Portable Breakfast: Easy Parfait and Overnight Oats

            “I rely on breakfast to give me a kickstart of energy in the morning, so I choose my foods accordingly.”—Mikaela Shiffrin

 

          “A plant-based diet has actually simplified my life in so many ways.  For breakfast, I try to get my first serving of fruits and nuts for fuel.”—Michelle Forbes

 

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Photo by Ovidiu Creanga on Pexels.com

 

As a kid, I loved breakfast.  I could not wait to get up and eat it.  Part of my morning enthusiasm probably had to do with the fact that I was often hungry as my mom did not make special, additional foods for dinner for our family of four kids.  Her philosophy was, “Here’s what I made the family for supper, if you don’t like it, breakfast is not too far off.” Frankly, it’s a solid practice for which I now wholeheartedly applaud her, but I wasn’t so appreciative as a kid.

 

In the morning, it wasn’t unusual for mom to have a large pan of scrambled eggs on the stove, alongside stacks of buttered toast on a plate; or, other mornings, she might have a huge pot of oatmeal or cream of wheat from which we could all ladle.  We did not, per se, and sit and eat as an entire family on school/work day as that was saved for special weekend breakfasts. Instead, mom got breakfast ready; and then, once each person was ready in the morning, you went to the kitchen to fill up your plate or bowl.  Last one in the kitchen meant there might not be much left for you. Unfortunately, for me, as I got older, that usually fell to me—a slow moving, morning person.

 

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Even now, I move slowly in the morning.  In fact, I wake a full hour before I begin to get ready—a full two hours before I need to leave for work.  Part of my reasoning is because that first waking hour is devoted to coffee and productivity—an hour to work on my writing; planning a yoga, fusion, or cycling class; managing a couple of email accounts; folding laundry; packing lunch. . . well, you get the idea.   The problem is that I become so highly focused some mornings that I lose COMPLETE track of time. Then, as is the case more often than not, I jump in the shower, already 20 or more minutes behind, and end up rushing out the door in such a hasty fashion that breakfast does not cross my mind until my belly begins to growl on the frantic drive to school!

 

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There are time periods of “breakfast eating perfection.”  Last year was a big smoothie phase. I loved, loved, loved exploring all the different ways to get plant-based nutrition in a cup to go.  My blender whirred nonstop at least twice a week with breakfast smoothie food prep. Then, I’d hit a busy week, not have as much time for food prep; and then, I’d once more be back to relying on either nothing for breakfast but coffee or bits and bites of plant-based protein bars.

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

While I’d love to say that this school year I have reformed my distracted ways, but the truth is, I am still neck deep in spurts of breakfast brilliance, and even greater spans of nutritional neglect.  Still, when I am feeling a fit of inspiration, I am all-in . . .at least for a week (or until mid-week)! That said, I do love the notion of fully embracing three meals of whole, plant based foods sans any processed, packaged, chemically-engineered nutrition.  Sigh, may be one day . . .

 

One of my more recent fits of nutritional, whole food achievement attempts involved portable parfaits.  This was inspired by a recent trip to Lewisburg, WV. Before hiking six miles of the 78-mile long Greenbrier River Trail, my husband, John, and I ate at Retro Donuts and more.  While he enjoyed a breakfast sandwich on donut bread (Yes, you read that right—donut bread.), I scarfed up a super-sized fruit, yogurt, and granola parfait. Made with nonfat Greek yogurt, house made granola—complete with oats, seeds, and nuts—layered with mixed berries, this stack of whole food yumminess was delicious and, totally replicable.  However, I would give it a plant based twist. 

 

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This parfait is a plant based twist as the yogurt is nondairy! Above the yogurt are chia seeds, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries. Additionally, there is 1/4 cup water which the chia will gradually absorb to create a pudding-like texture!

 

To be clear, I am not 100% opposed to consuming dairy; but, it does not like me as a general rule.  Plus, a true plant-based eater does not consume dairy. However, like my flurries with breakfast preeminence, my 100% devotion to avoiding dairy vacillates at times.  

 

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Plant-based yogurt parfaits topped with three different types of seeds.

 

Sigh (again), still my intentions are worthy; and, maybe one day will be fully attained.  In the meantime, my goal of using my morning time wisely without running late, while still maintaining time to full compliance of daily consumption of whole-food, plant-based, breakfast looms largely and nobly in front my idealistic self . . .

 

 

Overnight oats made with 1/2 an apple.  Once made, I grab it in the morning, shake it up, and then I choose the option of heating it before gobbling it up!

 

In the meantime, here’s my recipe for portable parfaits of breakfast righteousness meant to be eaten on the go if need be; or, as a casually made-ahead morning meal.  Like so many recipes, think of it as scaffolding. Modify, swap-out, and change ingredients to suit personal taste and health goal preferences. It is perfect for those weeks you feel inspired to set-aside time to food prep and really focus on your dietary goals.

 

From my home to yours, I wish you nearly healthy, mostly homemade, and always happy meals!

 

 

 

Optional ingredients for breakfast parfaits or over night oats.  The ProGranola can be used in both parfait or in lieu of oats in over night oats if following a paleo or keto diet.

 

Portable Breakfast Parfait/Overnight Oats

 

Ingredients: 

½-1 cup of your favorite dairy, or non-dairy, yogurt

½ cup of your favorite grain (granola, oats, grape nuts, and so forth)

½-1 cup (or ½-1 whole piece) of favorite fresh or frozen fruit

1 tablespoon of favorite nuts or seeds (chia, flax, hemp, pumpkin, walnuts, slivered almonds, and so forth)

Optional stir-ins:  cinnamon, honey, sweetener, vanilla extract, acai powder, cacao nibs, cocoa powder, protein powder, ½ teaspoon xanthan gum (if you like a more pudding like texture as I do in my overnight oats), and so forth

 

Directions for parfait:

Place 1/3 of yogurt in the bottom of a small resealable glass. (I like canning jars.)

Spoon 1/3 of granola over yogurt.

Add nuts/seeds

Top with 1/3 of fruit.

Repeat layering process until all ingredients are used.

Cover with lid and store overnight, or until ready to eat, in refrigerator.

Can be stored for several days at a time.

Serves one.

 

Directions for overnight oats/granola:

Place all ingredients in resealable glass jar.

Shake well.

Store overnight, or until ready to eat, in refrigerator.

Can be stored for several days at a time.

While this can be served cold, I prefer to heat my glass in the microwave for a couple of minutes.  Give it a quick stir. Put the lid back on and allow oats to steam and thicken up a bit more.

This is great served with a dollop of dairy, or non-dairy, redi-whip!

Serves one.

 

 

 

The Lauren Salad: A salad that will make your taste buds dance

            “The colors of a fresh garden salad are so extraordinary, no painter’s pallet can duplicate nature’s artistry.”—Dr. Sun Wolf, professorsunwolf.com

 

            “The salad is the main dish.”—Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

 

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            It was the colors that first attracted my attention–vibrant hues of varying shades.  From claret to crimson; deep purple to indigo; and, sunshine orange to all shades of earthy greens, this artist’s palate-like bowl seemed to have it all.  As if I were a playful, curious kitten, drawn to a piece of dangling string, my body made a beeline towards the vivid dish of food art.  

 

            “Lauren, what is that bowl of deliciousness?” 

 

            Lauren, a seventh grader who makes regular appearances in my lunchtime study hall, attempted to smile while chewing as she held up the universal sign for, “Wait one moment.”  Allowing her to silently chew, I appraised the contents of her reusable lunch bowl. From what I could tell, I saw blueberries, strawberries, and other assorted brightly hued morsels on a bed of what appeared to be lettuce.

