Beverages

Madness to My Method: Mint-Chocolate Smoothie

Mint Chocolate Smoothie

Mint Chocolate Smoothie

There’s a saying that goes “there’s a method to my madness” which means that there is purpose in what one is doing, even though it seems to be crazy. Today’s post is a peek into how my mind works, which I like to think of as the “madness to my method.” A recipe for a mint chocolate chip smoothie popped up on one of my Facebook groups a few weeks ago and it stirred up memories from when I was making my own dairy ice cream. Mint chocolate chip was one of my favorite flavors. Boy, could I go for some right now. So, the recipe that inspired my latest obsession contained fresh mint for flavor and a handful of spinach for color. I don’t know about you, but milk and spinach doesn’t do it for me. One of the first things I discovered about home-made mint ice cream, unlike most commercial ones, is that it’s not green. My approach was to create a smoothie that had a hint of mint and an ice cream-like feeling. I tried a version using frozen peas for what I thought would add a creamy thickness. (Yuk!) I tried using sweet rice as a thickener. I had to soak the rice overnight and steam it the next day, which proved to be too much advance planning for a smoothie. This also resulted in a more “gooey” and less creamy consistency. The chocolate chips were another problem. If I blended them with the other ingredients, they disappeared. When I added them in during the last few seconds they sunk to the bottom of the glass.The flavor of the fresh mint fell flat, so I sent away for a bottle of pure mint extract and put the testing on hold for a few days. While waiting for my shipment to arrive I couldn’t stop thinking about this recipe. What if . . . I just added the mint extract to my go-to cinnamon bun smoothie? What if . . .  I used brown rice instead of sweet rice? What if . . .  I just start from scratch? And the chocolate . . . what if I shave it and stir it in when ready to serve? By the time the extract arrived, I had it sorted out: almond milk, banana, dates, brown rice, oatmeal, mint extract and chocolate shavings. I tend to over-blend my smoothies to get them extra creamy, but that also makes them warm. I find that refrigerating them for a few hours allows the milk to absorb the starch from the oats and rice making for a thicker smoothie. A thicker smoothie helps the chocolate shavings maintain their buoyancy. All of this obsessing paid off with a Mad Good Mint Chocolate Smoothie that’s smooth, creamy, slightly sweet with a tinge of mint and specked with chocolate. Mix up your own batch of blissful madness today. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Mint Chocolate Smoothie

Makes one or two servings

1-½ cups almond milk
1 large frozen banana, sliced
¼ cup old fashioned oats
¼ cup cooked brown rice
4 pitted dates
1/8 teaspoon mint extract
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Shaved chocolate

Combine all of the ingredients, except the shaved chocolate, in a high-speed blender and process until smooth. Pour into a glass and stir in shaved chocolate. If you would like a thicker smoothie you can place in the refrigerator for a few hours.

05 Apr 2017

A Votre Sante: Holiday Nog

Holiday Nog

Holiday Nog

I’ve been of legal drinking age for almost 40 years and I’ve yet to have eggnog. While the thought of consuming raw eggs never appealed to me (the taste, the viscosity, the salmonella), a creamy drink to celebrate the season does sound like a nice idea. A typical eggnog recipe contains eggs, milk, heavy cream, sugar and bourbon or rum. Italians toast to one’s health with “salute” or “cin-cin”; the French say “a votre sante”. When I think about it, it seems a bit ironic to toast to good health with a drink that is anything but good for you. Anyway, the other day I made a pretty plain smoothie for Mom and sprinkled a little cinnamon on top. I poured whatever didn’t fit in her tumbler into an old-fashioned glass and had a taste. Hmmmm. I wondered if this is what the “eggnog experience” is all about. With that in mind, I added some holiday spirit, (in this case, rum) to my glass. Mmmmm. This certainly will make my season sparkle. I can’t call this drink “eggnog” because there are no eggs in it, so I’ll just call it “Holiday Nog”. The combination of almond milk, bananas, dates, almond butter, flax meal and rum whipped up nice and creamy with a subtle sweetness. A flurry of nutmeg added a delicate spiciness to my nog. This nog is so luscious you can serve it at a tree-trimming or holiday cocktail party, yet healthy enough to celebrate every day of the season. So, from the bottom of my heart (and with a clear conscience) I toast to your good health. Have a Vegi-curious day.

