Smoky Beetnik & Tom Gazpacho

I went to the farmer’s market today, and loaded up on more produce than you can even imagine. I’m on a huge beet kick lately — I love eating them plain or incorporating them into a delicious meal. So when I saw two different kinds of beets at the farmer’s market today, I went a little hog wild. And the other day I had bought a container of roasted vegetable gazpacho at Whole Foods (on sale, $6 for a pint!), which served as the inspiration for this gorgeous summer soup — I made over a gallon (even after tasting as I went along) and the ingredients for it cost me less than $20 total. I’ll let you do the math. (The Whole Foods version was way too garlicky for me anyway.) Making it was a bit of a process, but I listened to business audio books while I worked on the soup, and the time flew by.

Here’s what I did:

I boiled 4 small to medium beets, and 4 medium carrots, just until tender, and I set them aside to cool.

Using my food processor, I fine-diced the following:

Half a “bunch” of fresh cilantro

Two small cucumbers

2 or 3 large green onions

A very full quart-sized container of fresh, ripe tomatoes (and I wish I hadn’t eaten all the golden cherry tomatoes, because I’d have quartered those and thrown them in there in larger pieces; they were heaven)

One green bell pepper (I would have also added a yellow one, if I’d had both)

1 medium raw zucchini

I’d have added some celery as well if I’d had some, but it wasn’t worth another trip to the store over it.

I poured all of this into a soup pot as I went, even though I didn’t cook the finished product — it just helped me to get my mindset right.

I then added the following:

1 1/2 quarts organic tomato juice (R.W. Knudsen’s brand was on sale, and I love that it comes in glass bottles)

A dash of chipotle powder

White pepper

Salt

A sprinkle of cayenne

Cumin

Smoked Paprika

Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (soy sauce equivalent)

A dash of apple cider vinegar

A dash of olive oil

The juice and pulp of 3 small limes

I then cut up the beets and carrots (now completely cooled) in the food processor the same way, and added them to the mix. You could omit either, or just the beets, or both for a more traditional gazpacho, and it would be delicious. It’s sweeter with the beets, and as a gorgeous rich color and an earthier flavor. Add a little chunk of beet to a spoonful of your gazpacho, taste the difference, and decide for yourself! Delicious either way; and now I’m wishing I’d only gone with beets in half the batch so that I could enjoy two different kinds of soup this week. But I doubt I’ll have any trouble dispatching with these leftovers! 😉

PS I Googled Beet Gazpacho, and apparently it’s very much a thing! I had no idea; I literally just thought I’d invented something wonderful. Oh well. It’s wonderful anyway, and I totally invented my version. Plus I’m pretty sure no one else named theirs “Smoky Beetnik and Tom Gazpacho” 😉

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It’s Smoothie Time!

One of my favorite breakfasts to get me energized for the day is a fruit smoothie. This post will be less “recipes” and more “smoothie theory” and “tips.” Smoothies are so versatile that there’s no need to look for an actual recipe to follow. But there ARE some things to bear in mind as you’re blending away.

green

  1. GrEeN SmOOtHIeS!!!

I love a green smoothie — a fruity blended shake with a generous handful of kale or spinach mixed in. (Those are my go-to veggies, but you can use romaine, chard, collards, really any leafy green. They all have their own unique flavor, so experiment and see what you like best!)  I once read a tip that said to start with 40% greens and 60% sweet fruits in your smoothie, and ramp up to 60% greens and 40% fruit. However, you can absolutely do less greens if you’d like — the point is that you’re drinking your vegetables, which give you the vitamins, minerals, chlorophyll, fiber, and other nutrients you need. You can only eat SO MUCH salad; cooking your greens is OK but you lose a lot of the nutrients that way. Green smoothies are a great way to get more greenage into your body, and it can be done almost without you even noticing: Pineapple is a great fruit for disguising the “green” taste of a green smoothie. I can add twice as much kale to my smoothie with a few chunks of pineapple, and it makes for a remarkably refreshing drink!

2. The right equipment.

No, you don’t need a Vitamix – though you might want one. I have a Montel Williams Health Master (yeah really) that my mom bought me from an infomercial. It’s a high-powered multi-speed blender that handles my kale stems just fine. You need something like that – your standard blenders will burn out quickly, and they won’t always liquefy your ingredients into a pleasing (or even palatable) consistency. So if you can afford a Vitamix, spring for one now and spare yourself the wasted time, money, and energy. You may also be able to find a used one on craigslist or in a yard sale, so keep an eye out. I have friends who have also had great success with the Ninja and Magic Bullet products – but I had an Oster brand personal cup-blender thing once, and it was a waste of $20. You really need a lot of horsepower, and you won’t regret it.

3. Avocado.

greens

OK, I really don’t put avocados into my smoothies — mostly because I enjoy the taste of avocado, and save mine for savory dishes (or eating right out of the half-shell!?!) but a good friend was notorious for putting avocado in her smoothies. She said it gave the smoothie a creamy texture, and would use that in place of a banana. But a word of caution, according to her — you must drink your smoothie right away if it contains avocado. Otherwise it will continue to thicken as it sits, to the point of becoming undrinkable. (And if you’ve ever left half an avocado anywhere for long, even in the fridge, I’m sure you can imagine that avocado smoothie becoming quite unpalatable, too.)

