Roast and Toast

Hey guys. What’s that? Where have I been for almost 10 months? Wrapping up my 20’s, that’s what. And this weekend we hosted a “Roast & Toast to 30” party to celebrate me and my cousin, Ellis, turning 30. We roasted 400 Eastern Shore oysters , toasted marshmallows and, of course, raised a few glasses.

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A crowd favorite of the evening was an Apple Cranberry Sangria I had dreamed up that was festive, but refreshing; sweet but not sugary. Everyone kept asking for the recipe, but as usual I didn’t have one – I just sort of thought of it and mixed it up with what felt right. However, I think I can reverse engineer it enough to give you an idea so that you can mix it up for your next festive feast or casual get together (or Sunday afternoon).

Apple Cranberry Sangria

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Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of fresh cranberries
  • two fresh apples (we used Fuji)
  • 1 bottle of Dr. McGillicuddy’s apple liqueur
  • 1 liter Ginger Ale
  • 1.5 liter bottle of pinot grigio
  • 1 large bottle of cranberry juice

Method:

  1. A few days ahead of time, put the bag of cranberries in the freezer and chill the wine, juice and ginger ale.
  2. A few hours before you want to drink the sangria, mix it up in a large decanter (I have a big one I use for parties that has a spigot – it’s great. Every consummate hostess should have one). Cut the apples into rounds and put in first, then top with the frozen cranberries. After you’ve put in the fruit – no matter what size container you’re using – whether it’s a large pitcher or a decanter – fill it up with about 2/3 of the way with equal parts wine and liqueur, then top it off with equal parts ginger ale and cranberry juice.
  3. Mix well and let sit in the fridge until ready to serve. Then serve in glasses filled with ice and/or garnished with more apples and cranberries.

I hope you all enjoy this fun, fruity drink with your friends and family this holiday season.

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Protein Packed Chia Acorns

I do a lot of working out and a lot of lifting weights, and when you do that, you have to give your body protein when you’re done or else you’ll actually burn muscle instead of fat. Most of the time after I workout, I have a Juice Plus shake or smoothie, but sometimes I just want a quick little snack. I’ve also been researching and eating more chia seeds lately, in smoothies, juices, baking, etc.

Chia (yes, the same chia that is subjected to clay likenesses of Duck Dynasty characters’ live beards) is a tiny, edible seed that is derived from the desert plant Salvia hispanica. It grows in Mexico and is dated back to the Mayan and Aztec cultures who ate the tiny black or white seeds as an energy booster. Today, people eat them for the same reason and many others that we now know. The seeds are packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fiber, antioxidants and even calcium. Unlike flax seeds, chia seeds are a whole grain food that can be absorbed by the body in its seed form (flaxseeds can only be absorbed if ground – otherwise they pass through your system untouched). One ounce (about 2 tablespoons) contains 139 calories, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams fat, 12 grams carbohydrates and 11 grams of fiber, plus vitamins and minerals.

So it’s a great item to add into your diet whenever possible since they are so nutrient dense. There are also claims that because of their high fiber content, they can help you stay fuller for longer, and so for some people, perhaps, help them to lose weight. That’s a harder claim to prove, but it’s there.

So yesterday, after my workout, I decided to create a protein-rich post-workout snack that’s also just a tiny bit indulgent. You can find chia seeds at your local health food store and nowadays probably in your grocery store’s organic or health section. White or black chia are fine – I’m not aware of any particular taste difference, although there may be some. The chia doesn’t really affect the taste all that much in this recipe.

Protein Packed Chia Acorns

chia acorns

Ingredients:

  • 5 Medjool dates, pitted (yes, they have pits as my food processor discovered for me!)
  • 4 tbs of organic, low-sugar or no sugar peanut butter or other nut butter including almond, cashew – even tahini (sesame seed butter). PB can be creamy or crunchy.
  • 2 tsp chia seeds, ground (I grind flax and chia in my coffee grinder)
  • 1 scoop of Juice Plus chocolate shake mix or any other protein powder – I prefer chocolate flavored, but vanilla or unflavored is also OK. 1 scoop of Juice Plus is 38 grams – usually protein powders are measured by weight, not volume….soooo, you’re just going to have to sort of estimate there. I’d say the scooper that comes with it is around 1/4 cup?
  • 1/4 cup of dark chocolate chips or pieces
  • 1 tsp vegan butter (or real butter, if you’re lucky enough to have a body that can process dairy)

