Fruit

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

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

We Have No Bananas: Baked Plantains

Baked Plantains for Almond Milk Yogurt

Baked Plantains for Almond Milk Yogurt

Plantain — is it a fruit or a vegetable? Technically, it’s part of the genus Musa, which also contains bananas. However, plantains are starchier than bananas and not as sweet. A staple in Central and South America and the Caribbean, a popular way to serve plantains is as side dish of fried tostones or maduras. I’ve had them prepared this way once or twice. It’s basically a sponge for oil. Plantains have several health benefits as they are high in fiber and contain potassium; vitamins A, C, B and the minerals iron, magnesium, and phosphorous. Why ruin a good thing by cooking them in oil? Well, you don’t have to. Bruce learned about this method of baking plantains from Chef Ramses Bravo at the True North Health Center. It’s as easy as:

One: Buy a few plantains and let them ripen until the skin is completely black. You can start off with whatever shade is available — green (least ripe); yellow (almost ripe); black (ripe and ready).

Two: Place on a rimmed baking sheet or a piece of aluminum foil with it’s edges turned up. (You’ll want to catch every gooey drop of plantain syrup that oozes from the plantain.) Bake at 350F until the skin splits open (see picture below), about 15 minutes.

Three: When the skin splits and the contents start to bust out, remove the plantains from the oven and enjoy as is.

Baked Plantain

Baked Plantain

If  you’re looking to “complicate” your meal prep, you can top off your baked plantain with some non-dairy yogurt and granola as a breakfast treat; enjoy it as a dessert with chia pudding; or serve it alongside your favorite bean burger.

So healthy, so sweet and so simple. You have no bananas? Then try baking some plantains today. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

02 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

Smoothie Operator: Tropical Blizzard

Tropical Blizzard

Tropical Blizzard

I purchased a Twister jar for my Blendtec blender a few weeks ago, primarily to help process nuts for nut butters and non-dairy cheese. (A little pricey, but after the first batch of peanut butter I knew this was a great addition to my caboodle of appliances.) The Twister jar came with a little recipe book containing a few recipes for frozen desserts. The easiest one is made with frozen banana chunks. That’s it. With the aid of a special lid that has what looks like two paddles, frozen fruit is effortlessly churned into creamy, frozen desserts. Of course, I could not leave well enough alone and decided to freeze a bunch of fruit in small portions just for this purpose. I had an open can of lite Thai coconut milk in the fridge and decided to freeze that in an ice cube tray. And one afternoon a Tropical Blizzard hit our home. What went into my tiny Twister jar as frozen pieces of pineapple, mango, banana and a few coconut cubes scooped out smooth and creamy with just the right amount of sweetness. If you want to spike it up a bit, add a splash of rum or other liqueur. The recipe is simply a guide, so feel free to mix it up with whatever you happen to have on hand. I have to go now so I can clear out a shelf in the freezer for all of my blizzard ingredients. I wonder what tomorrow’s forecast will bring. Make yourself a Tropical Blizzard and make it a Vegi-curious day.

Notes: I don’t own a Vitamix so I don’t know how this will process. If any Vitamix owners try it, please let me know. I purchased the Blendtec on-line, but got the Twister Jar at Bed Bath and Beyond so I could use the coupon. I purchased the larger Twister Jar, not the Mini Twister.

Twister Jar

Twister Jar

Tropical Blizzard

Makes one serving

½ frozen banana, sliced
1 wedge of frozen mango, sliced
6 to 8 frozen pineapple chunks
2 cubes of frozen Thai coconut milk (or other non-dairy milk)

Place all ingredients into a small blender and process on high until smooth. Serve immediately.

27 May 2016

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