Sweet Spinach Smoothie

 

Sweet Spinach Smoothie

Sweet Spinach Smoothie

Looking ahead to spring you may be thinking , as I am, that you’d like to rid yourself of those few pounds that somehow sneaked on when you weren’t looking.  Ah, yes, this has been a winter for comfort foods, and for some reason comfort foods are the ones that put on the pounds.

One way to lose enjoyably(?) is to sip away the pounds.  Juice cleanses are not the best idea, in my opinion, but a healthy nutritious smoothie just may be the best kept secret around.  This blended beverage offers you tons of nutrition as well as protein and fiber to help keep you full from breakfast to lunch, or from lunch till dinner.

I guess I was a latecomer in discovering the goodness and benefits of smoothies.  But now that I’m on board I’ve been having one for breakfast, and one for lunch.  Then a regular meal for dinner, being careful to watch portion size, and with  carefully selected complex carbohydrates.

I’ve been experimenting with a variety of combinations that include both fruits and green vegetables.  Protein, fiber, and calcium make this green smoothie a filling, fat-burning meal.  It’s green color comes from spinach, but it also includes a pear, grapes,  some avocado, and Greek non-fat yogurt.    I must admit, I was hesitant about “drinking spinach”, but it’s really good.  I like this one very much.

SWEET SPINACH SMOOTHIE

Yield: 1 large serving, or 2 smaller onesIMG_9268

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups spinach leaves, chopped
  • 1 ripe pear, cored and seeded, cut into pieces
  • 15 red or green grapes
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped avocado
  • 1 – 2 T. fresh lime juice
  • 6 oz. plain, non-fat Greek yogurt

Directions:

Put all the ingredients into a blender container and liquify on high until smooth and thick.   I put the yogurt in first, as my blender needs something soft to help it get going.

 

Put everything in the blender and whiz to liquify.

Put everything in the blender and whiz to liquify.

This is thick and satisfying.

This is thick and satisfying.

SOURCE:  My own combination

 

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Warm Apple Pie Cocktail

Warm Apple Pie Cocktail

Warm Apple Pie Cocktail

Today I’ve got a delicious fall cocktail for you.  It’s perfect for the up-coming holidays or any special celebration.

These fabulous cocktails are like warm apple pie with all the best flavors of fall poured into a glass and topped with whipped cream and cinnamon.  You’re going to love them.  They do include a splash of rum, which could be left out for kids and others who prefer it plain.IMG_8685

Most everyone loves warm apple cider with fall spices. It is such a great fall and winter drink; I don’t think you can go wrong with this one.  If making this for a large group, you could make the basic spicy cider in the crockpot which would keep it warm, and add the rum to individual glasses as served, or leave it out, your choice.

With one of these in hand you just might want to sit by the fire all day and keep on sipping.

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WARM APPLE PIE COCKTAIL

Yield:  Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups apple cider
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 8 whole allspice
  • 1 cup Rum
  • whipped cream and ground cinnamon for garnish

Instructions:

1.  In a heavy sauce pan, add apple cider, cinnamon sticks, cloves and allspice.  Bring to a gentle boil, lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Strain out the spices and stir in the rum.

2.  Pour into glasses and top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.  Serve immediately and enjoy!

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 Mr. D. and I enjoyed ours while trimming our Christmas Tree.

SOURCE;  Adapted from  Martha Stewart Living

Coconut Oil…the next best thing?

Coconut Smoothie

Coconut Smoothie

It seems as if coconut oil is taking the grocery stores by storm.  It’s so rich, versatile, and vegan.  Has it become one of your kitchen staples yet?

It’s popularity seems to be well-deserved–after all, it’s as rich as butter (without the cholesterol) and as versatile as vegetable oil.  And now we can find the good stuff in our grocery stores:  organic, non-hydrogenated varieties.  It’s pressed from the raw coconut, so the oil has a subtle nutty flavor, and it’s a wonderful substitute for butter in baked goods.  You can also use it in cooking for a flavor boost in savory dishes as well.

Did you know that coconut oil turns to liquid between 75 and 81 degrees F., so its consistency may change from day to day. To maintain its solid, spreadable state and keep it from turning rancid, store it in a cool, dark cupboard.

This natural moisturizer is going gangbusters in beauty products as well.  Organic sugar mixes with organic coconut oil to make a wonderful exfoliating body scrub.  Try putting a small amount of coconut oil into the palm of your hand, let it melt, then add a few grains of sugar and mix in.  Use as a facial scrub.  After rinsing well, your face will feel very soft and smooth.