Method:

  1. Process the dates, nut butter, chia seeds and protein powder in a food processor until crumbly and mixed well.
  2. Using a cookie scoop, scoop out 10-12 balls and roll in your hands until they’re round and packed firmly. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  3. Microwave the chocolate and vegan butter in a heat proof glass dish for about a minute, on low, stirring with a silicon spatula about halfway through. If not completely melted after one minute, microwave for 10 second increments, checking each time to see if the chocolate is smooth.
  4. Once smooth, dip each ball halfway into the chocolate (or use a small spatula to spread the chocolate onto the protein balls) and place back onto the parchment.
  5. Freeze for half an hour, then put into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.

chia acorns bitten

These are really yummy, just a little indulgent, and packed with protein. However, I think if I make them again, I might try a different method. I was thinking it might be easier to take the processed mixture, pack it into a parchment lined brownie pan, melt the chocolate, then spread the chocolate over the top of the mixture, freeze, then cut into squares and wrap individually in the fridge. Probably not as cute as these little acorns, but maybe a tiny bit easier to make and store?

Anyways, give chia a chance. It’s not just for white elephant gift exchanges anymore.

Snow Day Soup

If you live pretty much anywhere on the east coast of the country above South Carolina, you are probably experiencing some snow today. In southeastern Virginia, we started getting snow yesterday afternoon and through the night. And if there’s anything that below freezing temperatures and a few inches of snow makes you want, it’s soup. A certain soup company has made like a zillion dollar or something on this concept. Ehhh?

Please don't sue me for the unauthorized use of this picture, soup company!

Please don’t sue me for the unauthorized use of this picture, soup company!

So last night I got the soup pot fired up, but unlike this creepy snowman kid, I did not turn to the standard snow day soup . . .

Move over, Chicken Noodle – there’s a new soup in town!

Ham & Cabbage Soup

ham and cabbage soup

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups of chicken broth (I used my homemade crockpot chicken broth)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 5-6 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 small head of cabbage, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of pearled barley
  • 1/2 – 1 lb ham, diced
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbs dried parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Add all the ingredients to a large, heavy stockpot, bring it to a boil, then reduce to low and simmer for 1.5 hours. Soup is ready when carrots and cabbage are tender and barley has fluffed and cooked through.

A quick note about the ham. You can use any kind of ham you want here – I made this soup because I had a little less than a pound of Honeybaked Ham (on the bone) left over from a brunch. I usually make this soup with a salted, country style ham to give the soup the saltiness I like. But if you prefer sweet ham and don’t need or want your soup to be salty, then use that. Another note that the cabbage, carrots and onions came from our Winter CSA that we are getting from Cullipher Farm. Yes, there is fresh, local produce available in the winter! In addition to those ingredients we also got potatoes, kale, turnips and collards in our box last week.

This soup is very filling thanks to the barley. Barley is a whole grain that is high in fiber, which means it helps with digestion, can lower cholesterol, keep blood pressure low and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Barley is more effective at all of these things than whole oats, so it’s a good substitute every once in awhile. For those with diabetes, pearled barley has the lowest glycemic index of all the common cereal grains (such as wheat, rye, oats, etc). This means that even though it is a carbohydrate, it won’t raise your blood sugar as much as other carbs. It’s glycemic index (when boiled) is 35.

Additionally, carrots, cabbage and onions provide a wide variety of nutrients from Vitamins K and C to powerful antioxidants that protect our bodies against a host of things, including cancer. So while chicken noodle soup might ward off a cold, this soup is fighting cancer. And with high fiber barley rather than high-glycemic noodles, to boot. So make a bowl and sit back and enjoy the snow.

Back with the Beets

Hey, so it’s been awhile. And I apologize. But I’m not going to pretend like it’s a new year and I’m going to be better about blogging and make resolutions or promises about this, because then we would both be disappointed. See, around May of 2014 I turned my freelance career into an actual business: The Content Chop Shop. And since then I have been overwhelmed and overjoyed by the amount of business I’ve had. Quite a bit of this business is blogging….for other companies. This leaves very little time for blogging….for myself.

