Food Friday – Homemade Frozen Yogurt

It’s still January, so I know we’re all doing our best to maintain our New Year’s Resolutions and eat healthier.  I thought I would post my recipe for “frozen yogurt.”  I created this treat when Adam and I were detoxing last year and it’s not too shabby.

Before we go any further and your expectations rocket, I will tell you, this is a tart fro yo, but it’s all good for you stuff and it satisfies even my rather sweet sweet tooth.

ingredients

Ingredients:

1 cup plain yogurt

1 cup (natural) juice

2 frozen bananas (the riper the banana when frozen, the sweeter your froyo)

2 cups berries

(My favorite juice/berry combo is pom juice with blueberries and OJ with mixed berries or raspberries)

Put all those ingredients in your blender and pour into little freezable containers.  I like to use the 1/2 cup size.  Place in freezer and allow to set for about 24 hours.  One batch should make about 8  1/2 cups.

froyo

What do you make for healthy sweet treats?

Food Day Friday – Pesto is the Besto

I love pesto! I didn’t grow up on the stuff (unfortunately), but when my mother-in-law introduced it to me for the first time at the ripe old age of 20, it was love at first taste.

I use her delicious recipe.

Here are a few pesto tips:

1. If you have a Trader Joe’s nearby you, get your basil there. Their prices on basil, olive oil, and garlic will save you a lot of $.

2. You can refrigerate fresh homemade pesto for up to 2 days before it goes south, and you can freeze it and either defrost in the fridge or sink.

Recipe:

1. pkg Basil (2.5 oz)

2-3 gloves garlic

1 tsp salt

1/2 C grated parmesan cheese

1/3 cup olive oil

Blend in a food processor, and viola! (I am not a fan of the pine nut, so I don’t use pine nuts in my pesto).

My 4 favorite pesto uses are as follows:

1. Whole wheat penne pasta, pan fried chicken, cherry tomatoes, pesto (mix it all together and it’s perfect)!

2. Caprese Salad (cubed or balled fresh mozzarella, diced tomatoes/cherry tomatoes, pesto, and a little white balsamic vinegar all mixed together (Oh.My.Goodness)

3. Mozzarella and Pesto Stuffed Turkey Burgers (Just slice some cheese, slather on pesto, and grill or bake burgers as usual.

4. Pesto Orecchiette with Chicken Sausage, Green Beans, and Peas. I can’t stop making this recipe. Seriously, go make it tonight!

What are your favorite pesto recipes?

Food Day Friday – Chocolate Chip Cloud Cookies

There are days (and nights) when a chocolate chip cookie is a must have!  The other night was one of those nights.  One of my girlfriends came over and we baked gingersnaps and chocolate chip cookies.  It was divine!  My friend and I both enjoy cooking and baking, and we had a blast swapping cooking-making tips.

I like my cookies perfectly round, soft, and cake-like.  I am not a fan of the flat cookie, the greasy cookie, or the crispy cookie.

I posted a picture of my cookies on instagram and got numerous requests for the recipe.  My girlfriend who made the cookies with me proposed the name Chocolate Chip Cloud Cookies and I liked it, so it’s sticking.  I thought today on this Food Day Friday, I would share the strategy and the recipe for these sweet treats.

A few years ago, I was listening to NPR, and I heard a fascinating piece on “How to Bake the Perfect Cookie“.  The expert is a chemist, who has figured out the formula.  I realize how nerdy this paragraph makes me sound, but it was really fascinating to hear the science behind the making of cookies.  I was pleased during her interview, to learn that I was already doing many of the things she suggested to make the perfect cookie rather unintentionally.  So, between her suggestions and mine, here is the strategy for Chocolate Chip Cloud Cookies.

1.  Unbleached or bread flour will make your cookies more cake-like and fluffier.  I always use whole wheat or unbleached.  Whole wheat flour does work well with this recipe, it makes the cookies taste a little more earthy.