Holiday Nog

Makes about three servings

12 oz. soy or almond milk
1 large banana, cut into chunks (can be frozen)
6 dates
1 tablespoon almond butter
1 teaspoon rum extract or 1 Tablespoon real rum
1 Tablespoon golden flax meal
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg plus more for serving

Place all ingredients into blender container and process until smooth. Pour into old-fashioned glasses and sprinkle with nutmeg.

08 Dec 2016

Make It Merry: Stroopwafel

Stroopwafel

Stroopwafel

I suspect that most folks go to the liquor store just to “run in” and pick up a bottle or a six pack. Not me. There’s a local store that offers wine tastings on the weekends, so when I go I set aside an hour of my time and make it an event. On a recent shopping trip/wine tasting, I sampled a liqueur calledStroopwafel”. They even offered samples of the cookie that was the inspiration for the beverage. A stroopwafel (literally “syrup waffle”) is a waffle made from two thin layers of baked dough with a caramel-like syrup filling in the middle.It is popular in the Netherlands, where they were first made in the city of Gouda.The cookie is placed on top of a hot cup of coffee or tea so that the caramel softens. Before I stepped away from the tasting table I was already conjuring up this recipe in my head.(I also saw myself sitting by the fire warming my hands around a hot cup of spiked coffee and enjoying a crisp and gooey Stroopwafel.) I’ve made pizzelles before, so all I had to do was come up with a caramel filling. I recalled seeing a recipe for a vegan caramel sauce a few months ago that might work. (I can’t find the original source, so I apologize for not being able to give credit where credit is due.) The original recipe used a combination of oat milk and non-dairy yogurt, but I’ve had success using soy creamer. The recipe looks daunting, but it’s actually quite easy and fun to make. And when you’re done, you can put your feet up and enjoy a hot cup of coffee topped off with a warm Stroopwafel. To make it even merrier you might as well add a splash of the liqueur to your coffee. Make It Merry and make it a Vegi-curious day.

Stroopwafel

You will need a pizzelle maker to make the wafers and a candy thermometer for the caramel.

For the wafers:

1 cup all-purpose flour (whole wheat pastry flour)
1 tablespoon flax meal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup almond milk, warmed to room temperature
1 tablespoon flax meal
1/2 cup pumpkin purée
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons melted unrefined coconut oil

Whisk the flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl.

Place milk and flax meal in container of blender and let it sit a few minutes. Add pumpkin, brown sugar, coconut oil and process until smooth.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl and mix them until the batter is totally smooth. The batter should be the consistency of thick pancake batter.

Heat a pizzelle maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Place 1 rounded teaspoon (I like to use a melon ball scoop) of batter on pizzelle maker, close cover and grill until golden (about 1-1/2 minutes). You want the wafers to be a little bigger than the size of your coffee cups. Remove to cooling rack to cool completely.

For the caramel:

¾ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of water
5 tablespoons of soy creamer
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract or butterscotch liqueur

Note: The caramel will bubble fiercely when the creamer is added to the sugar syrup, so you must use a pot deep enough to prevent the caramel from boiling over and be careful to not get burned.

Place the sugar and water into a deep pot and cook over medium-high heat until the sugar melts and turns a light amber color (355F). Remove from stove and add the creamer, stirring vigorously being careful not to get burned by the bubbling caramel. Let cool just enough to either spread or dip the wafers. The caramel can be re-warmed in the microwave (about 5 seconds at a time) if it gets to thick to spread.

Assembly:

Place a cooling rack inside of a rimmed baking sheet. Take one wafer and dip it into the warm caramel. Place another wafer on top and place on cooling rack. You could alternately use a small spatula to spread the caramel on the wafers. You might run out of caramel before using up all of the pizzelle. You should get about 16 Stroopwafels.