But this past Christmas I was gifted a new kitchen appliance . . . one that, unlike the uninspired toaster or a microwave, has basically spawned a cult of loyal followers. That’s right – someone gave me a juicer.

Breville Brothers. AKA - the gateway between me and 90% of my food.

Breville Brothers. AKA – the gateway between me and 90% of my food.

Why Juice?

I’m not going to go into a long, scientific, Alton Brown-esque explanation here like I usually do, but here’s the gist of it:

It’s hard to eat a bunch of fruits and veggies. It’s much easier to just drink them and get the same nutrients in one glass of juice than five or six whole foods. 

Yes, ideally I would eat two apples, three carrots, a nub of ginger, half a kohlrabi, a pear and a handful of parsley, but I’m not going to, so instead I juiced them all and had that for lunch. Simple. I like simple.

I’ve only been juicing for a couple of weeks, but so far I love it! I have so much energy when I do and the juices are really so much more filling that you would think. I really did have that juice I just mentioned for lunch today and it kept me satiated until 5:30 when I had a handful of pistachios while getting dinner ready.

But as you can imagine, it didn’t take me long to incorporate my all-time favorite food into my new juicing obsession: beets.

Blood-Red Beet Juice Martini

beet juice

Ingredients:

  • 2 honeycrisp apples
  • one raw beet, scrubbed and trimmed
  • four medium carrots, scrubbed
  • handful of baby kale

Method:

  1. When/if possible, choose all organic ingredients listed above. Wash and trim any greens from carrots and beets
  2. Process all ingredients through your juicer
  3. Pour juice into a martini shaker full of ice and shake for several seconds
  4. pour into chilled martini glasses and enjoy!

So why the martini shaker? 

Because it’s cool. I mean, really – when juice comes out of a juicer it’s basically just room temperature, so if you like your juice a little chilled, shaking it in a martini shaker is actually a kind of brilliant way (if I do say so myself) to bring its temperature down without diluting it too much by pouring it over ice. This juice was just a bit sweet from the apples and beets with a nice earthiness from the carrots and kale. It was a really good balance and when sipped during dinner, kept my appetite at bay, meaning it kept me from over eating, which is a common problem for me . . .

So while I can’t commit to blogging on a regular basis, I can commit to juicing. Because it’s easy, it’s good for you, and the other people in my cult tell me it’s cool.

Summer Recipe Roundup

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked if I could post some fun, summer recipes. The problem is that because summer has just begun (or not even, officially), I can’t really start experimenting or playing around with summer recipes yet until the produce is available. I did get a pretty good haul this past weekend and hopefully will have some recipes to share with you at the end of the week, but for now, what I thought might be nice is to round up several recipes from previous summers, with links, so you can dive into the archives and go with something tried and true. So here ya go, Janessa.

Summer Recipe Roundup

Creamy Avocado Linguine with Meyer Lemon and Arugula
shrimp avocado pasta

Although avocados are technically in season all the time, this dish is decidedly summer. The addition of shrimp make it seasonal for the Eastern Seaboard, and it’s just so damn refreshing.

 

Dried Strawberries

Dried Strawberries

There are still some strawberries in the fields around here – if they’re still available where you are, a great way to save them is to dry and freeze them. Great on salads, in cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, etc.

Eggplant Rotini with Roasted Veggies

eggplant Rotini

This is one of my favorite summer recipes. Quick, fresh, easy and adaptable to whatever veggies you have on hand. Don’t go through the summer without making this.

Local Yokel Mojito
20130415-183149.jpg

Of course I had to add a beverage in, but mojitos, with fresh mint from your garden, are the epitome of summer sipping. My mint is already coming up like crazy, and if yours is too, then don’t let another Happy Hour go by without making this.

Roasted Beet Salad with Vinaigrette
Beets in vinaigrette

I just got a bunch of beets from the farmers market this past weekend, so beet salad with vinaigrette is not far away. This is by far my favorite beet recipe out there and a summer staple at our house.