 

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            It wasn’t unusual for Lauren and me to discuss food.  The previous year, Lauren had been part of my 3rdperiod, 6thgrade class, which falls during “snack time,” a time set aside for hungry middle school students to eat a quick snack at the beginning of class.  Lauren, who has a passion for good food, and dances nearly every evening of the week, typically took advantage of this time to fuel herself with mostly nutritious and yummy food choices to sustain her physical efforts.  Thus, she and I occasionally had sidebar conversations regarding her latest, or my latest, food/beverage obsessions.  

 

          These brief conversations would sometimes resume during lunchtime study hall as Lauren was a regular attendee in order to best manage her time due to her after school dance schedule.  Through these conversations, Lauren and I discovered we shared an affinity for Larabars, herbal and green teas, reusable water bottles, as well as assorted types of salads and fruits.   What’s more, Lauren possesses an infectious personality, and she is able to easily flow between relaxed, silly conversations with peers to a more formal style of dialogue with adults.

 

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          “It’s a salad my mom and I create, but I made this one,” Lauren finally answered while still gnawing at the remains in her mouth.

 

            Once she finished chewing, she continued to describe the ingredients in her salad, explaining that the ingredients might occasionally change, depending upon what her mom is able to pick up at the grocery store. 

 

            “Well, most of the time I make it myself,” she confessed with a wry smile, eyes twinkling with truth,  “but sometimes, Mom makes it for me.”

 

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            Listening carefully to the ingredients, I wandered back to my desk to eat my lunch, as I did what the students around me were doing, complete my own schoolwork as I ate.  Gazing at the contents of my lunchbox, I saw a baggie of carrot and celery sticks alongside cucumber slices. Additionally, there was ½ No Cow protein bar and ½ Larabar plant-based protein bar.  Sure, I had cleaned and cut the vegetables myself; and to be certain, I sure did love my protein bars with coffee, but my lunch wasn’t near as colorful and fresh looking as Lauren’s salad. I began to fill with pangs of food envy!

 

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            “Lauren, tell me those ingredients again, please? I am going to write them down, and add them to my Kroger click list. 

 

            As she told spoke, I carefully recorded each ingredient on a sticky-note.  My mind began to fill with possibilities that would be tasty additions to her salad.

 

            “Do you add any sort of dressing?”

 

            She affirmed my hunch; no dressing for her, but my mind was already thinking about how good a balsamic glaze would be, like the one I had eaten earlier in the month at Fuel in The Market in downtown Huntington, WV.  I further began thinking about how good walnuts, or crushed cashews, would be—like my favorite salad at Black Sheep, another Huntington restaurant. Then, it hit me. Granola!

 

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            Last summer, before the start of school, John and I traveled to the Alderson/Lewisburg area of WV.  One evening, we dined at a Lewisburg eatery known for fresh, local, farm-to-table, organic ingredients called Stardust Café. It was at this local eatery that I tried a salad called, “Trust Me.”  It was described on their menu as their signature salad, and it was topped with granola. Our waitress convinced me that granola on salad was indeed a tasty topping. And, it was! Why not make Lauren’s salad topped with one of my latest food obsessions, Julian’s Bakery ProGranola, Vanilla Cluster? Hmm . . .

 

 

            In that moment, I giddily declared to Lauren, “I am writing about this salad, and sharing it with others.  It will be forever known as, “The Lauren Salad!” Lauren, being Lauren, merely giggled as her focus returned once more to eating and working.

 

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            Thank-you, Lauren, for sharing your delicious recipe with me.  It is a joy to have you as a student as well as to share your vibrant, flavor-filled, nutritional bowlful of goodness. Keep on making those inspiring, healthy lunches. Additional gratitude goes to, Pam, Lauren’s mom, for allowing me to photograph her daughter and publish her recipe creation!

 

            From my home to yours, I wish you healthy, happy, and homemade meals!

 

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The Lauren Salad

 Ingredients:

3, or so, cups favorite salad greens (Lauren enjoys iceberg lettuce, but I enjoy all variety of greens.)

¼ cup shredded carrots

¼ cup sliced celery

1-2 tablespoons dried cranberries (I prefer the less sugar variation.)

½ cup grapes (I left these off my salad, but Lauren says she enjoys adding grapes.)

¼ to ½ cup blueberries

5-8 sliced strawberries, depending upon size and taste preference

2-3 teaspoons of favorite balsamic glaze (I never see Lauren eat dressing on her salad, but I love the way this brings the flavors all together! I especially enjoy a strawberry-fig balsamic glaze.)

Optional toppings: walnuts, slivered almonds, chopped cashews, pistachios pieces, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, etc, and my personal favorite, granola!)

Hint:   While I rarely ever eat meat, you could certainly add your favorite meat protein, or for that matter, plant based protein, to this salad.  Ideas include, but are not limited to: hard boiled eggs; grilled meats; bean or bean-based patty; cheese, especially, chevre or Parmesan. With quality salad ingredients, the choices seem endless!  

 

Directions:

In a large bowl, layer all vegetable and fruit ingredients in the order in which they are listed.

If using balsamic glaze, drizzle over salad ingredients.

Sprinkle with favorite optional toppings. (I personally like 1-2 tablespoons chopped black walnuts and 3-4 tablespoons of granola.)

Serve immediately; or, if packing ahead for lunch:  Keep balsamic glaze in a separate container, and the toppings in another container.  When ready to eat, add glaze followed by toppings.

Makes one large, healthy salad.

 

Hey, Lauren, Keep on making those inspiring, healthy lunches!

 

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Blackberry Bliss Smoothie and Berrilicious Blackberry Salad Dressing–Simple Summer Satisfaction

 

            “I really am a smoothie person.  I love making a morning smoothie and then will drink some coffee and will not eat at all before lunch.”—Gwyneth Paltrow

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Sip and savor this summer sensation while blackberries are still in season. In the morning, and/or after a hard workout, enjoy the blissfulness of solid nutrition, not to mention great taste!

          

  “From salad dressings all blessings flow.”—Paul Newman

 

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Enjoy blackberries as a salad topper, or as a salad dressing!

 

            Depending upon where you live in North America, blackberry season may have come and gone, or you are still anticipating the berry-ful bounty of blackberries. In fact, our family spent the weekend, one year, at Canaan Valley, WV, in late July, when blackberries were just coming into season, well past the time they would have been available back home. Additionally, I can recall visiting PEI and New Brunswick, Canada, during July, but during different years, and sadly learning that local blackberries would not be available until mid- to late August, well past the time of our respective vacations. 

 

            Why do I love blackberries so much? Perhaps, it is because it links me to childhood summer memories.  Ironically though, I would have never eaten a raw blackberry, much less my Grandmother Helen’s family beloved blackberry cobbler as a child! I did, however, love the smell of the fresh berries as Papaw brought them into the house; the stories he would tell of the wars he waged with insects, heat, and thorns; and, I loved the way family, from as far away as Texas, would visit Grandmother’s house every July for a piece of that delicious smelling, warm cobbler topped with ice cream that slowly seeped into nooks, crannies, and crevices–creating a purple pool of creaminess that made my relatives, especially those ever-so-cool older cousins, smile and laugh as they teased Grandmother good-naturedly.

 

 

 

 

            It wasn’t until I was a “mature” first year teacher, living with my Grandparents, that I came to try, and ultimately love blackberries.   Moving in with my grandparents at the ripe old age of 21 was, at the time, a challenge; however, now, I look back on that time period with great fondness.  While I do have certain regrets about this period of my life, I appreciate the love, security, and flexibility my grandparents provided me during those early adult years.

 

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As a child, I would have never eaten blackberries, much less top a morning bowl of muesli with it!

