produce is to avoid pesticides, many of which can disrupt hormones and cause cancer, reproductive and developmental damage, and neurological problems.

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Beyond following this list, the best way to avoid pesticide exposure is to buy in-season produce from local vendors such as the farmer’s market or a farm share/subscription box, especially those that are certified organic.

  • Looking for a Boston-area farmer’s market? Click here for an interactive map. You can sort by organic, you-pick, geographic location, you name it!
  • Don’t forget the Boston Public Market is open 7 days a week starting July 18! The new hours will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays. Here’s a vendor list.

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If you aren’t familiar with the Environmental Working Group (EWG), they are worth getting to know.  In addition to their produce guide, I rely on their Skin Deep cosmetic grading database and their annual sunscreen guide when I’m out in stores. Now, they’ve released an app that consolidates those consumer resources so you can simply scan items as you shop to evaluate their ingredients and effectiveness. I’ve already downloaded it! And that’s saying a lot, because I have 8,000 Georgia photos on my phone, so nobody gets new real estate without REALLY being worth it. 😉 

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Have a wonderful weekend and happy (non-toxic) shopping!!

Grow Your Own Way · kid-friendly · Recipes

Strawberry Mini Muffins

It is peak strawberry picking season in New England right now, so I thought it would be a great time to test some new dessert recipes. I could never get bored of my two favorites — strawberry shortcakestrawberry-rhubarb crumble — but it’s always good to experiment with new baking ideas! Inspired by how much Georgia loved some tiny cupcakes a friend made last weekend, I whipped up a simple recipe for Miniature Strawberry Muffins during nap time last Sunday. It was a huge hit with both of us, and we do consider ourselves strawberry (and muffin) experts 🙂IMG_0405

I bought a one-pound container of strawberries and probably used about half, give or take. Georgia and I just sliced up the rest for a refreshing snack!

Strawberry Mini Muffins

Makes 24 muffins in about 45 minutes of hands-on time.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 stick of butter (unsalted), softened to room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 C (plus 1 TBSP) TigerNut Flour*
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, acidified^^
  • 1/2 cup of strawberries, diced very small
  • a pinch of salt

^^ Acidified milk is produced by adding lemon juice to pasteurized milk at room temperature, then letting it sit for a few minutes so that it appears to curdle. The milk isn’t actually souring, you’re just altering its taste and texture to mimic that of buttermilk. The ratio to use is 1 cup of milk to one halved lemon, juiced. In this recipe you can use 1/2 the cup to start and then add in a bit more if the batter seems too thick as you’re mixing.

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DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 375 and spray a miniature muffin tin with baking spray. Set the butter out to warm to room temperature.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer (or hand mixer) until combined, then add the egg.

Sift together one cup of flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the milk to the mixer on low.

In a small bowl, toss the chopped strawberries with the TBSP of flour.* Fold the strawberries into the batter.

Drop tablespoons of the batter into each muffin tin, filling them about 2/3 high.

Bake for 14-16 minutes or until they are turning golden at the edges and are springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and let them cool in the muffin tin for another 15 minutes.

If you used a non-stick pan in particular, your muffins should release very easily when you’re ready to eat them! Ours kept in the fridge for exactly one week.

*RECIPE NOTES

Why add lemon to milk in this recipe? Because I didn’t have buttermilk handy, and acidifying milk with lemon is the best way to achieve the same result. Buttermilk’s role in baking is to lighten your batter, as the acids in buttermilk “get fizzy” when they make contact with baking soda or powder. This reaction makes baked goods airy and tender, and cancels out the sour taste of buttermilk (or ‘soured’ whole milk). You can also add vinegar to milk to achieve the same effect if you have a recipe that calls for buttermilk and you have none handy. Or, you can thin sour cream or plain yogurt with water. All these options will play the same role in your batter, and are only slightly less creamy in texture than buttermilk would be.

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You can use any type of flour, but I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to try TigerNut flour along with a host of other organic & paleo-friendly products from OrganicGemini in Brooklyn recently. They are best known for their TigerNut Horchata, which comes in more than half a dozen flavors such as strawberry, chai and banana. TigerNuts are actually tubers, or small root vegetables. Nut-free and gluten-free, they make an appealing baking substitute for kids and classrooms with allergies! Next time I have to bake for Georgia’s school, this will be my go-to flour.

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Last note: adding flour to the strawberries before putting them into your batter helps keep the chopped fruit from sinking to the bottom as your muffins bake. This is a good tip to follow for any similar recipe.

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I really hope you enjoy this one! It made for a great daycare snack for G, and a “pre-breakfast breakfast” for me. (I wake up hungry but don’t have time to eat an actual meal and get G to school and us to work, so I eat my ‘real’ breakfast at my desk every morning). We finished the last two after dinner yesterday, and I seriously wish there were more right about now!