Shrimp Ceviche
20130316-202832.jpg

Shrimp Ceviche is so fresh, light and healthy that it screams summer. Dish it out into martini glasses for a classy, but super easy app.

Summer Beef and Rice Skillet Casserole
beef skillet

This recipe was great and I’m furious at myself for not making it this past summer between our epic move and living in two different states. This is a great way to use up all that squash and zucchini that presents itself mid to late summer. It’s also great for a family or for a small crowd. This summer, I’ll be making it as much as is reasonable and/or until my husband starts complaining.

 

OK! There are so many more recipes, many of which are summer seasonable, over on the RECIPES PAGE, but hopefully this gave you a good start. This is such an exciting time of year when things start to pop up and the options are endless, so don’t let it pass you by – get out to your local farmers market, farm stand or local grocery and BUY LOCAL and EAT FRESH!

Like Father, Like Daughter

My dad makes this outrageous clam chowder that people will literally put in requests for. Sometimes in the winter my mom and dad will host an oyster roast at their house and my dad will steam oysters under a wet towel on the grill outside and we’ll stand around shucking them over plywood laid out on saw horses with big steaming bowls of this chowder. It is really culinary perfection – exactly the way I love to eat and experience food.

The chowder that he makes isn’t thick and creamy like up north, this is what we call “Hatteras Style” clam chowder and it’s really more of a soup than a chowder. It’s brothy, chunky and extremely peppery. For the longest time I assumed it was some sort of complicated recipe that I didn’t want to take on, until one night when I was pining for it, he said nonchalantly,  “all you need is a can of clams and some potatoes.” What?? Seriously??

Anyways, the simplicity of this recipe doesn’t make it any less amazing. Much like me, my dad doesn’t cook to a precise recipe, so these amounts were estimated by me until it looked and tasted similar to his. I will say, just when you think you’ve added enough pepper, add some more.

Bob’s Clam Chowder, Hatteras Style

Hatteras Style Clam Chowder

Ingredients:

  • 3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 4 medium red potatoes, diced
  • 2 small cans of chopped clams or 1 large can (depends on where you go – most grocery stores just carry the small, tuna can sized ones)
  • salt, pepper and parsley to taste

Method:

  1. Melt the butter in a large stock pot and add the onions and celery and saute until soft
  2. Add the potatoes, add salt and pepper and stir well
  3. Add both cans of clams – WITH juice, stir well
  4. Add 3 cups of water (or more depending on how brothy you want it)
  5. Bring to a boil, then down to a simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.
  6. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve steaming hot with oyster crackers

Hatteras Style Clam Chowder

This recipe makes about four hearty bowls. Double for more or triple for a crowd. At some stores you’ll be able to find the huge cans of chopped clams, which is probably worthwhile if you’re cooking for a small army.

 

Bison stuffed cabbage

Stuffed cabbage was not a part of my childhood growing up – it’s something I sometimes heard other people talk about or maybe even tried once or twice, but it wasn’t until I married my half-Polish husband and had “Galumpkis” at his family’s house in Ohio that I realized what I’d been missing out on. A few years ago I made the traditional Polish Galumpkis recipe and swore I’d never take it on again – it was a three page long recipe that downright exhausted me. But I found myself with an abundance of cabbage recently and decided to give it a go again in my own simplified version and with bison rather than ground beef or pork.

Pastured bison (which is really the only kind of bison you can buy) is leaner and healthier than beef or pork. Pastured animals are free-range, they eat grass and graze on open pasture, which means they move around, develop healthy muscles and fat and because they’re eating what nature intended for them to eat (instead of corn and antibiotics like mass produced beef), their meat is actually healthier and contains WAY more Omega-3’s and less bad (saturated) fats.

I also substituted quinoa for rice. We generally don’t eat rice – I don’t really like it unless there’s raw fish on top of it and there’s just not a lot of nutritional value. Quinoa is a whole grain with a higher fiber content and other nutritional benefits like a particularly high dose of antioxidant phytonutrients…..and other scientific sounding things that I will refrain from diving into.

And cabbage is good for you. Obviously. If it wasn’t, nobody would eat it.