 

            While Papaw was not an adventurous eater, Grandmother and I shared our love of exploring new foods with one another. In fact, it was seated in her kitchen where I would learn to eat foods that I had never before touched as a child. Maybe it was those Kentucky cooking skills she enthusiastically wanted to share with me, or perhaps it was all of the wonderful smells that filled her kitchen, day in and day out.   Then again, maybe I just opened my mind, and, consequently, my taste buds. Whatever it is was, I learned to love blackberry cobbler, and, a whole host of other traditional, and no-where-near traditional, Kentucky (think Appalachian) foods, thanks, in large part, to Helen, my grandmother. From green bean casserole to broccoli casserole; from sliced and salted summer tomatoes (always beefsteak) to good ol’ half-runner green beans cooked with some form of pork; and, from stir-fried veggies and rice (I purchased a wok while living with my grandparents.) to rice cakes spread with natural, freshly ground peanut butter (at the newfangled nut-butter grinder located inside a fancy, newly opened Kroger grocery), topped with a bit of locally made sorghum; Grandmother and I ate and sampled, in our minds anyway, great food. 

 

 

 

 

            Two food items Grandmother never made were smoothies and salad dressings.  In fact, it has only been in the past couple of years that I have started experimenting with creating these items.  That said, I know if I had been creating smoothies and/or salad dressings in Grandmother’s kitchen, she would have been right there, in her designated kitchen chair, watching me work, asking me questions, and ready to be the first one to taste each new creation. Even now, there are numerous times that I think of Helen as I go about experimenting in my own kitchen and wish she were still around to sample, advise, and, of course, enjoy right along with me.  

 

 

 

Grandmother Helen would have loved trying both my blackberry smoothie and salad dressing.

 

            I can hear her, in my mind’s ear, “Oh, Stethie, that looks good!  What did you put it in?” Furthermore, in my mind’s eye, I can see her tasting both of these recipes, rolling that first taste around her tongue to get all the flavors as she muttered, “Hmm . . .” and then, smiling at me, teeth purple from the blackberries and eyes radiating with both love and joy—one foodie to another– “Maybe I’ll have just a little bit more of that, Stethie, but not too much.”

 

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I would have loved to have served up this salad of dark greens, granny smith apple, diced tomato, walnuts and my freshly made blackberry vinaigrette to Grandmother Helen. If I had had avocado on hand at the time this photo was take, it would be a delicious addition to this salad, especially when making the oil free version.

 

        And, I’d probably retort, good-naturedly, “Grandmother, do you want a small portion, or a Grandmother-Helen-size “small” portion?” Then, we’d both have a good laugh, she’d allow me to serve her, and then we’d sit diagonally from one another–at that table with it’s red checked table cloth– and savor our food together.

 

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I’d give anything to sit across from my kitchen table, as I’m doing here after teaching at Brown Dog Yoga, and sharing a nutrient rich and tasty blackberry smoothie with my grandmother!

 

            The following recipes are fairly flexible and can be altered based upon your preferred tastes and textures.  Play around with ingredients, amounts, as well as combinations. Make these recipes your own.  

 

 

 

 

            From my home to yours, I wish you healthy, happy, homemade meals as well as wonderful food memories!

Store

 

 

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Shake up the smoothie if made in advance, before sipping up.

 

Blackberry Bliss Smoothie

(Serves 1, but can easily be doubled or even tripled)

 Ingredients:

 1-cup blackberries, fresh or frozen

1-cup liquid (milk or plant milk, pomegranate juice, or water)

2 medjool dates (pitted), or ½ banana, or  ½ cup peaches, mango, or another type of berry

½ cup frozen riced cauliflower (my secret way to sneak in veggies early into the day)

½ teaspoon vanilla

Optional Add-ins: protein powder, nut butter, and/or 1 tablespoon of the following: chia seeds, flax seeds, or hemp hearts 

 Directions:

 In a high-speed blender, add in ½ -cup liquid of choice.

Add in blackberries, fruit of choice, cauliflower, and vanilla.

Add any optional ingredients.

Top off with rest of liquid.

Blend until smooth.

Serve immediately, or store in a container for up to 3 days in refrigerator.

Shake well before drinking a smoothie that has been stored.

 

 

Berrylicious Blackberry Vinaigrette

(Makes enough 2-4 individual salads, and can easily be doubled, if desired.

 Ingredients:

 1-cup blackberries

1 medjool date (pitted)

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons pomegranate juice

2-4 tablespoons water (depending upon desired thickness)

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ – ½ teaspoon (or more) of salt free seasoning, i.e. Mrs. Dash

¼ teaspoon salt, optional

¼ teaspoon onion powder, optional

**If you’d like the mouthfeel, and/or taste of a fat, add-in 1-2 tablespoons cashew butter, tahini, or a quality olive oil.

 Directions:

 In a high-speed blender, place in all ingredients.

Blend until well smooth.

Check thickness and water accordingly.

Serve immediately over a fresh green salad, and/or store unused portion in refrigerator.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Covered Cherry Protein Smoothie

           “One cup of this tasty summer delight (cherries) can keep the doctor away, aid you when it comes to cancer and age-related disease . . .help you get a good night’s sleep, (and) . . .helps with arthritis and inflammatory conditions . . .”—Lizette Borreli, Medical Daily

           “Doctors are learning that one of the best ways to reduce inflammation lies not in the medicine cabinet, but in the refrigerator.  By following an anti-inflammatory diet you can fight off inflammation for good.”—Harvard Women’s Health Watch

           There is no doubt, this spring, has been one of the most beautiful seasons in the Ohio Valley in years!   From early spring flowers, to flowering trees and shrubs, Mother Nature’s artistic flair has painted one beautiful canvas after another with each passing week.  My husband, John, and I have had repeated conversations about our deep appreciation and admiration of this bountiful, colorful season.

 

 

           Additionally, this spring I have had the privilege of teaching classes at Brown Dog Yoga in Ashland, KY!   At age 53, it is wonderful to begin a new season of fitness, and help others do the same! Traveling to teach in Ashland means I am able to enjoy a 30-minute drive that cuts mostly across the back of Lawrence County, OH on OH 243; and what a seasonal display of colors I have enjoyed during these drives!  Red buds, dogwoods, cherry trees, and so forth line the roadside and surrounding hills radiating their celebratory colors for all to witness. In fact, it was the combination of teaching back-to-back fitness classes as well as the colorful blossoms of the cherry trees that became part inspiration for the following recipe.

 

 

           I have three bulging discs as well as an extra vertebra.  Standing or sitting for long periods, walking up stairs, and even certain exercises, all of which both my career as an educator and my new found fitness passion require, can really fire up the pain receptors along my low back, down my legs, and into my ankles/feet.  Typically, I simply grin, grit, and inwardly groan my way through the discomfort, and keep on moving. Still, I am often contemplating ways to reduce inflammation, increase recovery time, as well as maintain overall good health. And, I suspect, I am not the only one.

           Whether or not you are in my age group, fighting inflammation and maintaining overall good health are keys to an active, long life.  Our immune system flairs up any time a foreign substance, or an injury (even excessive workouts can sometimes be perceived by the body as an injury), enter/occur in the body. Sometimes though, inflammation continues to nag the body, even if there is not a, per se, foreign threat/invader. In fact, many well-known diseases such as cancer, arthritis (like I now have in my low back), diabetes, depression/anxiety, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and so forth, are linked to chronic inflammation according Harvard’s Women’s Health Watch.

 

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As seen at Harvard’s Women’s Health Watch.

 

           In fact, in an article published by the Harvard Medical School, reducing inflammation in the body may be as simple as daily food choices.   Foods, such as refined carbohydrates—most white flour breads and baked goods; fried foods; soda and other sugary beverages; red meats, especially those processed; and margarine—including shortening and lard, can all produce inflammation, especially when consumed in excessive amounts.

           Anti-inflammatory foods, however, have been proven to reduce inflammation and chronic disease, especially fruits and vegetables. According to HMS, anti-inflammatory foods include:  tomatoes; olive oil; green leafy vegetables—the darker the better; nuts, especially walnuts and almonds; fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna; and fruits, such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges.   In fact, these are the foods, HMS maintains, should make up the primary food choices of a healthy diet.