2.  Use extra flour.  I like to add flour until my dough doesn’t stick much to my bowl, almost like a bread dough.  For some, that may be too much flour.  Note: On the recipe below, I have indicated the amount of flour that I use to create my cookies.  Feel free to reduce to your preference.

3.  Butter not margarine for all cookies!  Margarine makes cookies crispier, while butter makes them softer.

4.  Make your cookie dough ahead of time and chill for at least 4 hours if not overnight. (Bonus, nibbles of chilled cookie dough taste better than room temp in my humble opinion)

5.  Use a cookie scoop, it saves loads of time.  I used to use a spoon and roll, but this Christmas, my sister got me this fabulous cookie scoop.  You scoop and then push the bottom of the spoon and you get perfectly rounded balls every time.  It works really well with the hard refrigerated, dough, too!

6.  Cool your pans after each use.  This is a new strategy to me, but my cookie baking friend suggested it.  Of course it adds a few minutes to your baking time, but you don’t get a single flat cookie, so it’s’ worth it!

Here’s my recipe:

1 C Butter (very soft)

3/4 C Granulated Sugar

3/4 C Packed Brown Sugar

1 tsp Vanilla

2 Lg. Eggs

3 1/4 C Unbleached Flour

1 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp Salt

12 oz pkg Chocolate Chips

Heat oven to 375.  Cream Butter, sugars, and vanilla until fluffy.  Add eggs.  Add flour, baking soda, and salt.  Then add chocolate chips.

Drop with cookie scoop onto cooled trays.  Bake for 9 minutes.

Holy Guacamole, It’s Food Day Friday

So once in a blue moon I’ll post some recipe here on the blog.  But there’s been no rhyme or reason to the food posts, and honestly, I keep forgetting.  So, here’s what I decided to do:  I’m going to have Food Day Fridays starting here on Mitzvot.

I can’t promise I’ll post about food every week, but when I do, it’ll be on Friday.  So to all my foodie friends, baking friends, and cooking friends, you’re welcome.  To those of you who have no interest in this, take a break on Fridays and we’ll see ya Saturday.

We’e talked about it before; my rocky relationship with food.  I have come to the realization that all of me; mind, body, and soul affect my relationship with God.  When I’m not eating well, I feel bad about me, and when I feel bad about me, I don’t do well with God.  Things can go to a dark place really quickly for me when my body is out of balance.

So for me, eating is spiritual, because all of life is spiritual.

No, I will not be giving a spiritual pep talk with every dish (breathe that sigh of relief).  I just wanted to explain why I think food fits here as we talk about everyday life with God.

A few weeks ago, I posted a picture of guacamole and some of my friends asked for the recipe.  Here’s how I make guac:

3 large or 4 medium avocados

3 TBSP lime juice

1/2 tsp salt

fresh cracked pepper to taste

3 cloves garlic finely chopped

1 small red onion (diced)

1 tomato diced

2 TBSP finely chopped cilantro

Step 1:  Pick the right avocados.  Seriously, this is the most important part.  The best way to pick is by feel.  Often, the ripe avocados’ skin has turned more brown than green, but that isn’t always the case.  Squeeze the little guy – you don’t want him to mash in your hands, but he needs to give a little.  A ripe avocado should feel like you’re squeezing a firm stress ball.

Step 2: Make the Guac.  Mash avocados (I like to use a potato masher).  Add lime juice, salt, pepper, and garlc and mix thoroughly.  Then add onion, tomatoes, and cilantro.  My Mexican friends taught me that if you really want your guacamole to look authentic, leave an avocado seed or 2 in the bowl, then everyone will know you made it from scratch.  Personally, I think this gets in the way of my chip dipping but to each his/her own.

Step 3: Snack your heart out.

Making guacamole is like making chili – everyone has their own take.

How do you make Guacamole?

Sassy Peppers

Do you have a favorite vegetable? Of course not, because they are all delish (except for cauliflower and lima beans, naturally). Now, while I could never pick just one, I do know that I love bell peppers. 

