Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie


Doesn't this look like a really naughty food? It's not.

When I buy a container of cocoa powder I try to find new ways to use it. Last time I had a tub I made truffles, black bean brownies, hot cocoa and a few other things that shall remain nameless.

Ever on a quest to incorporate more chocolate into my life I thought "why not a smoothie?" This is not your grandmas smoothie. Im not really sure what that phrase means, but it seems applicable.

Since I usually drink (sometimes chew) a smoothie instead of eating a meal, I require that my smoothies are packed with nutrients, flavor and are filling to boot.

For some reason people assume chocolate is bad for you, but that is because they are used to the awful commercial chocolate which is so diluted with milk and sugar it can hardly be called chocolate.

Some health benefits of cocoa:

Enhances mood: The regular consumption of pure cocoa uplifts mood and also keeps an individual more active. It improves ones life by giving energy to their muscles and by improving glucose metabolism. The mood elevating effect of cocoa is due to the presence of phenylethylamine.

Depression and Stress relief (Cocoa is a powerful anti depressant and hence gives relief from stress and depression.)

Improves blood flow

Lowers high blood pressure (The flavonoids in cocoa brings down the systolic and diastolic blood pressure.)

Fights Aging and Skin Problems (Cocoa contains flavanols that helps vascular tissues to relax which improves blood vessel function and also give a glow to the skin.)

Improves digestion

Soooo...This counts as a healthy recipe. On top of the benefits from the cocoa there is some protein and other benefits if you use almond milk and peanut butter.

Healthy Chocolate Smoothie:
One frozen banana
1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or any milk you like)
2 T cocoa Powder
2 raspberries
Drizzle of Agave
1 T of Peanut Butter (or any nut butter)

Blend the first three ingredients.
Drizzle with agave.
Dollop with pb.
Enjoy!



Nom nom nom....

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hummus bites

I like to make recipes as simple as possible with as few ingredients, but without compromising any of the flavor.

On top of that I like to find ways to warm up my favorite summer recipes for those chilly days of winter. This is what it looked like outside when I thought of this one.


Brisk!

This recipe is great cold as a hummus, but oh so yummy baked! They are full of flavor and definitely addictive. I dont have a photo of them because its hard to stop eating them long enough to snap a pick. Enjoy!

Inspired by Oh She Glows blog.

Baked Hummus Bites:


One can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
1/4 cup Tahini
1/4 cup sesame seeds (optional but delicious)
3 cloves of garlic (crushed)
1/4 c olive oil
1/2 t ground cumin
1/3 c fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1/2 T salt


For Hummus:- Blend all ingredients until they are fully combined.
- Taste and adjust seasoning, but remember the flavor will be richer after its had a chance to sit in the fridge.
-If the consistency is too thick for your taste add water a tablespoon at a time until desired consistency. If you are going on to make hummus bites you will want the consistency thick.

For bites:- scoop out 1 T portions onto a pregreased pan or very lightly oiled piece of aluminum foil placed on a cookie sheet (you'll thank me at clean up time)
- bake at 350 for 30 minutes (flip halway through if you want both side browned)
- store in an air tight container (yeah right, like there will be any left)

To serve:- these are great served with hummus
- use it as the protein on a sandwich
- great appetizer served with crudite (sliced veggies for you americans no classy enough for crudite)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lentil Soup and Tea

I was always scared to make lentil soup. The recipes I found were so long and just seemed too much for a weeknight or even a weekend. I thought of trying it in the slow cooker briefly before abandoning the idea that I would ever actually make my beloved lentil soup.

But then it happened. I accidentally made lentil soup.

I needed dinner, but wasn't feeling like cooking (hard to believe but it happens). So, I threw 1 cup lentils, a smidge (approximately 1 and half teaspoons) of dried garlic, oregano and onion, a tablespoon of salsa verde and half a cup of frozen mixed greens (Whole Foods Brand Organic collard, kale and mustard greens blend) in an oven safe bowl then popped it in the oven loosely covered in foil.

And this is what came out:



A wonderfully seasoned, hearty, delicious lentil soup. You should go make some acidental soup tonight. You won't be sorry.

And in other news...