Crack the coconut trend, and keep an eye out in stores where beauty products are sold.  I’ve seen a nourishing coconut oil body mist that you can spritz on after a shower, or add some to your bath for a rich soak.  Coconut water can also be found in body cleansers; and coconut oil and shea butter make a soothing, smoothing skin softener.

I have been using coconut oil at night as a hand moisturizer.  At the first sign of cool weather my hands become very dry, and the skin around my nails develops painful cracks.  As I prepare for bed, I rub coconut oil generously on my hands and nails, then put on cotton gloves to sleep in.  In the morning my hands are soft, and in repeating this ritual, I believe my hands are improving and are less dry and cracked.

I came across this recipe for a smoothie that incorporates coconut oil… you might want to try it.   The ingredients are nourishing and filling.  I made it this weekend for lunch with some fresh fruit.  Easy, and delicious!!

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COCONUT-OAT SMOOTHIE

Yield:   Makes 1 servingIMG_8557

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats ( or quick oats)
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt, plain
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup ice

Directions:

1.  In a blender container, combine banana, oats, yogurt, coconut oil, honey, orange juice, and ice.   Puree until smooth.  Transfer to a tall glass and drink immediately.

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SOURCE:   M.Stewart Living

 

Watermelon Lemonade

Watermelon Lemonade

Watermelon Lemonade

Can we talk about lemonade today?  I got a bargain on lemons;  gi-gan-tic lemons, and you know that saying—“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade”.    So I did!

At some point during this holiday weekend you are probably going to be drinking something cold and refreshing.  This lemonade is just a little bit different, and would be perfect to serve either with or without some “spiritus fruementi” added.

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Has anyone noticed that if you reverse just one syllable, lemonade becomes melonade.   Melonade, a punchy, pink, seedless, cool, refreshing beverage that celebrates the best of the season.   If you’re planning a celebration, or even if you’re not, you will want to make this icy, pink drink.  It’s so cool!

Icy cold and refreshing!

Icy cold and refreshing!

I know you’re thirsty, so let’s make some.  Here’s how…..

Beautiful big lemons, produced lots of juice.

Beautiful big lemons, produced lots of juice.

WATERMELON LEMONADE

Yield:   makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 lemons, quartered
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 medium watermelon, rind removed, flesh cut into chunks
  • 1 cup vodka (optional)

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Directions:

1.  Squeeze lemons into a large pitcher;  add the squeezed lemon quarters. (Alternately, cut lemons in half, and squeeze, then cut halves into smaller wedges.)  Add mint and sugar;  mash with a wooden spoon until mint is bruised and sugar is dissolved.

2.  In a blender, puree watermelon in batches until smooth; pour through a fine-mesh sieve into pitcher with lemon mixture.  (You should have about 8 cups juice.  Stir to combine.   Refrigerate, covered, up to 3 days.   Before serving, add vodka, if using;  serve over ice.

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SOURCE:   MarthaStewart.com

 

Skinny Chocolate Strawberry Frappé

Skinny Chocolate Covered Strawberry Frappé

Skinny Chocolate Covered Strawberry Frappé

Has anybody besides me come to the realization that it’s time to get serious about shedding some pounds and inches in order to fit into the summer wardrobe.  I mean really serious.   😦  I thought I would begin with this beverage which is delicious, but low in calories, fat and carbs.  The end of this post will give you the specifics on that.  You will be amazed.

This yummy, frappuccino is really rich and flavorful.  It’s a copycat of the McDonald’s one with a fraction of the cost and calories of the original.  Full of real fruit and chocolate, this is one drink you won’t want to miss! It reminds me of chocolate covered strawberries.

Before making it I decided to research the original Strawberry Frappé to find out what it was made of.  Before too long, I learned that this beverage had earned many negative reviews.  Two things became glaringly apparent :  the strawberry flavor tasted completely artificial; and chunks of chocolate clogged the straw, making it impossible to drink.

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Ahaa!  I knew I could do better than that.  So, I pulled my trusty blender out and started measuring out ingredients.  Mr. D. was at home and he was willing to be my official “taste tester”.   I have to admit my first go at it left something to be desired…it was very unsweet with a prominent chocolate flavor.  I remedied that by adding more strawberries, and more sweetener.  My choice, and what I had on hand, was agave syrup.   I added about 2 Tablespoons to each drink, and this was adequate for us.