Bison and Quinoa Stuffed Cabbage

rolls

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground bison
  • 1/2 a medium onion, chopped
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes, roughly chopped with juice
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 tsp oregano (dried)
  • 8 medium to large cabbage leaves
  • 1 15oz can of tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • Parmesan, shredded Swiss or Jack cheese (optional)

Method:

  1. In a large skillet, brown the meat and cook the onions – drain off any fat (there won’t be a lot – remember, this is a very lean meat), then stir in the tomatoes with their juice, the water, quinoa, 1/2 tsp oregano, and 1/4 tsp ground black pepper. Bring this up to a boil, then reduce, cover and let simmer about 20 minutes, until the quinoa is cooked (when quinoa is done, the grain sort of “pops” open).
  2. Meanwhile, trim the large veins from the back of the cabbage leaves so they rib is flush with the leaf. Use a small paring knife to do this. Drop the leaves, three or four at a time into a bot of boiling water for just 2-3 minutes or until they are just limp – then quickly drop into a bowl of ice water as you continue with the others. This is “blanching” and it retains texture and color:

    blanched cabbage

    Blanched Cabbage

  3. After all the leaves have been blanched, pull them out of the water and dry them off with a towel. Scoop about 1/3 cup of the meat mixture into the center of the leaf, fold in the sides of the leaf, then start rolling at one of the unfolded ends until its all rolled up nice and neatly and no meat is exposed. Do this to all of the leaves and set to the side.
  4. To make the sauce, combine the tomato sauce, maple syrup*, oregano, cinnamon and salt and pepper to taste in a small mixing bowl. Pour half of the sauce into a 2-quart baking dish. Arrange stuffed leaves on top, then pour the remaining sauce over the rolls. Cover the baking dish and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes. If you want cheese on top (I did a tiny bit of shredded Jack – it honestly made no difference), then top with cheese and bake for a few more minutes until melted, then remove from oven and serve!

rolls with fork

*I use a Virginia made maple syrup that is, without exaggeration, the best maple syrup in the world. It is made by two very special people, Pat and Valerie. If you can’t name the people making your syrup, then get on it (and Aunt Jemima doesn’t count). Now you can. You can purchase it through their Back Creek Farms website – they even did the work for me and tell you all about why maple syrup is actually good for you! While you’re there – check out their adorable cabin, which I have stayed in and can vouch for the fact that it’s one of the most adorable places on the planet.

maple syrup

 

 

 

Liebster Blog Award

Maple Avenue Juice nominated me for this blog award, which was great because I didn’t know about her blog until she nominated me, so now I have a new blog buddie who posts some pretty awesome juice recipes. Check her out.

liebster award

So, the Liebster Blog Award is actually not an award, but rather a good way to build community, connect with other bloggers and generate attention for newer bloggers. Here are the rules:

▪   Acknowledge the nominating blogger
▪   Answer 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you
▪   List 11 random facts about yourself
▪   List some bloggers with fewer than 200 followers that you really feel deserve a little blogging love!
▪   Let all of the bloggers know you have nominated them. You cannot nominate the blogger that nominated you!
▪   Post 11 questions for the bloggers you have nominated to answer

Questions from Maple Avenue Juice:

  1. What was the last meal you had?
    I just ate some left-over quinoa, black bean, avocado and tomato salad. It’s one of my favorite dishes.
  2. What are 2 or 3 your favorite non-fiction health/wellness books?
    Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver; The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
  3. What is a post on your blog that you are really proud of?
    Apparently my “One Pan Wonder” blog is kind of huge on Pinterest – who knows why – it’s definitely not my best recipe. The one I’m probably most proud of is my crock pot rib recipe, because let’s be honest – cooking perfect fall-off-the-bones ribs makes you feel like a badass.
  4. Who/What inspires you most on your ‘healthy living’ journey?
    The idea of a long, healthy life inspires me. There are so many places I want to see, so much traveling I want to do, so many experiences I want to have – all of those things are dependent on my health, so I take it very seriously.
  5. What is your favorite kitchen appliance?
    My blender. I have a Breville Hemisphere, which I highly recommend.
  6. Name your top 5 favorite fruits and/or vegetables?
    1. Beets (duh) 2. Kale 3. Cucumbers 4. Avocadoes 5. Tomatoes (obviously I prefer veggies to fruit)
  7. Where do you feel the most relaxed/still/at ease?
    The beach.
  8. What is your favorite holiday and why?
    I love Christmas because it’s the one time of the year I get to see my whole, huge family all in one place. That changes as you get older, and I don’t always get to see them every year, but when I do it’s magic.
  9. What is the most funny/silly/embarrassing thing you’ve said or done?
    One time I did “stand up comedy” on a tour bus in Mexico. Tequila and Mexican cowboys were involved, so…yeah.
  10. What is your favorite workout/physical activity/exercise routine?
    I love yoga, but can’t live without lifting weights and my elliptical.
  11. What is your main ‘healthy living’ goal for 2014?
    I’m going to Hawaii in November, and my goal is to climb the Haiku Stairs (aka “stairway to heaven“) in Oahu. It’s technically illegal, so who knows if I’ll get to – but I’m exercising in preparation for doing it – just in case.