 

          Standing and taking stairs daily at school, regular workouts at BDY, back pain, inflammation, cherry blossoms, anti-inflammatory diet, strawberries, blueberries, cherries . . .”Hey, I why I haven’t I created a cherry smoothie?” This is how my brain rolls on 30-minute drives or during random middle-of-the-night musings.

           I typically dive into my school workday with a smoothie.  Strawberry, blueberry, cauliflower, and spinach are four of my favorite go-to ingredients, along with a non-dairy, gluten free protein powder, for a plant-strong, nutrient rich breakfast.  While I know it is often recommended to not drink your calories, I find my breakfast smoothie habit works well for me as I otherwise tend to make coffee, my only breakfast liquid. Although coffee does offer some health benefits, it does not necessarily offer nutrients that both fuel and feed my body like my homemade smoothies. Thus, if I am going to drink my breakfast anyway, I might as well make it as beneficial as possible.

 

          If I am going to drink my breakfast, which is the better choice? A protein packed, plant based smoothie or a cup of coffee. True, the purple coffee cup is prettier, but the real nutritional bang is in the black shaker cup.

 

           This recipe was also created with my Grandmother Helen in mind.  She dearly loved chocolate covered cherries. Each Christmas holiday, someone in our family always made sure she received at least one box of her favorite confection.  Since I lived with both she and my grandfather for two years, I can still see her, sitting down in her gold recliner after dinner, one chocolate covered cherry on a napkin, as she savored it, bite by little bite.  She’d often grin at me when I would teasingly ask her what she was eating, and bits of chocolate, as well as that whitishcovere goo that covered the cherry, would blanket her lips. What a sweet memory for me to now savor!  And, while, my smoothie recipe may not coat your lips in the same manner, it will fill your tummy with the anti-inflammatory goodness of fruits, vegetables, and walnuts.

 

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From my home to yours, I wish you healthy, happy, homemade meals or smoothies!

 

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P.S.  If you happen to buy frozen cherries, they are soooo yummy to eat frozen, straight out of the bag, in the same manner some people freeze grapes and eat for a treat!           

 

Chocolate Covered Cherries Smoothie

Ingredients: The Basics

1 cup of favorite smoothie liquid, divided ½ (water, milk—dairy or non dairy variations)

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1-cup cherries, frozen or fresh

½ cup riced cauliflower, frozen or fresh

1 serving of favorite chocolate protein powder

1 tablespoon chopped walnuts or almond slivers

Dash of ground sea salt

My favorite add-ins for nutritional boost:

1-teaspoon chia seeds

1-teaspoon ground flax seeds

1-teaspoon hemp hearts

1 tsp-1 tablespoon cocoa or cacao powder (for extra chocolate goodness)

Additional Optional add-ins:

1-teaspoon favorite greens powder

1-teaspoon favorite mushroom extract powder

1-teaspoon matcha powder

Directions:

In a blender cup, add-in ½ cup of chosen liquid.

Add in vanilla extract.

Toss in cherries, followed by protein powder, nuts, and any other add-ins you wish.

Top it all off with rest of liquid.

Blend well until smooth.

Drink, or serve in a bowl, sprinkled with your favorite toppings, such as granola, mini-chocolate chips, dried cherries, additional nuts or seeds, and so forth.  

Serves 1.

Tip:  I often make my smoothies for the week on the weekend and store them in my freezer.  Then, the morning before I wish to consume a smoothie, I take one from the freezer, and store it in the refrigerator to thaw for 24-hours until the following morning. Quick, portable, and ready-to-go nutrition!

 

 

Springtime Strawberry Smoothie

           “Blueberries, strawberries and blackberries are true superfood.  Naturally sweet and juicy, berries are low in sugar and high in nutrients—they are among the best foods you can eat.”—Joel Fuhrman

           “Sometimes you’ve got to grab an apple—or grapes, or strawberries.  Something that’s healthy but maybe a little bit more adventurous, if you can see fruit as adventurous.”—LL Cool J

 

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Quincey Mullins, 6th grader, at St. Joseph Catholic Middle School.

 

           “Here you go, Mrs. Hill.  They are from Florida. My parents thought you’d enjoy them!”

           I glanced up from my computer to see Quincey, a 6th grader in my homeroom class.  She smiled broadly and handed me a clamshell box of red ripe strawberries. Sure, enough, there was a sticker on the top boasting the berries had been recently picked in Florida.

           “Wow, Quincey!  This is a first; I’ve never before had a student give me strawberries.  They are one of my favorite fruits! I cannot thank your parents and you enough!  I will definitely put these to good use!”

           I said all of this as I gave her a sidearm hug.  It was such a touching gift.

           “I know you like to eat healthy, and we thought you’d like them,” Quincey added as her eyes sparkled with pride.

 

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The gift of Florida strawberries from Quincey.

 

           Boy, do I ever like strawberries!  In fact, I love all berries, but there is something about spring-ripened strawberries.  Depending upon where you live, strawberries are now in season, or they will be in season within the next month or two.  This means they will be priced ready to sell and at their tastiest.

           One of the freshest and tastiest ways to acquire strawberries is to actually go to a local farm that allows you pick your own.  There is nothing like smelling the sweetness of the berries and the tang of the earth in the damp early morning as you stoop down to pick those luscious berries.  However, if there is not a pick-your-own-strawberries-farm near you, one visit to the local farmers’ market, roadside market, or even local grocery store will often offer a plethora these garnet-colored jewels.

 

 

          Strawberries are high in fiber and many nutrients. One cup of strawberries has about fifty calories and over a gram of protein but only has half a gram of fat. Strawberries are full of Vitamin C.  In fact, one cup of these red succulent orbs possesses 150% of your daily-recommended dose of this vial vitamin. Further, strawberries are full of antioxidants, which are important for neutralizing cancerous free radicals as well as reducing inflammation, including inflammation caused by gout and arthritis.

           If that’s not enough, strawberries also are a source of both magnesium and potassium—important for lowering blood pressure.  They are a good source of folate. Plus, strawberries are great for brain, eye, and immune system healthy. Clearly, strawberries, like all forms of berries, are bursting with natural sweetness and are nutritional powerhouses!

 

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Photo by Susanne Jutzeler on Pexels.com

          

           These vibrantly red berries, as in all berry varieties, are easily incorporated into a wide variety of recipes.  Strawberries’ sweet versatility makes it easily incorporated into baked goods, salads—fruit and veggie based, parfaits, ice cream—dairy and nondairy variations, jams/jellies/preserves, and so much more. In fact, I am sharing the strawberry smoothie recipe I created for those beautiful berries from Quincey.  My smoothie recipe creates an easy way to add these spring seasonal favorites to your diet.

 

 

            I, personally, loved making this smoothie for breakfast—often making it the night before.  I’ve even made several in one setting, as I did when Quincey gave me the box of strawberries, and stored them in the freezer to make the most of the fresh berries’ ripeness.  Then, I moved one from my freezer to refrigerator each afternoon/evening before, and grabbed it on the way out the door to school!

           Consider trying this recipe with your next purchase of fresh strawberries.  It’s chocked full of all sorts of goodness that is sure to be a tasty and nutritional sound start to your day.  You’ll power through your morning running on high nutritional-octane!

           From my home to yours, I wish you happy, healthy, and homemade smoothies!

P.S.  Thank you, Miss Quincey, for the strawberries as well as the inspiration for this recipe!

 

 

Spring Strawberry Protein Smoothie

Serves 1

Ingredients:

½ to 1-cup (70-140 mg) strawberries (fresh or frozen)

½ to 1 cup (43-85 mg) riced cauliflower (best if frozen)

1 serving of favorite protein powder

1-teaspoon chia seeds

1-teaspoon ground flax seeds

1-teaspoon hemp hearts

1-cup favorite liquid (water, milk or plant-based alternative)

 

My basic ingredients, except for chopped walnuts, those are optional.