You can whip up this ridiculously easy recipe with only 5 ingredients:   dark, strong coffee, milk, cocoa powder, strawberries, and some sweetener.  You probably have all of these in your pantry -and fridge- already!

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I strongly recommend using frozen strawberries instead of fresh ones.  Fresh strawberries, with their juice, will add too much liquid to the frappuccino.  Frozen strawberries are generally picked at their peak of ripeness and flash frozen which preserves their bright fruity taste.  In addition to flavor, the frozen strawberries also act as ice and help thicken the drink without watering down the taste.

To fix the second problem of chocolate chunks clogging the straw, I opted to use cocoa powder instead of pieces of chocolate.  It still adds a whole lot of chocolate flavor, but as a fine powder, it won’t plug up the straw.  Cocoa powder also has a greatly reduced number of calories and fat without sacrificing any flavor.

SKINNY CHOCOLATE COVERED STRAWBERRY FRAPPÉ

Yield:  Makes about 16 ounces.  Enough for 1 hugh drink or 2 smaller ones.

Ingredients:IMG_6710

  • 3/4 cup double-strength coffee, chilled
  • 1/2 cup skim milk (Any kind of milk will do, I used almond milk.)
  • 1  1/2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup frozen unsweetened strawberries
  • 1/2 cup ice cubes
  • sweetener to taste  (agave, honey, etc.)

Instructions:

1.  Add only the coffee, milk, and cocoa powder to your blender container to begin.  You want to thoroughly mix those together before adding the frozen ingredients, so the cocoa gets uniformly mixed in, avoiding any little pockets of cocoa powder.

2.  Pour in the frozen strawberries and ice, and any sweetener desired, and blend till smooth.  Pour into a large glass and serve with a straw.   YUM!

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Here’s the hugh payoff—-when compared with McDonald’s, my version contains 621 fewer calories, 26.6 fewer grams fat, 89.9 fewer grams of carbs, and 89.8 fewer grams of sugar.

I am also going to keep this recipe in mind when hot weather arrives, and make it to pour into my popsicle molds.  I think this is going to be a delicious summertime cool-down treat.

 

 

Homemade Limoncello

Limoncello

Limoncello

Limoncello, that delightful after dinner drink, is generally served in Italy as a digestive. Limoncello was first made on Italy’s Amalfi coast, with several different villages and islands claiming it as their own, from Sorrento to Capri.  Some say it was first served as a special treat to guests by wealthy families of Sorrento.  Others say it dates back much further  to monks -as was Chartreuse, in France–or to fishermen who drank it to ward off the cold.  An Italian businessman trademarked the name in 1988.

I love to have a tiny glass of it after a big meal for its digestive benefits, but also because I love its citrusy flavor.  Most bottles of this liqueur are quite pricy, so when I saw this recipe for making it at home in my local newspaper, I decided to try making my own.  For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you probably know that I have been successful at making various flavors of fruit liqueurs.  I make them when the fresh fruits are in season and save them to give as Christmas gifts. Some of the flavors I’ve had success with are peach, rhubarb, orange, cranberry, raspberry,  and mixed berries.  Therefore I was eager to try out this recipe for lemon.

Making liqueur at home is so simple, really.  The essential ingredients are: a large glass jar for soaking the fruit, vodka, fruit of choice, and a simple sugar syrup.  That’s it!   Once made, a liqueur is lovely on its own to sip on, but can also be used in various cocktails especially flavored martinis.  The same is true of Limoncello.  It is so good ice cold on its own, in a lemon drop martini, mixed with sparkling wine, or poured over vanilla ice cream as a parfait.

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Yield:  Makes about 7 cups.  Serving size is 1/4 cup.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups clear grain alcohol, such as vodka
  • 1/2 cup lemon rind strips (about 7 lemons)**
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar

**Peel the lemons carefully with a potato peeler, taking care not to include the white pith which is bitter.  After this is done, I like to juice the lemons, freeze the juice in an ice cube tray, then store the cubes in a zip-lock bag in the freezer for when I need lemon juice.  Most ice cube trays hold about 2 Tablespoons liquid/cube.  Adding a cube of lemon juice into whatever you’re cooking is easy, and they melt quickly.

Directions:

1.  Pour the vodka into a large glass jar.  Something bigger than the bottle it came in.  You can save that bottle, remove the labels, and use it to store the completed limoncello.

2.  Add the lemon rinds to the vodka.  Cover the jar, and place in a cool, dark place for at least a week.  Shake the jar at least once a day.  The rind will turn white as the lemon oils are absorbed into the vodka.