02 Dec 2016

One Bad Apple: Apple-Pear Green Smoothie

Apple-Pear Green Smoothie

Apple-Pear Green Smoothie

You may be familiar with the old saying, “one bad apple won’t spoil the whole bunch.” Well, that thought came to mind when I put together this recipe. But in this case, it was a bad pear and another story is about to unfold. Sometimes I refer to myself as an “accidental gardener” when in fact I just might be a haphazard one. A few years ago we decided to plant two pear trees. Our property really isn’t situated for growing fruit trees, but we planted them anyway. We never sprayed the trees and are practically clueless when it comes to pruning them. I call this haphazard gardening because life has gotten in the way of my having the time to put the effort into figuring out how to care for fruit trees and then putting that knowledge into action. Despite a minimal amount of effort, the bartlet pears were absolutely gorgeous  last year — large, golden, free from bugs and blemishes and perfectly ripened. This year they were falling off the tree before they were ready and had a lot of worm damage. The pears were hard in some places and rotten in others. Why is that? Well, I hope to catch up on my reading over the winter. The pears that we kept were tasty, but a little hard. So now comes the smoothie. I had a few pears that I was about to get rid of and decided to disguise them as a smoothie. I used equal amounts of apples and pears, then added some sorrel and a few dried figs. (Everything was from our yard, except the apples.) Wow! This tasted really nice. The lemony flavor from the sorrel is a nice complement to the sweet apples, pears and figs. You can omit the figs if your fruit is exceptionally sweet and use spinach in place of the sorrel. This is a great way to enjoy apples and pears that have gotten lost at the bottom of your fruit bin and are approaching the point of no return. The next time life gives you one bad apple or pear, make this smoothie instead. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

`Apple-Pear Green Smoothie

Makes one large smoothie or two small, share-able drinks

1 large apple, any variety, cored and cut into chunks
1 large pear, any variety, cored and cut into chunks
1 handful of sorrel or spinach
¼ cup dried figs (about 3 to 4)
Crushed ice or cold water

Place all ingredients in blender and process until smooth. Add ice or water to achieve desired level of sweetness and consistency. Best if enjoyed immediately, but it can be stored in your refrigerator overnight.

13 Oct 2016

Late Bloomers: Sorrel Smoothie with Lavender

Sorrel Smoothie

Sorrel Smoothie

Somehow, I always feel like I’m behind the times. By the time I joined Facebook, everyone was already moving on to Instagram. What can I say? I guess I’m a late bloomer. And so it is with green smoothies. People have been drinking them for years and I’ve been resisting the trend. Something about fruit and kale just doesn’t appeal to me. So while I was cutting up a sweet watermelon this morning, I thought, “wouldn’t this make a nice smoothie?” And I thought about what else I had on hand that would complement watermelon. Hmmmm . . . . strawberries and pears. Do I dare try to make it a green smoothie? And then I remembered that patch of sorrel that was growing on the side of our house. If you’re not familiar with sorrel, it is a lemony-tasting green that’s used to make the French classic, Sorrel Soup. So I dared to go there and brought in a small bunch of sorrel. Since I was being a bit daring, I brought in a few sprigs of lavender as well. Wow! I could not believe how refreshingly tasty this smoothie turned out. It is just the right amount of each ingredient so that one does not over power any of the others and the hint of the lavender is lovely. I see many more Sorrel Smoothies in my future. So I raise my smoothie and toast: “here’s to all the late bloomers out there.” Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Sorrel Leaves

Sorrel Leaves

Lavender

Lavender

Sorrel Smoothie

1 cup frozen strawberries
2 cups frozen watermelon
1 large pear, cored and cut into slices (leave skin intact)
3 large sorrel leaves
1 sprig of lavender (leaves removed from stem) plus additional sprig for garnish (optional)

Place all ingredients in blender and process until smooth.