Are you longing for wonderful minty (but not in a toothpastey kind of way) tea?

Please see the image below:



Bigelow scores again! Pretty soon Bigelow and I will be dating. Seriously!

The flavor is clear and crisp and completely cleanses the palate.

I was sipping this tea daily when i was nursing that sinus infection a few weeks ago and I was amazed that 1) i could actually taste it 2) it seemed to soothe my throat more than other teas 3) the strength of the ingredients helped clear my sinuses. Love, love, love this tea!

I love how beautifully green the tea bag is, while the tea is a beautiful rich brown in the cup.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Winter Comforts

What do you do when it looks like this outside and you just can't stay home?



Put on a cozy sweater (and a few other layers of clothing) and head out into the wild winter weather.

Days like these are perfect for cuddling with a warm scone, a cup of tea and a great book. But as I mentioned I had to leave the house for a noble and good reason: volunteer work. So, I really could not stay home.

And let's face it: We cannot rely on comfort food alone to keep us sane in the winter time. If we did that in the North Eastern United States we would all weigh 300lbs (that is the abbreviation of pounds, but it stands for "lotsa blubber sam"...true story).

Enter the non-edible comfort. The first non-edible comfort I'd like to share with you is this beautiful set of creature(comfort)s:

Alba Botanica lip balm:
Coconut Cream (green), Pineapple Quench (yellow), and Passion Fruit (red)

They are shy and insisted on being photographed in low light...another true story




Well, it's not technically edible, but tis still safer to ingest than (most) junk food thanks to an incredibly impressive list of all natural ingredients. The ingredient label looks more like a recipe. The coconut variety is 82% organic. It promises right on the tube to moisten and protect.

What it doesn't promise is to feel like a cashmere (don't judge me) sweater for your lips. But it does.

It also doesn't promise to transport you to a tropical island with one swipe of the tube. But it does.

It also doesn't promise to help you to get over a sinus infection. But it...Okay it didn't really help me get over my sinus infection last week, but it did help me through an almost 50 hour, 6 day work week. Its amazing how something soft that smells amazing can take the edge off.

The Coconut Cream is great for everyday comfort needs, but for extreme needs (i.e. I have a sinus infection, my face hurts, I'm at work all day, each phone call gets worse, people want me to do things that I'm not even trained for and I don't look sick so no one is giving me pity) I suggest the Passion Fruit Nectar variety.



And to show you what an absolutely amazing deal they are this is a pic of the balm fully extended:



Look at it! When was the last time you purchased a product and it was completely full?

I have heard wonderful things about the Alba Botanica brand, but they have now gained a super (psychotic) fan. Their products are seriously amazing and addictive (in a good way). I might have purchased extra tubes and have been giving them to others (arent i a good friend?) and encouraging them to go buy more before the store runs out and where else to get the products if they have run out.

But here is the kicker: They are only $1 each at the the "$5 and Below" stores!!!!!!

Please excuse the excessive exclamation points, but this is an amazing tidbit that upon googling the product you will understand the magnitude of. These precious little tubes can run you $3 depending on where you live (and how much your local stores like to rip you off).

Plus, it's just really exciting to pay one dollar for something so obviously worth a lot more. And this price may have encouraged me to buy four of the passion fruit kind (i might share with you if you are really nice).

One warning: You may become completely obsessed. I purchased the Coconut Cream and Pineapple Quench at one store and went to a different one to find the the Passion Fruit Nectar.

I might have to write a love letter to this lip balm.
*sigh* So totally worth the excursion! Stop stalling and go get some!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

More Hawaii

All this crappy weather calls for a virtual trip to Hawaii. Yay!

So let's go on a submarine ride. Me and aunty were thrilled with the prospect as evidenced by the rediculous picture below.


(The lighting in the sub caused our true colors to come out. Apparently we are both descendent of smurfs. Shocking! But we always had our theories about great grandpa...)

Ironically we got upgraded to the delixe tour because all they had was a japanese language tour. So we were spared the witty (read: annoying) banter of the guide as we waited for the sub to dock. And we had to wear headphones to understand the tour, but that did not affect the amazingness of what we saw. And in all likelihood we had a more detailed tour because a recording is more detailed.