Recently I was talking with a friend who said she didn’t like peppers.  I felt like I was punched in the gut!  How can you not love this diverse vegetable?

The bell pepper is a sassy vegetable! It’s colorful, flamboyant, flavorful, healthy, and strong.  In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, peppers are a lot like the Olympics only you don’t have to wait until NBC deems them ready for you to enjoy (zing!).

Here are a few fun facts about me and peppers:
1.  My husband and I buy anywhere from 4-8 bell peppers a week and it’s rare we have leftovers into the next week.

2.  I like yellow peppers best raw

3.  “Peppers” are technically a misnomer, incorrectly established by Christopher Columbus. Seriously, did he get anything right?

4.  I love red peppers best grilled

5.  I only like cooked green peppers, I don’t like them raw, despite the various flavors of hummus you try and tempt me with.

6.  Speaking of, my favorite dip for bell peppers is black bean hummus

I eat peppers raw as much as I do cooked.  I love adding them to salads or eating them straight up with a good dip.  I love sautéing them with other veggies, or eating them with pasta or meat.  During the summer I enjoy sautéed peppers and red onion with kielba$a (the most gangster of the polish sausages).  During the winter I love to roast them with other veggies for a delicious and warm meal.  I think I love how much color they add to food as much as I do their taste.  They make meals so beautiful! They are to meals what sunsets are to days, what Shakspeare is to words, what Chick-Fil-A is to controversy.

(“I knew it”, you whisper with an accompanying eye roll.  “I knew she would blog about Chick-Fil-A at some point this week”.)

In honor of this veggie love, I thought I would share my favorite bell pepper recipe with you today.  It might be more of a fall or winter meal, but all I dream about these days is cooler weather, so cooler weather food is on my radar:

Veggie Stuffed Peppers
This recipe originally came to me from my friend Andrea (who should start a food blog) and I have adapted it a bit over the years:
Ingredients:
6 large or 8 medium green bell peppers
2 cups brown rice
3 cups water
1 cup milk or heavy whipping cream (soy milk does NOT work with this recipe)
2 cups finely chopped veggies (I use bell peppers of all colors, zucchini, squash, and red onion)
2 TBSP cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 -1 tsp pepper
Shredded mozzaralla cheese
 
Prep:
Cut tops off and clean out peppers.  Bake empty peppers in oven at 350 for 30 minutes to soften (no need to grease pan).  You can do this while your rice is cooking. 
Rice Mix:
Mix Rice and Water and cook until most of the water is absorbed.  For brown rice, this is about 20-25 mins.  Add milk, veggies, cumin, salt, and pepper.  Cook until veggies are soft and most of the liquid is absorbed. (This may take closer to 50 minutes. Be sure to take out the baking empty peppers after 30 minutes or they will get too soft).
 
Place a little cheese in the bottom of each pepper.  Add rice mixture.  Top with more cheese.  If you want to go totally wild, put a pad of butter on top of each pepper and a sprinkling of bread crumbs for a crusty top.
 
Bake for 20-30 minutes, until cheese is melted or slightly browned (whatever your preference).
What about you?  Are you a pepper lover or hater, or even worse, are you pepper indifferent? 
Today, my friend Annie and I are having a little healthy competition (see what I did there?) to see if our readers are pepper lovers or haters.  Please vote!  Pepper lovers, comment here, pepper haters head over to Annie’s blog and see if you agree.  And remember, a vote for peppers is a vote for sassy!

Beans Beans…

I love, love, love beans, especially black beans.  I could eat them everyday (and in the winter, I usually do).   And I know I’m not alone, my friend Molly just blogged about them, too.