17 Sep 2016

T.G.I.F. Cherry Bomb Martini

Cherry Bomb Martini

Cherry Bomb Martini

I used to believe that if I followed a wholesome diet and included certain supplements and super foods that I would ward off disease. If I wanted to reduce my risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes or memory loss all I had to do was have more almonds, salmon, yogurt, berries, soy beans, fiber, red wine, etc. If I didn’t like or have time for these foods, I could get them in pill form — fish oil, probiotics, multi-vitamins, fiber supplements, co-enzyme Q-10, glucosamine-condroitin, and so on. I refer to this as the magic bullet approach. If I had steak for dinner, the cholesterol would be negated by a glass of red wine. What was I thinking? I made a major lifestyle change over three years ago by adopting a plant-based diet and so I don’t focus on supplements or super foods too much. After all, everything I eat now is a super food. I have, however, been looking into the health benefits of cherries, specifically tart cherries and their affect on inflammation and joint pain. I have osteoarthritis in my back and pain in my knees that has been creeping up on my body for decades. According to Drugs.com, sour cherries, because they contain high levels of the active ingredient cyanidin, might be 10 times stronger than aspirin in fighting inflammation without the risk of side effects. If it can’t hurt me and could potentially help me, why not incorporate tart cherries into my diet on a regular basis? I opted to order tart cherry juice as fresh sour cherries are hard to come by even when they’re in season and dried cherries lose some of their health-promoting qualities in the drying process. Not only are cherries good for inflammation, but they are supposed to help with fighting cancer, gout, heart disease, stroke, alzheimers and diabetes. I’ve been drinking a small glass every day. I’ll report back on my progress.

As it happens so often, I get inspiration from trying new food products and this cherry juice is no exception. As soon as I took my first sip I wanted to come up with a cocktail for it. The Cherry Bomb Martini as an occasional kick-back cocktail made with vodka, cherry brandy, tart cherry juice and a splash of orgeat syrup. (Orgeat is a syrup made from almonds that’s also used to make a Mai Tai. It’s tricky to find it in stores, so I made my own a few years ago and it’s still good. Click here for an orgeat recipe.) The cocktail is named after the Cherry Bomb explosive which ranges in size from three-quarters of an inch to one and a half inches in diameter. How can something so small pack such a wallop? I thought about all the healing potential of those tiny tart cherries and thought it fitting to name this cocktail after the explosive cherry bomb. Whether you drink your cherry juice straight up or dressed up, you’re bound to enjoy the healing benefits of this tangy tonic. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

P.S. In the middle of enjoying my Cherry Bomb, I rummaged through the pantry for something to pair it with. I pulled out a bag of Fig-Strawberry cookies that I recently picked up at Costco. Wow! These turned out to be the perfect complement to this sweet-tart of a cocktail.

Cherry Bomb and Fig Drops

Cherry Bomb Martini

  • 2 parts vodka
  • 1 part cherry brandy
  • 1 part tart cherry juice
  • Splash of orgeat or simple syrup (optional)

Pour all ingredients over cocktail shaker filled with crushed ice. Shake and strain into glass. Garnish with maraschino cherry if desired.

27 Feb 2016

T.G.I.F. Surviving the Storm: Orchard Grove Cocktails & Mulling Spice

Orchard Grove Sparkler

Orchard Grove Sparkler

Our Girl Caitie

Our Girl Caitie

T.G.I.F. Thank Goodness, It’s Flowing! Delaware is expecting the big first snow storm of the winter this weekend. Except for some snow plowing and shoveling, we’ll be spending a lot of time indoors. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade; in other words, let’s make it a party. I’ll be getting some DVD’s from the library, stocking up on healthy snacks and making sure we have a nice selection of beverages to keep us warm and cheerful. And we’ll be spending a lot of time playing with our puppy, Caitie. Around the holidays I cut out a recipe from a local paper for a cocktail called the Sparkling Orchard Grove. It’s made with an apple cider-orange juice reduction amaretto liqueur, sparkling wine and a sprig of rosemary. (I thought the rosemary wouldn’t work, but it actually gives a pleasant aroma to the cocktail.) I bet you could make a nice non-alcoholic version by using sparkling cider. While I was squeezing the oranges for the reduction I decided to save the zest to make a batch of mulling spices for hot apple cider. The great thing about mulling spices is that you can tailor them to your palate. I like mine with orange zest, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, allspice and star anise. (My tip for saving money on spices: look for spices in the ethnic aisle or Indian grocer as they’re less costly than McRipOff spices.) You can simmer the spices in red or white wine or cider then pour into a thermal carafe to keep warm.

Mulling Spices

Mulling Spices

Mulling Spice Jar

Mulling Spice Jar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what happens if it doesn’t snow this weekend? Well, I guess we’ll stay at home and celebrate the fair weather. Pick up some apple cider, sparkling wine and mulling spices and make it a Vegi-curious weekend!