We were gagging a bit at the price of the excursion under the sea. It's an amazing jaunt, dont get me wrong, but you are definitely paying for oxygen. Yet, this lady chose to nap for most of the ride:


Only we would end up at a vietnamese restaurant in China Town. Oops! Oh well. The food was amazing. I had a very fresh tasting summer roll. It was just right for the heat. I wasn't in the mood to eat soit really hit the spot.




I was searching for a chinese restaurant with an extensive veg menu, but it didnt open until dinner and we had a luau to go to and couldnt wait around. Plus, it's weird to eat 2 dinners. 2 breakfasts is perfectly acceptable, but two dinners is definitely greedy.

Speaking of the luau... This is the amazing curry they made specially for me. Sweet! It was one of the yummiest curries i've ever had. And it was fully evident by the taste that a few minutes before it was a pile of fresh vegetables and a pile of fresh herbs. It was garnished with perfectly steamed bok choy.Who garnishes with Bok Choy? Geniuses do. It cut the spice just enough. Woo I getwarm just thinking about how good it was. It looks a mess because I dug in before I remembered to take a picture. Sorry.



Normally I scoff at being served fruit for dessert. But there is something different (read: amazing) about fruit on the islands of Hawaii. That volcanic soil does something to the vegetation that makes even the most mundane and mediocre plant life taste amazing.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Let them eat....soup

Yesterday I had cake, but I'll have to talk about it another day because right now Im trying to figure out a reason to make chocolate cupcakes with pb frosting. Isnt there some event coming up that I need to bake for?

Oh wait my parents anniversary is this week. And even though they will be out of town on that day I think that is as good as any an excuse to bake something as yummy as my cupcakes. Well that problem is solved. Now what was I talking about?

Oh right...Soup!




SO the co-op is having a special this week: $1 off every size of soup. And Im trying to be economical so I had a small mushroom barley soup. This soup is creamy and delicious filled with barley mushrooms, onions, celery, pepper, etc. 12 ounces of yumminess for only 1.99.

And look at the size of this mushroom!



And if you have to eat lunch at a desk it should really be as comforting as this. Especially on a rainy day like today.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Dole



While in Hawaii we went to the Dole Pineapple plantation. At first I was kind of outraged to think that there are pineapples in slavery in this day and age (granted it was 2009), but then I found out that plantation is just a special term for farm.

So then I had to erase thoughts of pineapples in chains singing hymms while drips of pineapple juice glistens on their overworked brow. As well as the idea that the unique pattern on pineapples comes from massa's whip.

Feel free to sing along with: Swing low sweet mandoline coming forth to choppa me home....



Anyhoo, it was a cute little spot. There was a big selection of food and goods in the store and not all pineapple flavored. I love pineapple as much as the next person (probably more), but after an hour of eating pineapple I want something salty.

I would have had more pictures, but it took me a while to figure out how much money I was willing to drop to ship fresh pineapples back to my home on the mainland. It cost $78 + a boatload of taxes to ship 6 to 7 pineapples, but they were so worth it. They arrived a week or so after I arrived home and were just what i needed for a midwinter boost.

Inside the main shop with all the kitschy goodies

I could really go for some fresh pineapple right now. Especially since I have a lovely sinus infection. Fresh pineapple does wonders for that sort of ailment. And taste wonderful. Nom nom nom.....

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Making Coconut Milk at the Polynesian Cultural Center



On the way back to Waikiki from the North Shore my party stopped at the Polynesian Cultural Center on the Windward Side of Oahu. It's only an hour from North Shore and definitely worth the stop.

In one spot you travel to six villages. Each village is representative of a different polynesian island nations: Aotearoa (New Zealand), Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga.

Have you ever wondered how coconut milk is made?

Step 1: Find a shirtless guy to climb a coconut tree for you. They are all over the place on the island of Oahu (shirtless guys and coconut trees):






Step 2: Crack the coconut remove the meat and process using the husks and enormous arm muscles.




I leave with you another fabulous "tour" guide from the cultural center. If you check out their official website his picture is all over it. http://www.polynesia.com/