3.  Strain the mixture through a fine sieve; discard the solids, and pour the vodka back into the jar.  Set aside while you make the sugar syrup.

4.  Make the simple syrup:  Place the 3 cups water and 1 1/2 cups sugar in a medium sauce pan.  Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and cool to room temperature before adding to vodka.  The color of this mixture will not be as yellow as the commercial product, but you may add a few drops of yellow food color if you wish.

5.  Bottle as desired with a good seal.  Label, and store in the refrigerator or freezer for up to 1 year.  Serve chilled and enjoy!

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Please stop back next week when I’ll be sharing a recipe for cookies that use some of this limoncello for flavoring.  You won’t want to miss those!!

SOURCE:  old newspaper clipping from The Hartford Courant

Vietnamese Iced Coffee

Vietnamese Iced Coffee

Vietnamese Iced Coffee

During the hot summer months, one of my very favorite beverages is iced coffee.  I never mind if there is morning coffee left over, because I know I will enjoy it later in the day over ice with a little cream added.  I never gave a thought to the possibility that there might be another way to make iced coffee.  Therefore when this little recipe was delivered to my e-mail inbox I took notice and decided to try it out.

The coffee called for is a strong chicory coffee, –not sure what the connection is with Vietnamese.  Anybody know?   Anyhow, I happen to have in my cupboard a can of Cafe du Monde, a strong chicory coffee that is served in New Orleans at Cafe du Monde.  Happily I had what I needed and could make it without a trip to the market for some necessary ingredient.  I made it on the weekend when Mr. D. would be home to share it with me because the recipe makes about 6 cups, counting all the ice you put in.

To make this short story  shorter:  we liked it,  it was cool and refreshing,  and after drinking it we were WIRED for the rest of the day—-got lots done!!!!       If you want a “pick-me-up”,  this could be it.

VIETNAMESE ICED COFFEE

Cafe du Monde from New Orleans, LA.

Cafe du Monde from New Orleans, LA.

Yield:   6 cups, about 48 oz.

  • 2 cups strong, brewed chicory coffee  (such as Cafe du Monde)
  • 1/2 cup half and half or light cream
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 cups ice

To Make:

In a blender, combine the coffee, half and half and condensed milk.  Add the ice.  Blend until smooth and frothy, about 30 seconds.  Transfer to tall glasses and serve immediately.

Strong coffee flavor, cool and refreshing!

Strong coffee flavor, cool and refreshing!

SOURCE:   Martha Stewart

Knock-off Bailey

Homemade Irish Cream

Homemade Irish Cream

What better way to start the first week of March than with a recipe for Irish Cream Liqueur.  I for one love Bailey’s Irish Cream in my coffee.  This is not an indulgence I have often because of the added calories.   The recipe for the original B.I.C. is closely guarded but I love the fact that people try to duplicate some of these products and come pretty close to the originals.  That gives us at home the opportunity to try them out, maybe tinker with the recipe a little and even improve upon it, or match it to our own taste buds.  This being the month for all things Irish, I decided to try making my own Bailey’s.

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If you have never had Bailey’s, it is a creamy, mocha-kissed, drink that can be enjoyed poured over ice, or added to coffee.  It is seriously delicious.  One sip will leave you wanting more, and before you know it, a bottle full will be gone.  So it pays to know how to make your own.  It is very easy to make– takes about 30 minutes–from readily available ingredients. It contains none of the artificial flavorings or coloring agents or preservatives used in commercially prepared Irish creams. Serve or give this to someone you know and make them very happy.  Irish eyes will be smiling when they’re drinking this!

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Some recipes call for mixing all the ingredients in a blender, but made that way it doesn’t stay thick very long. This recipe, on the other hand, takes a  slower approach, warming it over low heat.  As the cream heats up the mixture thickens and seems to remain that way a longer time.  Also it is important to use a good quality Irish whisky.  It’s flavor comes through in the finished drink.  Using an inexpensive whisky, will not give you the same flavor.   Please be aware of the alcohol content in this drink.  If it is too strong for your taste, feel free to decrease the amount of alcohol called for.

IRISH CREAM LIQUEUR

YIELD:   Makes about 6 cupsIMG_3200

  • 1 cup strong coffee
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 Tablespoon dark cocoa
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1  14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups Irish whiskey

1.  Bring the coffee to a gentle simmer in a medium saucepan.

2.  Add the cream, cocoa, sugar, honey and extracts, and whisk thoroughly.

3.  Simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes, whisking frequently, until the mixture begins to thicken.