Optional Add-ins:

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or other favorite extract)

1 tablespoon walnuts (These are especially nice if eating as a smoothie bowl.)

1 teaspoon or packet of favorite sweetener (stevia, honey, maple syrup, etc.)

1-teaspoon favorite greens powder (Amazing Grass variations, i.e. Organic Supergreens Powder)

1-2 teaspoon cocoa powder

Dash of sea salt

Directions:

In a blender or large blender cup, add ingredients in the order listed.

Add in any optional ingredients.

Blend until smooth.

Serve immediately or store in fridge up to 2 days; or, freeze until needed and thaw overnight in fridge!

Sip, savor, and enjoy the springtime goodness!

 

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Mix it all up in your favorite blender.

 

Green Protein Smoothie–3 Delicious (and Nutritious) Ways

           In life, much like smoothies, you get out what you put in.”-Bolthouse Farms

           “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”—Hippocrates

           Life is busy.  It seems that many of us, me included, are feeling time-crunched. Between the demands of work; juggling time to work out; plan/prep/cook meals; parent kids; carpool to and from school and/or sports activities; caring for a loved one, such as a parent or spouse; and so forth, it often feels as if there are not enough hours in the day.  You want to eat healthy, but you don’t always have the time to cook/prepare three meals per day.

           Before you throw in the towel and buy another box of toaster pastries, run through the nearest fast-food eatery, or dart into the neighborhood convenience store; consider making a smoothie for at least one of your meals.  I personally suggest a breakfast smoothie. Just as the Dalai Lama is often credited with saying, “Just one small positive thought in the morning can change your whole day,” adding a protein breakfast smoothie to your morning routine can be one small positive step towards your own health.  You can even make it the night before if you want! (I often do this!)

 

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           A protein shake for breakfast has numerous benefits.  They are usually quick, portable, cost-effective; and, if made correctly, can be highly nutritious. Additionally, health blogs, nutritional websites, and other literature often link consuming a high-protein breakfast to appetite reduction for several hours as it suppresses ghrelin, a hormone linked to hunger.  This, in turn, reduces the sugary, high-carb cravings that often hit mid-morning. However, if these reasons aren’t enough for you, read on.

           Protein requires more effort for the body to burn; thus, about 20-30% of protein calories are burned while the body is digesting and metabolizing protein as compared to 5-10% for carbs and 0-3% for fats and alcohol.  Additionally, high protein intake can help you burn anywhere from 80 to 100 more calories per day, and some studies suggest an even higher number. Furthermore, protein can help prevent muscles loss and keep your metabolism humming, especially when combined with an exercise program that includes strength training at least two days per week—and, yes, body-weight bearing exercises such as, push ups, squats, and planks, count!   This is especially important as we age. In fact, I was shocked to learn that my protein intake need has actually increased because of my age!

 

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          I personally love the notion of a green smoothie.  For one, what’s not to love about the color green? In my mind, green is the color of nature, earth, and all of the Divine goodness contained therein.  A simple way to make a green smoothie is by simply adding a teaspoon of matcha green tea powder to your favorite vanilla protein scoop/packet. Place both the matcha powder and protein into a dry shaker cup, add 8 ounces of water, milk, or nondairy “milk” beverage, and your engine is revved up for a highly focused and productive morning.

           Why matcha? There are numerous reasons to incorporate matcha into your morning smoothie.  It’s loaded with a plant compound called catechins, which is a natural antioxidant known for reducing cell damage and preventing chronic disease.   Because it contains both caffeine and L-theanine, it has also been shown to increase memory, focus, and reaction time without the jitters often linked to coffee consumption.  Furthermore, studies have shown that green and matcha tea may protect the heart and liver, prevent cancer, and increase metabolism.

 

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           WARNING! With all of this talk about the power of a morning protein smoothie, it is worth mentioning that a smoothie does not mean milkshake!   To ensure your morning smoothie habit does NOT derail your health goals, check the quality of your protein powder and limit what you add to your protein. Mixed plant-based protein, for me, is my preferred choice as it is easier on my system to digest.  However, there are many other quality proteins, depending upon your dietary practices/preferences, such as whey, collagen, and egg white powder to name a few. One top-notch brand many of my friends successfully use is Optavia. One quick look on Facebook can put you in touch with a local Optavia Health Coach to guide you.  However, there are many other excellent brands out there as one visit to your local health food market or on-line search can reveal. Just make sure your chosen protein does not have added sugars, carbs, and additives that you cannot pronounce.

 

Simple Green Smoothie

 

Cauliflower Green Smoothie

 

Spinach Green Smoothie

           I’ve included three ways to create a healthy green, protein smoothie.  This is just a scaffolding that can be adjusted to fit your tastes, dietary needs, and preferences.  The two most important ingredients are a quality protein powder and eight or so ounces of water, milk, or plant-based, non-dairy alternative.  On rushed evenings or mornings, I often toss protein powder and matcha into a shaker cup that I can simply add water to in the morning. When have more time, I add other ingredients to increase the nutritional value.   The most important thing, regardless, is to take that one small, positive action towards your own health. Typically, one good decision leads to another, which can only increase your level of vitality and vigor in spite of a busy schedule!

           From my home to yours, I wish you healthy, happy, homemade meals . . . and, of course, smoothies!

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Me, at work, before my students arrive. Making my morning cup of coffee and preparing to drink my portable and nutritious green smoothie. In this picture, it is the creamy, cauliflower green smoothie recipe!

 

Green Protein Smoothie—3 Ways

Main ingredients:

1 serving of favorite protein powder

1-teaspoon organic matcha green tea powder (Make sure it had nothing else added to it as matcha by itself, like all tea, has zero calories, carbs, fats, and so forth!)

8 or so ounces of your favorite liquid, such as water, milk, or nondairy “milk”

 

Optional ingredients:

1 cup (85 grams) riced cauliflower, or fresh spinach or other greens**Requires blender

1-teaspoon supplement greens powder (I like Amazing Grass Organic Supergreens Powder.)

1-teaspoon chia seeds

1-teaspoon ground flax seeds

1 packet of stevia or other favorite sweetener

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Dash or twist of pink Himalayan sea salt

 

 

Simple Green Smoothie:

1 packet or scoop vanilla protein powder, such as Optavia Creamy Vanilla Shake

1-teaspoon matcha powder

8 ounces water

Directions:

Place protein powder and matcha into shaker cup.

Add filtered/bottled water and drink!

How easy is that?

You can even make it with hot water, and drink it like a green tea latte, but without all the added sugar!  

 

Cauliflower Green Smoothie:

1 cup (85 grams) riced cauliflower

1 scoop/packet vanilla protein

1-teaspoon matcha powder

Any additional add-ins from above optional ingredients list

8 ounces, give or take, favorite beverage

Directions:

Mix well in blender.

Drink immediately, or store in fridge for later consumption

 

**Spinach Green Smoothie:

1 cup (85 grams) fresh spinach **or other greens

1 scoop/packet vanilla protein

1-teaspoon matcha powder

Any additional add-ins from above optional ingredients list

8 ounces, give or take, favorite beverage

Directions:

Mix well in blender.

Drink immediately, or store in fridge for later consumption

 

Versatile Vegetable Soup

            “Soup is a lot like a family.  Each ingredient enhances the others; each batch has its own characteristics; and it need time to simmer to reach full flavor.”—Marge Kennedy

 

“A first-rate soup is more creative than a second-rate painting.”—Abraham Maslow

 

As the weather in southeastern Ohio this weekend played a mash-up mix of rain, snow, bitter winds, and plummeting temperatures, my mind churned with thoughts of ways to warm my icy fingers and toes. I drifted back to a conversation John, my husband, and I had regarding the ways in which his parents and my grandparents made their vegetable soup.  As we swapped stories, we realized how similarly his parents and my grandparent “saved” for one their favorite wintertime go-to meals.