11 Random Facts About Me:

  1. I have two pugs named Winston and Clementine. Very few people realize they are named after Winston and Clementine Churchill, who also had a pug named “Mr. Pug”
  2. I’ve known my husband for 25 years – we met when I was 3 and he was 5.
  3. I have a large scar on my left hand from cutting it while creating a robot when I was 9. Best believe I finished that robot when I got home from the hospital with over a dozen stitches.
  4. Although I love being a professional writer, I hate sitting still. My days are a struggle as I force myself to sit down to do the one thing I love to do when there’s just so much pacing to be done.
  5. Growing up I wanted to be an actress and sometimes still do, but am mostly glad I can go into Target without makeup on and no one knows who I am.
  6. I keep my friends forever – I have some friends I’ve had since (literally) the day I was born, some still from elementary, high school and college. Once I find someone I like, I cling on like a barnacle.
  7. I love to travel, but I consistently get home sick after four days. The only exception was when my husband and I went to Napa and there was just too much wine for anyone to want to go home.
  8. I am using this blog as a way to procrastinate on a very important writing project I have yet to begin.
  9. I love cooking for me and my husband, but cooking for any more than two people gives me major anxiety.
  10. My Meyers-Briggs personality type is INTJ, which is the rarest personality type for women – less than 1% of women fall into that type. (According to my husband, that actually qualifies it as a personality disorder, not a personality type…)
  11. I minored in Psychology in undergrad and if I had all the time and money in the world, I’d go back and finish a BS, MS and PhD in it.

OK! Now to nominate. So, I’m a really horrible community blogger and I really only read one other food blog very consistently, and that is Whisks and Words. Dana, no pressure! If you’d like to, please accept this award and answer the following questions:

  1. What brought you to cooking?
  2. What brought you to writing?
  3. When was it clear to you that you wanted to merge your two passions?
  4. What has been your best moment in food writing?
  5. What’s your best advice for others in the food writing “industry”?
  6. What is, hands down, your favorite thing to eat?
  7. What is, hands down, your favorite thing to COOK (I know that for me these are two very different things)?
  8. You were recently interviewing folks about food documentary “fall out” – what’s your personal philosophy on food, food safety and ethics?
  9. What can you never pass up at the farmers market?
  10. If calories were no issue, I would binge on ___________?
  11. Your favorite quote about food, cooking or eating.

Thanks again to Maple Avenue Juice for the shout out!

Green Goddess

The winter gets me down. I’m not a cold weather, snow loving kind of gal. I exist in a tiny percentage of people who actually don’t mind the swamp-like humidity of the south. I thrive in that. When the air gets dry and cold, my sinuses dry up, my nose starts bleeding and I get never-ending headaches. I also can’t sleep at night (or during the day) and, without exaggerating all that much, pretty much lose all of my ability to function. I also, believe this or not, lose my appetite. While most people seem to go into hibernate, stuff-your-face mode in the winter, I can barely think about food without just getting exhausted. These are dark times.

But. I have a solution.