CSA · Recipes

Salad-spiration

Gotta tell ya, the heat zaps my appetite. Mark doesn’t like soups, which are my usual go-to for muggy nights when I don’t feel like eating, much less cooking. Things like gazpacho shooters, Sweet Potato Soup, and Fennel-Potato Soup with sour cream on top, Creamy Cauliflower Soup: yum! refreshing! But lately, I’ve been having a few light, creative salads instead. Start with your favorite greens and add a few of my favorite toppings, and you’re good to go. Some of my top combos:

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Greens topped with chopped tomatoes, taco strips, avocado, shredded cheese and cilantro, with creamy dressing such as Newman’s Southwest or Trader Joe’s Cilantro.

Avocado kale salad, shown with Lemon Pappardelle & Sweet Sausage. (Click image for recipe)

Kale, torn by hand and rinsed/dried, mashed with two ripe avocado and drizzled with two organic lemons. Excellent topped with watermelon, chicken, feta, tomatoes, parmesan, or walnuts.

Simple Caesar: 1/2 cup olive oil, juice of 1 lemon, 1 tsp mustard, 2 diced garlic cloves, squirt of anchovy paste (optional) and a splash of Worcestershire sauce (also optional). Whisk, and pour over chopped romaine lettuce. Top with freshly grated parmesan and homemade croutons if you’re in the mood.

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My Chipotle knockoff! I take kale, avocado, corn, pico de gallo, black beans, shredded cheese and a light vinagrette and toss it all together. Optional: add grilled chicken. By avoiding the sour cream and fatty dressing (not to mention the side of chips and guacamole) this stays refreshing and healthy.

The last one, I don’t have a good picture of. It’s a strawberry jam salad tossed over spicy arugula, and it is to die for!  I blogged about this when I was first getting started, so my photos are horrendous, but the result was delicious.

You take a green with some bite, like arugula, and match it with something tamer like mesclun mix to cut the sharpness (unless you really love straight arugula). Then you make a dressing out of olive oil (3 TBSP), balsamic vinegar (1 TBSP), and strawberry jam (2 tsp) plus salt & pepper, and mix into the greens, then top with fresh strawberries, goat cheese and almonds. I’ve always wanted to try tossing some mint on there, too! If you do that, let me know.

What’s your go-to salad for summer? Sometimes I just pick up a bagged version from Trader Joe’s or Target and space it over a few days, especially when I’m by myself for dinner while Mark is on nights. Luckily, these days he’s home fairly often in the evenings, and Georgia is over her 10-month sleep regression (as in her age, not the duration!) so we can even spend time together after supper. And you know what’s crazy? Even when she’s sleeping right upstairs, I still miss her. Because she’s awesome, and I can’t believe she’s only been around a little less than a year 🙂

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My BFFL! (that’s breast friend for life)
Drinks & Smoothies · Recipes

Creamy Strawberry Smoothie

Yup, another smoothie post! The baby is Boss Lady and she’s the one who keeps demanding new smoothies! How can I not comply?

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Creamy Strawberry Smoothie

Ingredients
  • 1 package frozen strawberries* (12 oz.)
  • 1 cup milk (regular, almond or coconut)
  • 1 frozen banana or a few scoops of yogurt, for creaminess
  • a splash of juice for tartness, your choice. I used cranberry.

 * add some ice cubes if you’re using fresh strawberries instead of frozen

Directions

Adding milk first then strawberries, combine all ingredients in your blender and process until smooth. Adjust thickness by adding more of the yogurt or banana if desired. Tastes like summer!

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PS: Is anyone else planning to go to the BlogHer Food Conference in May?

It’s being held in Miami and I’d love to go, and to make plans to meet up with any fellow bloggers or readers who will be there! Of course, this all depends on my mom or someone else being able to take care of the baby while I travel, since I’m pretty sure Mark is booked through May for this next theater season. Which is a good thing. I just … am still adjusting to factoring a baby into my long-term plans. And she’s not even here yet! But she will be, any day now…..

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Grow Your Own Way

Early Spring Gardening

What’s more fitting for the first day of spring than to get an early start on this year’s garden? After being a little disorganized and haphazard in laying out our garden last year, we have decided to take a more proactive approach for 2013, starting with this handy seed starter kit available through Amazon or Home Depot:

So far, it’s working great! Here’s what you do (cat assistance optional):

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The kit comes with these soil pods in each compartment. They’re designed to expand when you add water. 

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See? They more than triple in size.

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Even them out a little by hand.

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Add your seeds (we did about four per pod). The kit comes with a chart so you can write down which seeds you put in which compartment. Photo Mar 16, 5 51 16 PM

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Water again, then place the lid on the entire kit and in about a week you should see some sprouting!

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Give it a warm location outside direct sunlight, and await germination.