 

 

 

 

Both pairs had large, white plastic tubs with red lettering, about 5 gallons in size, that once held some sort of meat previously purchased at a local meat market.  Once emptied of its contents, the tub was scrubbed clean and repurposed as the “vegetable soup” container. Then, throughout the year, but especially in the summer and early fall when fresh garden vegetables were abundant, they saved left over vegetable from meals in this tub.  Uneaten bits of green beans, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, celery, carrots, onions, and so forth, would be scraped from pots at the end of meals and into the tub.  This container, which resided in their freezer, was gradually filled from week to week.  Once full, there was typically another scoured-clean-container-in-waiting, ready to be filled as well!

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Large white tub, only as I recall my grandmother’s, her containers had red handles and worn off red lettering reflective of the former contents.

 

During winter months, my grandmother, often cooked up large chuck roast covered with carrots, potatoes, and onions. Once this meal was eaten, as best I recall, the leftovers from it were often the base of her vegetable soup. She’d cut up the meat and any left over vegetables into bite size chunks, open up a couple of cans of Campbell’s condensed tomato soup along with a can of Veg-all, and put those into her large pressure cooker.  Next, she’d add water.  Finally, out came the white, filled-to-the-brim-tub with all those frozen leftover vegetables; and, while I’ll never know how she determined the “right” amount, she scooped an undetermined quantity of vegetables from tub and into the pot until her cook’s eye told the soup contained the right amount of those former garden gems.

 

 

                     360 degrees of memories Grandmother’s kitchen of long ago . .  .

                     Top to bottom left:  My baby sister, Rachel, in caught-off guard as I photograph her serving our Papaw; our middle-sister, Traci, uses the ever-present dirt-buster, to pick up crumbs after dinner; my cousin, Clifton, sneaking in the fridge; and on right side, my cousin, Michelle and me seated in the corner of Grandmother’s kitchen at the kid’s table with the ever present, white-painted, wooden high chair used for all nine of Grandmother’s grandkids!

 

I can still recall the way that little gadget on the top of the pot bobbled, hopped, and danced around on cloud of angry steam.  Soon, aromas of comfort emanated throughout her cozy home.  The ice that had formed on the inside of the single-paned kitchen windows was slowly transformed into condensation drops worthy of childhood finger drawings.

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Though not exactly the same, this is similar to the often used pressure cooker of my grandmother’s.

 

To be honest, as a youngster, vegetable beef soup was not my favorite meal.  In fact, I found the meat impossibly chewy, and in my spoiled child mind, it seemed to expand the more I chewed.  Plus, I was not a hug fan of all those vegetables mixed together. However, later, when I lived with my grandparents in my early adult years, I came to love my Grandmother’s vegetable soup, but I still attempted to furtively avoid the meat as I ladled out my serving of soup!  Then, in true family tradition, I’d break up a handful of saltines into the soup before chowing down!  Oh, how I wish I could have just one more bowl of that soup and tell Grandmother how much I loved it and appreciated her loving planning and frugality . . . There’s something to be said about the skills of those who survived the Great Depression and truly knew how to not waste anything, and could thrive within their resources.

 

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Grandmother’s vegetable soup often started with left over chuck roast and any remaining vegetables. Ugh! Never my favorite as an ungrateful child.

 

While I am still not a big meat eater, John is, so when creating this recipe, I tried to create a versatile blend to make both of us happy.  Sometimes, I make a huge pot of this, but pick around the chicken—just as I once picked around Grandmother’s beef in her vegetable soup.  Other times, I drag out both the large Crockpot and my mini-Crockpot.  In the larger pot, I make a version with the chicken thighs, but without the beans and potato. While in the smaller pot, I make a version with all ingredients, but no meat.  This allows John to have a lower carb variety of this healthy soup while still allowing me a hearty plant based version. Plus, both variations are naturally gluten-free.  (Sigh, sadly, saltines crumbled into soup are NOT gluten-free, and I no longer add them to my soup due to celiac disease.)

 

 

                    Cooked with chicken in a 6-quart crock-pot for John, and without chicken cooked on stovetop (or mini-crock pot) and stowed away in a 2-quart glass dish.  There’s several meals with of food here!  And, it can be frozen!

 

If cold weather is chilling you to the bone, set up this soup in the morning or on a Saturday/Sunday afternoon; and, you’ll be noshing on warm, home-cooked comfort by dinner.  In fact, you can even throw all of your ingredients in your Crockpot-insert the night prior, and stow it away in your fridge overnight.  In the morning, simply add it to cooking base, select your setting, and dinner will be ready after work.  Additionally, while I do not yet have an Instant Pot, I am told this handy kitchen tool will allow you to prepare this soup in less than hour!  Wow!

 

                     Served, sadly without crackers, for me.

 

 

Served with plenty of saltines for John!

 

Play with the ingredients of this recipe—add more of some ingredients, and/or remove the any ingredients that do not suit your tastes or dietary needs. Make this recipe work for you and yours, as it is versatile.  Then, drop me a line and let me know how it went.  I’d love to hear about your variation!

 

 

Play with these ingredients.  (I forgot to include the russet potato in these photos.)  You do NOT have to use them all.  Pick the ones you like, and double up if desired! It’s your soup, your way, to meet your dietary needs!

 

From our home to yours, John and I wish you healthy, happy, and homemade meals!

Versatile Vegetable Soup

 Serves: 6-8 generous servings (Depending upon serving size.)

Ingredients:

1-2 tablespoon olive oil (optional)

5-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (optional)

1 ½ teaspoon minced garlic

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped celery

1 russet or sweet potato, chopped (optional)

1 ½ cup chopped carrots

2 cups broccoli florets (Can substitute equivalent amount of favorite green vegetable, such as green beans, spinach, kale, peas)

1 zucchini, chopped

1 yellow squash, chopped

1 large can (28 oz) pureed tomatoes

1 can (14.5 oz) can of diced tomatoes

2 cans (14.5 oz) cannellini or garbanzo beans (optional)

4 cups of broth—either chicken or vegetable, depending upon preference

1-2 teaspoons sea salt

2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon red pepper

2 bay leaves

1-2 cups additional water

 

To Make:

First, prep vegetables that need chopped and set-aside.

Next, in large pot, over medium heat, add oil if using, or spray pot with nonstick cooking spray.

If using chicken, arrange meat all along the bottom of pot and place garlic on top of it.

If NOT using meat, place garlic on the bottom of pot.

Next, add in onion, celery, potato (if using), carrots, broccoli, zucchini, and squash.

Pour in both cans of tomatoes, beans (if using), and broth.

Gently stir in, avoiding the chicken layer if using meat; sea salt, Italian seasoning, black pepper, and red pepper

Add additional water until desired soup consistency is reached.

Gently place bay leaves on top

Cover and allow to simmer (gently bubble) 60-90 minutes, or longer, until chicken, if using, is cooked through, and vegetables have reached desired level of softness.

If using Instapot or Crockpot, be sure appliance has an 8-quart capacity, and follow manufacturer’s suggested cooking time.

Remove bay leaves before serving.

 

Tastes even better reheated!

Can be stored in refrigerator for up to a week or stored in freezer for up to a month.

 

 

 

 

Gluten-Free Seafood Pasta with Zucchini Noodles

           “Nothing is better than going home to family and eating good food and relaxing.”—Irina Shayk

           “I’m not a chef.  But I’m passionate about food—the traditional of it, cooking it, and sharing it.”—Zac Posen

 

           This past August, John and I were dinner guests of Amy and Keith VanHorn in Bethany, WV, while visiting our daughter, Madelyn, at Bethany College.  While we were there, Amy and Keith shared dinner with Maddie, a few of her college friends as well as John and me. One of the dishes they served was zucchini noodles prepared simply in what I believe was olive oil, perhaps a bit of butter, salt and pepper. John, who is not necessarily, a big zucchini lover, to my great surprise, loved that dish and suggested that we begin to incorporate zucchini in recipes at home.  Fine by me! I love all veggies, and I am all about discovering and/or creating new ways to prepare them!