Green Goddess Juice at I Heart Beets

Green Goddess Juice

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of fresh pineapple, chopped
  • 1/2 cup mango (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 scoop of protein powder – vanilla flavored
  • 3 large kale leaves, stems removed
  • 1 tsp fish oil (flavored is best here)
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 3/4-1 cup water

Method:

  1. Add all the ingredients to a blender. Use as much or as little water as you need to make it blend properly. This takes some experience and knowledge of your blender. I use a Breville Hemisphere blender – it’s on par with the Vitamix and is less than 1/2 of the cost. (you can watch an excellent review of it via America’s Test Kitchen on YouTube) It has a smoothie and a “liquify” option. I blend on the smoothie setting for 30 seconds, then on the liquify option for one minute. And there you have it – juice.

What’s great about this juice is that it’s covering a lot of bases for those of us who can’t seem to stomach the idea of solid food. It’s got iron, potassium, protein, complex carbs, vitamin C, Vitamin D (via the fish oil, which is what we are all lacking in the winter and need so desperately) and a whole host of other nutritious stuff. When I make this in the morning, I don’t even need coffee. *gasp* right??

Now, I’m a firm believer in equipping your kitchen with the right tools. I don’t believe in unitaskers or novelty kitchen items, ie, the “butter cutter” – because……you can’t just cut butter with a knife???

butter cutter

So what I’m saying is, if you don’t have a quality blender, buy one. I suffered through too many years of trying to make smoothies and juices in a sub-par blender. My mom and dad got me the Breville this year for my birthday when my rinky-dink “blender” finally offed itself by wrapping its rubber stopper around its own blades in the middle of blending a protein shake (it knew its time was coming to an end one way or another – for this, I respect it for going out on its own terms).

I would never shell out the $450 or $700 for a Vitamix and I would never recommend anyone else do it either, so whenever I’m looking for a good, quality, long-lasting piece of equipment for my kitchen, I always reference America’s Test Kitchen first – they have dozens of chefs who are doing the testing, breaking, and upfront buying for you.  Although the Breville was still a $200 investment (thanks, mom and dad!), I firmly believe it’s worth it in the long run to avoid the hassle, frustration, breaking, replacing and everything else that comes with an inferior product. Plus, it’s winter – I can barely remember what day of the week it is and whether or not I fed my dogs yet today, let alone deal with a crappy blender.

EDIT AND UPDATE: It should be noted that the kale here came from a US Certified Organic Farm on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, Mattawoman Creek Farms. Kale is one of the “dirty dozen” – 12+ fresh produce items that contain the highest amounts of chemical pesticide and herbicide residue. Buying these 12 items as certified organic from the grocery store is a good idea. Or if you buy your produce locally, just ask your farmer what their growing methods are to ensure you’re not reversing the good effects of the produce with the negative effects of chemicals. For those who don’t want to splurge on local or  organic produce, get your priorities straight, then take a look at the “clean 15” list of traditionally grown produce that suffers the least chemical compromise.

The Secret to Life is Soup

Soup is the secret to life because it’s simple, hearty, enjoyable, shareable, saveable, warming, nurturing. Nobody ever wrote Chicken Satay for the Soul and nobody ever will. The secret to life is something that is easy to make, something that can be done while you live your actual life, something that can bring people together and then when enjoyed later can bring them right back to that same place.

Soup is particularly great this time of year because it can be a breeze to make for a big crowd, then you save your left overs for when you’re too busy to cook one night (you know, like, every night until January). This soup is one of my favorites that I’ve been making for years because it is SO SO simple, low-cal/fat and stores really well. You could even make big batches, freeze, then thaw as needed.

So make this soup so you can stop standing over the stove, worrying about what you’re making/missing/buying/gifting/planning/doing and just go sit by the fire or the tree or someone you love and share some soup.

Stupid Simple Salsa and Black Bean Soup

black bean soup 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup of salsa
  • 1 cup of vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt, pepper and cayenne pepper, to taste
  • Optional toppings: plain Greek yogurt, cilantro, chopped onions, sliced green onions or chives

Method:

  1. Combine the beans, salsa and broth in a blender and pulse until smooth, or put all the ingredients it a stock pot and blend with an immersion blender.
  2. Add the spices to taste and allow soup to warm to a simmer.
  3. Reduce heat and let warm on the stove top for 20-30 minutes to let the flavors combine.
  4. Serve warm with optional toppings.

black bean soup 2