Orchard Grove Sparkler

makes 8 servings

  • 1 cup apple cider
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 4 oz. amaretto liqueur
  • 750 milliliter bottle of sparkling wine (dry Prosecco)
  • 8 sprigs fresh rosemary (optional)

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat combine the cider and orange juice. Simmer until reduced to ½ cup, 20 to 25 minutes. Set aside to cool.

To prepare cocktail, pour ½ ounce (1 tablespoon) of the cider-juice reduction into a champagne flute. Add ½ ounce (1 tablespoon) of the Amaretto to the glass, then top off with sparkling wine. Lightly smack each rosemary sprig to release the oils, then place one sprig into each cocktail.

 

Mulled Wine or Apple Cider

  • Rind of 1 orange
  • 6 cinnamon sticks, chopped
  • 1 tsp. whole cloves
  • 2 tsp. whole allspice
  • 3 star anise, broken into pieces
  • Red and white wine
  • sugar (optional)

Using vegetable peeler, remove rind from orange trying to peel off just the orange part. You can dry this for a few days or use fresh. Combine with spices, place into jar and leave uncovered until rind dries out. When ready to use, place mulling spices into a tea infuser. Pour wine into sauce pot; add sugar to taste (1/4 to ½ cup). Simmer wine or cider with spices for about 15 minutes.

The amount of spices you use depends on your personal taste. This recipe will spice up about three bottles of wine or 1 gallon of cider. When making mulled wine, I like a mixture of blush and a red wine with sugar added to taste.

 

22 Jan 2016

T.G.I.F. Salted Caramel Apple Martini

Caramel Apple Martini Thank Goodness, It’s Flowing.

“I love this time of the year.” You’ll probably hear me say this whenever the seasons change. Perhaps it’s a day at the orchard picking apples, putting out a big pumpkin and Indian corn on the porch, feeling the cool air on my face or hearing the sound of crisp leaves under my feet, but there’s something exhilarating about autumn. These are some of the inspirations behind my posts, but some of my ideas are inspired in part by what I experience while visiting a favorite restaurant. Grain on Main opened up recently and has become our favorite restaurant in town. They have a great bean burger and a grilled veggie sandwich for me and Bruce and a lot of tasty choices for Mom. If you ever tried dining out with what I call “mixed”  company (i.e. herbivores and omnivores), you can appreciate this triumph.  A few weeks ago, I ordered their Caramel Apple Martini and knew I was going to mix these up at home. This martini is made with apple cider, caramel vodka, butterscotch schnapps and rimmed with caramel sauce. Yummmmm! I consulted my mixologist (aka Bruce) and we came up with our own, albeit “boozier”, Salted Caramel Apple Martini recipe. Since the caramel sauce was a little distracting (and contains cream or butter), I opted to rim the glass with grated dark chocolate and kosher salt. A word of caution — this martini has some kick to it, so let me tell you about the School Night version. In my early forties I went back to school to become certified to teach Home Economics. My time in the classroom as a returning college student was extremely rewarding. My time in the classroom as a teacher, sorry to say, was disheartening.  To get me through the week, Bruce came up with the School Night Cosmo; just enough booze to take the edge off, but not too much that I would wake up with a brain fog. They were very therapeutic. Since I starting following a plant-based diet, alcohol seems to hit me a little harder so there’s still a need for School Night versions for many of our cocktail recipes and I’ll share both versions with you. Take delight in all the splendor that autumn has to offer, shake yourself a Salted Caramel Apple Martini and make it a Vegi-curious day!

Salted Caramel Apple Martini

 (The measurements in parentheses are for a school night version)

For rimming the glass:

1 ounce dark chocolate grated

¼ teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste)

For the cocktail:

Crushed ice

2 parts caramel-flavored vodka (2 parts for school night)

1 part butterscotch Schnapps (1 part for school night)

1 part apple cider (3 parts for school night)

Using your finger, coat the rim of the glass with the schnapps then dip the glass into the grated chocolate-salt mixture.

Fill cocktail shaker half way with crushed ice. Pour vodka, schnapps and apple cider over ice, shake, strain into martini glass and enjoy.

 

12 Oct 2015

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