 

gray stainless steel sauce pan and green cucumber illustration
Photo by Toa Heftiba Şinca on Pexels.com

 

           As I began to mull over various way to incorporate those zucchini noodles, I was reminded of one of Maddie and John’s favorite dishes, Fettuccini Alfredo.  While I enjoy making it from scratch. It is full of fat, and takes a bit of time. I began to wonder, however, if there was a way I could make a lighter, more calorie friendly version of this family favorite that would include zucchini noodles. Hmm . . .

           Another thought came to me as well.  What about a favorite seafood stew, taught to me by our friends, Vincent and Gisele Theriault from New Brunswick, Canada?  This seafood dish is cooked in a Rose-style sauce and served over white rice. Vincent and Gisele once made this recipe for our family by combining one jar of red pasta sauce with one jar of Alfredo pasta sauce.  Then, they stirred in leftover freshly caught crab and lobster meat from a meal they had shared with us the night before. It was such a tasty way to use seafood, that it is a recipe I have made on occasion at home—only substituting canned crab, baby shrimp, and clams in lieu of fresh fish.

 

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Vincent, Gisele, and Bijou Theriault of Janeville (summer) and Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.

 

           One night, John, seemingly reading my mind, said, “You know, Steph, I bet those zucchini noodles would be good with Alfredo Sauce over them.”  As I pondered what he said, the idea began to form that I could create a dish similar to that of Theriault’s seafood stew, but instead of serving it over rice, I could incorporate our favorite gluten free, high fiber pasta and zucchini noodles.  It would be the best of both worlds—a lower fat variation of Fettuccini Alfredo and Theirault’s hearty seafood stew.

           The recipe I share with you today, is one I have made several times with a few variations. I have made it with nothing but two jars of reduced fat Alfredo sauce.  I have also made the Theriault-rose variation with both a jar of reduced fat Alfredo sauce along with a jar of rich red pasta sauce. Additionally, I have used a number of combinations of seafood, but I feel certain it would be just as good without seafood.

 

           Some of the ingredients to gather for making this recipe.

 

           Finally, another tasty variation of this recipe that John and I have created with the leftovers is to pour the uneaten portion of pasta and sauce into a prepared casserole dish.  Then coat foil with nonstick cooking spray, before covering the leftovers, and storing in refrigerator. When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Next, remove foil long enough to add desired toppings, such as shredded cheese, gluten free breadcrumbs, nutritional yeast, and/or bacon bits. Then, recover with same foil and bake 20-25 minutes until sauce begins to bubble.  Finally, remove foil and continue baking for an additional 10-15 minutes until top begins to brown.

 

           Take any leftovers, place in prepared casserole dish, and top with your favorite shredded cheese, nutritional yeast, gluten-free bread crumbs, bacon bit, and/or so forth.

 

           This is a great recipe to make on a busy work night because it can be thrown together quickly; and, if you are only serving 2-3 people, you should have enough leftovers for another meal! Likewise, if you are feeding a family of 4-6, you will have plenty of servings for everyone, with a leftover dish or two for lunch packing.

           From my home to yours, I wish you healthy, happy, and homemade meals!

 

          Cooks up in one pot, pasta and all!  Makes for easy clean-up and a tasty, quick dinner!

 

Gluten Free Seafood Pasta with Zucchini Noodles

Serves 6-8 (Leftovers are great baked in a casserole dish and topped with optional toppings; such as, parmesan cheese, other shredded cheeses, bacon bits, nutritional yeast, and/or gluten-free bread crumbs)

Can also be made vegan or vegetarian.

2  (12-ounce) packages of zucchini noodles (We like Green Giant frozen bags.)

1 (8-ounce) package favorite gluten free pasta (We like POW lentil pasta or Banza Chickpea Pasta.)

Your favorite style of seafood, enough for 6-8 servings, examples include: lump crabmeat or claw meat, clams, baby shrimp, imitation flaked crab meat, lobster, etc . . . (Obviously, if preparing this as a vegan or vegetarian recipe, you would leave out seafood.)

2 jars of favorite pasta sauce (We like Bertolli Reduced Fat Alfredo Sauce and/or Muir Glen Organic Portabella Mushroom Pasta Sauce.)

½ cup favorite clear broth, such as vegetable broth or chicken bone broth

½ cup water

¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese (nutritional yeast could be substituted for vegan version)

1-tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)

½ teaspoon Bragg’s liquid aminos (Can substitute salt)

Use the following seasonings to taste:

–Italian Seasoning

–Onion Powder

–Red pepper flakes

–Black pepper

To Make:

Coat large pot with nonstick cooking spray and place pot on medium heat.

Empty contents of both pasta sauces into pot.

Fill one empty sauce jar with ½ cup clear broth, cover tightly with original lid, shake well, and empty into pot.

Fill other jar with ½ cup water, cover tightly with original lid, shake well, and empty into pot.

Stir in uncooked pasta noodles.

Meanwhile, follow microwave directions for heating/thawing zucchini noodles, one package at a time. (I typically reduce cooking time by 2-3 minutes.  I just want zucchini slightly warmed.)

Drain water from zucchini package before stirring into pot.

Once both packages of zucchini noodles have been added to sauce and pasta, stir well, and continue simmering over medium heat, checking to ensure nothing is sticking to bottom of pot.  If, at any time, sticking begins to occur, gradually reduce heat, but try to maintain a simmer.

Begin to stir in desired seafood.

Next, stir in parmesan cheese (and/or nutritional yeast if using)

Finally, stir in seasonings. (If I had to guess, I would say I use ½ or more teaspoon of both Italian seasoning and onion powder; and ¼ or more teaspoons of black pepper and red pepper flakes.)

Stir well and continue simmering for 10, or more, minutes until pasta is al dente.

Reduce heat to low and cover.  Allow dish to rest in pot for 10, or more, minutes.

Serve warm.

 

Apple Nachos

           “And when crush an apple with your teeth, say to it in your heart:

           Your seeds shall live in my body,

           And the buds of your tomorrow shall blossom in my heart,

           And your fragrance shall be my breath,

           And together we shall rejoice through all the seasons.”—Khalil Gibran

 

close up of fruits hanging on tree
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

           “Mrs. Hill, do you think there are any bad kinds of apples?”

           I look at the earnest sixth grader who spoke these words. He was not speaking metaphorically.  He was crunching on an apple during the delegated “snack time” of the school day. In reality, it is part of my third Reading/Language Arts class of the day.  During this class period, students have permission to bring a snack with them to class and eat it. Although work typically continues, I do give students about 3-5 minutes to talk while eating their snack.

           Recently, the inquiring student had been bringing an apple to class nearly every day.   They were beautiful, succulent looking orbs full of vibrant reds, yellows, and greens that he would thoughtfully bite, then chew as if tasting a rare delicacy.  He clearly did not believe in the traditional practice of bringing an apple to his teacher as he made the noshing of each apple look scrumptiously special. Thus, I decided it was high time I partake of one of autumn’s favorite fruits!