Bring  ingredients to a simmer.

Bring ingredients to a simmer.

4.  Remove the saucepan from the heat;  whisk in the sweetened condensed milk.

5.  Transfer the mixture to a heat-safe bowl, and set aside to cool for a while.

6.  Whisk in the whiskey until completely blended.

7.  Store in the refrigerator in a lidded container or decorative bottle.  Serve over ice.

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Reminder:  This beverage has no preservatives and isn’t shelf stable.  It must be kept refrigerated.  Remind any recipient of that, if it lasts that long.  🙂

SOURCE:  designsponge.com

Paloma Cocktail

Paloma Cocktails

Paloma Cocktails

One of the members of our family just celebrated a milestone birthday—80 years young!   We had a large party with family and friends which was a lot of fun.  When brainstorming ideas for what I was going to bring, the thought of making a special cocktail hit me.  Our guest of honor is adventurous and fun loving so I thought “why not?”  I knew I wanted to incorporate a citrus flavor;  but lemon and orange are pretty commonly used in cocktails, so when I found this recipe using grapefruit, I knew right away it was the one!

This is a very refreshing drink that is easy to fall in love with.  The Paloma, pronounced, PAH-LOW-MAH,  is simply made of tequila, lime juice, and grapefruit soda.  It’s worth using a good quality tequila, so that the lime and grapefruit flavors will mingle with and enhance the flavor of the tequila, rather than over power it.

The flavors of grapefruit and lime are so refreshing.

The flavors of grapefruit and lime are so refreshing.

Izze is an excellent soda to use because it has lots of carbonation, and is not too sweet.  If you are not able to find this soda in your supermarket, you may use a half and half mixture of pink grapefruit juice and plain soda water.  This works well as a good substitute.

PALOMA Cocktail

The proportions are basically  equal parts tequila and soda, or even a little less soda so the taste of the tequila comes through, and the juice of half a lime.  Add a pinch of Kosher salt if you wish or rim the glass with a little soda, then dip into salt before pouring in the cocktail.IMG_3222

  • 3 ounces tequila
  • juice of half lime
  • 3 ounces grapefruit soda, or to taste
  • 1 wedge of lime for garnish, or a piece of fresh grapefruit

1.  Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker, and mix to combine.

2.  Moisten the rim of a beautiful glass with a little soda, then dip into salt.  Add ice.   Pour in cocktail.

The drinks have gotten a little tipsy .

The drinks have gotten a little tipsy .

3.  If it’s hot where you are, you are about to sip one of  the most refreshing cocktails you have ever had.

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SOURCE:  Slightly adapted from Michael Rhulman,  rhulman.com

Peach Liqueur

The time is NOW!   Tis the season and that’s the reason for making……Peach Liqueur.  Get the ripest peaches you can find, and a bottle of spirits, and you have the makings for a liqueur, that will knock your socks off.  It’s that good, honestly!

WHAT YOU NEED:

750-ml bottle of brandy, vodka, rum, tequila, or Cognac

12 peaches

Simple sugar syrup made from 2 cups sugar, and 1 cup water.

WHAT YOU DO:

1.  Pour the spirits into a clean 2-quart (or larger) glass container with a tight fitting lid.

2.  Cut the peaches in half and thinly slice.  Add the peaches and their pits to the spirits. Cover tightly and put away in a dark, cool place, to infuse for 3 weeks to a month.  Shake the container a few times each week.

3.  When you’re satisfied with the intensity of the flavor, strain the liqueur through a metal sieve into a large bowl.  Discard the solids.  Add the sugar syrup to taste.

4.  To make sugar syrup:  Place the 1 cup water in a saucepan.  Add the 2 cups sugar and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.  Reduce the heat and continue to stir until the sugar dissolves.  Cool to room temperature.  Select a clean container that will hold at least 1 1/2 cups.  Pour the sugar syrup into the container, seal, and store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

For more information on the infusion process, see my post  for Rhubarb Liqueur.

Hints:  My preference is vodka for making infusions, because it is colorless and  doesn’t have a strong flavor of its own.   Keep the original spirits bottle.  Soak and remove label.  Use this to store the finished liqueur, properly labeled and dated.  The finished liqueur should be aged for about 1 month away from heat and light to allow flavors to mellow.  I know, I know—-it’s hard; but all good things are worth the wait!

Variations:   Use honey in place of sugar syrup and add to taste.   Add 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise,  or  6 whole cloves in with the peaches.

SOURCE:  Infused  by Susan Elia MacNeil