Today, I wanted to share my favorite black bean dips, which are GREAT for hot summer days (like the ones we’re going to have this holiday weekend):

Black Bean Hummus:

My friend Janey gave me her rendition of this recipe a few years ago and I’ve adjusted a bit over time.  Here’s my version:

2 cloves garlic
2 (15 ounce) can black beans (drained)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Put it all in the food processor.  Garnish with paprika and cilantro (if you wanna be really fancy)

This is a fun twist on hummus, and it’s super low fat because there’s no olive oil and very little tahini.  Warning, it looks just like chocolate mousse.

Black Bean and Veggie Salsa (i.e. Texas Caviar A La Allison)

I found a Texas Caviar Recipe online, and it was absolutely life changing.  Sadly, I didn’t save the link, and later, I searched and searched and couldn’t find it. So this is what I created from memory (I know I’ve made some adaptations because I don’t have a perfect recollection).  If you made this recipe up, take credit and I’ll give it where it’s due!

Ingredients:
1 can black beans
1 can corn (shoepeg if you can find it)
diced bell peppers (red, orange, and/or yellow) and onions (Between 1 and 2 cups)
Diced tomatoes
2 Chopped jalepenos (seeded to your spice preference)
Chopped fresh cilantro (2 TBSP)

Dressing:

1/4 cup EVOO
4 tbsp lime juice
3 TBSP red wine or white balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic crushed
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt

Place Ingredients in a bowl.  Make dressing.  Add dressing to salsa and let sit for at least 2 hours to soak in flavors.  Serve with tortilla chips or over a bed of lettuce. 

Warning: It’s addicting!

What are your favorite summer bean recipes?

Summer Smoothie Science

I’m a smoothie fan year round, but for those of you who only like cold drinks in the summer, I thought I’d share my  favorite simple and clean smoothie recipes with you.

There’s a science behind my madness:

1 frozen banana for sweetness (I wait until my bananas are too brown for me to eat raw and then rather than waste them, I freeze them.  The older they are the sweeter they get)

1 cup frozen fruit

1/2 cup milk or soy milk (I prefer soy milk, it makes smoothies really creamy!)

1/2 cup all natural juice

____________________________________________________________________

1 TBSP flax seed (for intestinal health) *Optional

1-2 cups fresh baby spinach (for health – your smoothie won’t be as pretty, but you’ll be iron fortified) *Optional

_______________________________________________________________________

If you use this formula, you can’t go wrong!  Play around with fruit and juice combinations and then share with the rest of us what you create!

My favorite pairings:

* Blueberries and Pomegranate Juice

* Peaches and Orange Juice

* Strawberries and Orange Juice

My husband’s favorite pairing:

*  Mango and Orange Juice

Do you have a smoothie formula?  What are your favorite smoothie recipes?

Cheers to health and sweet mornings!

Fall Bliss

Fall is my favorite season.  I love the colors, the smells, the temperatures, the fashion, and the food.  I’m not typically an “outdoorsy” person except for during fall.  I love going for walks through crunchy leaves whilst drinking a warm beverage (like chai or cider).  Yesterday morning, I took a warm mug of coffee and my Bible to my front porch, and had a sweet time of rest and focus.

We’re only a few days into fall and I’ve already spent more time outside, broken out my scarves, and made gingersnaps.  Gingersnaps are my all-time favorite fall food so I thought I’d share the recipe with you. (c/o my college roommate’s mom, Candy).

GINGERSNAPS

 2 C. Flour

2 tsp. Baking Soda

1 tsp. Cloves

1 tsp. Ginger

1 tsp. Cinnamon

¾ C Butter or Margarine

1 C Sugar

1 Egg

¼ C Molasses

Combine dry ingredients.  Cream Butter and Sugar.  Add Egg and Molasses.  Beat well.  Gradually stir in dry ingredients.

Chill 4 hours or until dough is firm enough to shape. Shape into 1” balls.  Roll in Sugar.  Place balls 2” apart on Greased Baking Sheets.

Bake 350 degrees for 8-12 minutes.

What are your favorite fall things?  Can you share your favorite fall recipe?