We are also working on some strawberries! They were chillin’ on the porch, but we had a couple freezing nights and had to bring them indoors to the kitchen window:

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The garden is Mark’s baby, and I feel very loved by the way he plans it out, cultivates it, and provides us with fresh produce all summer and fall. I really don’t have to do a thing except enjoy the bounty, and I’m not sure how I got so lucky! 🙂

Looking for more gardening resources? Check out homegrown.org, which is handy for all types of gardening advice, from planning your plot to making the most of what you reap through cooking, canning and preserving. Or, if you’re in the Boston area, visit Allandale Farm in Brookline for seeds, compost, mulch and more along with expert advice for starting your garden. TreeHugger also posted a cool article this week about high-tech indoor gardening tools.

PS — if you haven’t already, check out MiFilter.com! It’s a great new site where you can filter blog content by your interests, and they’re starting with food & drink. Check it out here or follow the button on my homepage (to the right).

Drinks & Smoothies · Recipes

Orange Berry Smoothie

Is anyone else out there feeling desperate for simple, healthful food after that holiday? Yeah, me too. As much as I love stuffing, casseroles and pie, they do take a toll on your energy level, complexion and waistline. Personally what I’ve been craving is fresh fruit, lots of water and NO bread! So I threw together a refreshing smoothie and a batch of low-fat breakfast muffins with broccoli and feta (which I’ll post here in a few days). Enjoy:

Orange Berry Smoothie

A refreshing blend of orange, strawberry & banana with coconut milk for creaminess.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup coconut milk (light)
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 banana, frozen or fresh

Directions

Blend all ingredients together and enjoy cold. Makes enough for two!

I used a frozen banana because I always keep them handy; a little over a cup of the OJ and coconut milk, because that’s what I had left in the jugs in my fridge; and a heaping cup full of frozen strawberries.You can use full-fat coconut milk if you don’t mind the extra calories, and of course you can substitute greek yogurt to make it extra thick.

This is SO fresh and tasty in the morning!

Drinks & Smoothies · Recipes

Strawbanana Spinach Smoothie

If  you know me, you know I always throw greens into EVERY smoothie I make, because…well, why not? It tastes great and it adds critical nutrients. This one is simple but delicious and makes a great breakfast drink.

Strawbanana Spinach Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 bag of frozen strawberries
  • 1 small coconut water
  • 1 banana, frozen (fresh is also OK)
  • handful of fresh spinach
  • 1 cup apple juice (add more or less to taste)

Directions

Adding liquids to the bottom of the blender first, blend all ingredients together until smooth. Enjoy cold.

This recipe makes enough for two good-sized smoothies that you can put in the fridge for the week. You can use more or less apple juice to your taste; it does add sugar, so you could leave it out and either add more coconut water to make up the difference, or just use plain old water. You won’t even be able to taste (or see) the spinach, but you WILL get all the benefits of this leafy green powerhouse: folic acid, protein, and calcium. It’s also iron-rich and packed with antioxidants and fiber.

dessert · Holidays · kid-friendly · Recipes

Strawberry Yogurt Cake

‘Tis the season for fresh strawberries! What better occasion than my mom’s birthday to try a new recipe? This moist cake is made with Greek yogurt, whole wheat flour and a delicious lemon frosting that comes together for a perfect warm-weather, light-eating dessert.

I found this recipe on the blog one perfect bite. It was easy, and gave me the perfect opportunity to use my new KitchenAid stand mixer.

To start, rinse and chop the strawberries. Set aside and preheat the oven to 325 F. Then, grease and flour a Bundt pan. Next, sift together 2 1/4 cups of the flour, all the baking soda and the salt, and set aside. With your mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the lemon juice and vanilla extract. Next, in thirds, alternate beating in the flour mixture and the yogurt, mixing just until incorporated.

Then, toss the reserved strawberries with the remaining 1/4 cup of flour. Gently mix them into the batter.

Scrape the batter into your prepared pan. Bake for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow cake to cool in pan for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

To make the glaze, simply mix the confectioners sugar and lemon juice until they form a paste-like consistency. Then, drizzle over the top of the cake and serve!

Since the recipe called for 8 oz. of Greek yogurt and 12 oz. of strawberries, I had extras of both because yogurt is sold in 7 oz. cups and strawberries in 16 oz. containers. So, I blended the extra into a smoothie.

Strawberry Yogurt Cake

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice, divided use
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-1/2 cups flour (I used whole wheat but you could use regular)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 oz. plain Greek yogurt
  • 12 oz. fresh strawberries, diced
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan.

Sift together 2-1/4 cups of flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice and vanilla extract.

In thirds, alternate beating in flour mixture and yogurt, mixing just until incorporated.

Toss strawberries with remaining 1/4 cup of flour. Gently mix them into batter.

Scrape the batter into your prepared pan. Bake for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow cake to cool in pan for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Once cooled, combine confectioners’ sugar and reserved 2 tablespoons lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Drizzle over top of cake. Enjoy!