 

           

           Fuji, Gala, Crispin, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, Jazz, Ambrosia, and Cripps Pink, to name several of my personal favorites, are full of nutritional benefits—even in the age of low-carb, Keto, and Paleo! Apples contain quercetin, catechin, phloridzin, and chlorogenic acid—four beneficial antioxidants.  These ingredients combat free radicals, help stave off oxidative stress as well as aid in the fight against cardiovascular disease and cancer. Additionally, regular consumption of apples can promote bone health, weight management, pulmonary function, and gastrointestinal protection. If that weren’t enough, apples, as part of a whole food diet, can combat both diabetes and asthma!  That said, in order to get the maximum benefits of apples, it is important to eat the whole fruit, including the skin. No wonder there is the old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

           Last weekend, my daughter, Madelyn, a student at Bethany College, and her friend, Gigs, came home to visit during a short, four-day fall break.  When I asked her what sorts of foods to stock up, one of her first request was apples—enough to have some to take back with her to school!

           “The kind they serve in the ‘caf’ are never good!” she added.

 

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Maddie and her friend, Gigs, at our home on Fall break.

 

             I understood. While her school does have a nice cafeteria, the apples they offer students are typically Red Delicious and Granny Smith.  While there was once a time in my youth in which Red Delicious were quite yummy, over the past few years it has been my experience that Red Delicious are often now mushy and mealy.  Furthermore, although I absolutely love the tart, crisp, tang of a Granny Smith, I understand, they are not for everyone. Therefore, I had no problem honoring this request to pick up Fuji, Cripps Pink, or Honeycrisp apples—her favorite variations.  In fact, I must have bought more than the girls wanted because even though they took several back to school with them, they still left me with five! Hmm . . .

           I recalled over winter break, coming up with a unique breakfast idea for Maddie—apple nachos.  As I recalled, she greatly enjoyed them, and said I should definitely make the recipe for myself sometime; however, I never did get around to it.  Therefore, when I came home from work on the day Maddie and Gigs returned to Bethany and spied the apples in fruit bin of our refrigerator, I knew what I wanted to do with at least one of those apples—make nachos!

 

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Apple nachos I made for Maddie over winter break.

  

         When I made my original variation for Maddie, I slightly thinned out peanut butter with water in a bowl, added the mixture to a baggie, cut off one corner, and squeezed it over sliced Fuji apples—a variety usually available year-round.  Then, I sprinkled both raisins and mini-chocolate chips on top. Whereas, when I made apple nachos for myself, I mixed powdered peanut butter with water, but I, sadly got it a bit too thin, although it still tasted good! Then, I topped my nachos with mini-chocolate chips, dried cranberries and hemp hearts.  

 

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Apple nachos I made for myself. Even though I accidentally added too much water to the powdered peanut butter, they were still tasty!

 

           Apple nachos are such a simple, and easy to individualize recipe.   Any favorite apple variety can be sliced and arranged on a plate. The “sauce” can be made of cream cheese, yogurt, caramel, all types of nut butters, and even maple syrup. Additional toppings can include, but are not limited to all varieties of nuts and seeds; chocolate, peanut butter or butterscotch chips; coconut flakes, dates, figs, raisins and other dried fruits; as well as any number of spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom.  

 

           Any way you slice up this recipe, it is sure to be a winning meal or snack!  However, do keep in mind that apples are part of the “Dirty Dozen” produce items that are heavily sprayed with pesticides. Therefore, it is worth buying organic, or, even better, purchasing from a local farmer/market.

           From my home to yours, I wish you healthy, happy, and homemade meals!

 

apple business fruit local
Photo by Erik Scheel on Pexels.com

 

Apple Nachos

Makes one serving

1 apple, any variety, sliced thinly

1-2 tablespoons of favorite nut butter, powdered peanut butter, cream cheese, yogurt, caramel and so forth

1/2-2 tablespoons of water, depending upon how thin you prefer your sauce

Optional stir-ins to sauce:  ½ -1 teaspoon vanilla or other favorite extract, maple syrup, honey

1-2 tablespoons of as many optional toppings as desired, such as: chocolate, peanut butter, or butterscotch chips; favorite candy pieces; favorite dried fruit; favorite chopped nuts/seeds

A sprinkling of favorite spice

Directions:

Arrange thinly sliced apples on plate.

In small bowl, mix nut butter, powdered peanut butter, cream cheese, yogurt, or caramel with water (and/or extract, if desired), ½ teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

Pour mixture into Ziploc baggie and cut off one corner.

Squirt “sauce” mixture over sliced apples.

Sprinkle with desire toppings.

Serve immediately.

           

 

Western Salad

            “It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.”—Lewis Grizzard

 

“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.”—Brian O’Driscoll

 

It is fresh garden tomato season!  As a child, I never ate tomatoes—or much of any other vegetable for that matter.  (Of course, I love vegetables now!) Nonetheless, I have many fond memories surrounding tomatoes.  To begin, both of my grandparents and my Dad grew tomato plants.  They babied, coddled, and cared for those plants as if they were precious and rare gems.  At the time, I could not understand why. Now, I have a MUCH greater appreciation for their actions.

 

orange tomato
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

When that first tomato arrived on the vine and was ultimately picked, I watched with wonder, as one of the grown-ups in my life would slice the red globe with care.  Next, the tomato would be arranged in a fanned-out circular fashion on a small, plate and carefully salted.

 

“Salt brings the sweetness out, Stethie,” my Grandmother Helen would explain to me.

 

top view photography of sliced tomatoes
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

 

During dinner, depending upon if I was eating dinner with my grandparents or at home, I would observe the adults in my life eating freshly sliced tomato alongside whatever else we were eating.  Oh, to-be-sure, there were plenty of grilled hamburgers and BLT sandwiches served when the tomatoes began ripening, but I never stopped being astonished at the fact that most influential adults in my life ate plain tomato slices with salt only.

 

Later, my Aunt Patty, from the faraway land of Denton, TX, introduced our family to a new tradition–Western Salad.  This was such a simple recipe that really brought out the tang, zest, and sweetness of a freshly picked garden tomato. It was actually one of the first ways I learned to eat tomato.  Western salad became a HUGE hit in our family.  It was sure to be served at most summer gatherings even when Aunt Patty, my Uncle Ralph, and their kids (my cool cousins) were not in town. To this day, John, my husband, and I, still nosh on Western Salad throughout the hot months of the year. It is now our summer tradition—going well with steak, grilled chicken, hamburgers, and so forth.

 

 

Of course, like all family recipes, they change and evolve through time.  Therefore, I am not sure if the recipe I share with you is the exact same recipe that Aunt Patty made all those years ago, but it adheres to the basic ingredients as best I recall.  What I love about this recipe is that it lends itself to modification to fit most any dietary/lifestyle needs.  Don’t like or want beans, leave them out.  Don’t like or need chips, leave them out.  Want to add in grilled chicken, steak, or shrimp, go right ahead.  A good recipe lends itself to modification—and this is a great one—at least to John and me!

 

From my home to yours, I wish you happy, HEALTHY, and homemade fun!

 

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Aunt Patty’s Famous Western Salad

 Serves 4-6, depending upon size of lettuce and portion of serving

Ingredients:

 1 head lettuce (Check that it feel solids and heavy.)

1 large tomato, diced (A freshly grown garden tomato tastes best.)

1 can of Bush’s Vegetarian beans (Feel free to leave beans out if they do not adhere to your dietary needs or you do not like them.)

¼- ½ Catalina or Red French dressing (can be reduced-fat or fat-free)

1-cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (can be reduced-fat or fat-free)

Fritos, or any other corn based chip to taste—we love chili cheese flavor  (This can be omitted based on dietary needs.)

Optional add-ins: diced green pepper, diced purple or other sweet onion, and/or chopped red cabbage

Directions:

Chop or tear entire head of lettuce into large salad bowl.

Dice large garden tomato and add to salad bowl.

Slightly drain beans, if using—do not rinse and add to salad.

If using any other additional vegetables, chop/dice and add those.

Gently stir-in Catalina or Red French dressing, a little at a time, until you get the desired amount. Vegetables should be lightly coated, but not drenched.

Top with shredded cheese.

Serve immediately, and top with desired amount Fritos.