4. B-A-N-A-N-A-S

Bananas are a very inexpensive way to add a wonderful sweetness and a creamy texture to your smoothie. Feel free to add several! Don’t worry about the sugar content, either. They provide the type of sugar your brain and body use for fuel! Google Freelee the Banana Girl if you don’t believe me. Bananas are a staple in my house. Sometimes my son (who’s not too crazy about smoothies, especially if they’re green) will request a “banana shake:” bananas, coconut or cashew milk, usually cinnamon and vanilla, often a spoonful of peanut butter or almond butter, and mayyyybe a scoop of vegan protein powder (more below on these ingredients.)

Bananas too ripe? Smoothies are a great vehicle for overripe bananas — the riper they are, the sweeter! Still got more than you can use up? Peel them and freeze them!

5. Liquids.

There’s nothing wrong with using plain old water in your smoothie! It helps keep you hydrated, and doesn’t add unnecessary sugar like juice tends to. (The sugar in juice, unless it’s fresh squeezed, is not nearly as healthy for you as the sugar in real fruit, because pasteurized juice has had the nutrients literally cooked out of it; unpasteurized juice’s nutrients have deteriorated for as long as it’s been sitting there. Even when fresh, juice is missing the fiber which helps your system to absorb the sugar slowly and properly.) That being said, using only water as the liquid in your smoothie can sometimes be bland and unsatisfying, especially when you add greens and don’t have a banana and/or a pineapple to bump up the flavor and sweetness profile. Fresh orange juice is really nice in a smoothie from time to time. Try a blend of orange juice and water. Coconut water is a nice, refreshing way to hydrate as well. Look for a brand that’s not from concentrate. The flavor will be subtle, but will add a complexity that plain water won’t.

Another thing I like to do to give my smoothie a flavor boost is to add the juice of one fresh squeezed lemon. Make sure you have something sweet in there, of course, but this is a delicious (and VERY nutritious) way to “wake up” the flavor of the smoothie – and the lemon helps to gently cleanse your body as well. Lime also works well here.

Coconut, cashew, or almond milk are also great in a smoothie; but I don’t like to combine them with citrus or pineapple – it could curdle the milk and become a waste of ingredients. Though if you did coconut milk with pineapple, you might end up with a nice virgin pina colada!

6. Frozen Fruit.

You can add virtually any fruit into your smoothie, but don’t forget to check out the frozen section. There are several reasons for this. One is, the frozen fruit may actually be fresher! Frozen fruit is often picked when ripe and flash-frozen at the optimal time to eat it — whereas fresh fruit is usually picked when unripe and transported hundreds or thousands of miles to the grocery store, and sometimes sprayed with gas to then cause it to ripen. Doesn’t sound ideal, does it? Another reason is cost. In my area, you can buy 6 oz of fresh raspberries (possibly my favorite food) for like $4; or you can migrate to the frozen case, where that same $4 (or less!) will buy 12 oz to a pound of raspberries instead.  Finally, you may get a more consistent selection when you check the frozen section — depending on your area, fresh fruit will vary tremendously in availability, quality, and price by season. Frozen fruit is there for you all winter long. I usually use a mix of fresh and frozen in each smoothie, to keep my drink cold but still in liquid form.

Less can be more — I’m usually the person who wants the most ingredients possible in my meal, whether it’s a smoothie or a curry — and I’ve been known to add every fruit in the house into my smoothies. These are delicious concoctions, but you really only need one fruit to make a delicious smoothie. Right now I’m sipping on frozen cherries blended with coconut water and a splash of cinnamon. The juice of a lime would elevate this to an even higher level! And if I’d used coconut milk instead of coconut water, it’d be a wholly different beverage. Do you see how the possibilities are endless?

7. Mangoes…

Mangoes are wonderful in smoothies. They’re sweet, a bit creamy, and have a delightful tropical flavor. But wait, why does your smoothie suddenly feel…hairy?!?  Traditional mangoes have strands of fiber that run through them, especially closer to the seed, that can seriously affect a smoothie’s texture. Some ways to avoid this problem include: tasting your mango before you put it in the smoothie, and making sure the texture is acceptable; using frozen mango, which is usually less fibrous for some reason; and using Atalufo mangoes (sometimes called champagne mangoes) which are smaller, usually less expensive, and have a much smoother texture.

8. Fun Mix-In’s.

Feel free to add any of the following, for a breakfast shake that’s truly your own: Almond or Peanut Butter, Protein Powder*, Cinnamon (I add this to almost all my smoothies, and it’s ridiculously good), other spices such as ginger or clove or nutmeg, Matcha Powder, Cacao nibs or cacao powder, edible essential oils (orange, lemon, lime, clove, etc), vanilla powder or vanilla extract — or anything else that you think would be delicious in your smoothies!! I’m not usually a fan of adding an actual sweetener to my smoothies, preferring to rely on the sweetness of the fruit itself — but if I’m out of banana and pineapple, and maybe just need a touch more sweetness, a light splash of real maple syrup does the trick.

*A Word on Protein Powder:

Hailed by fitness junkies, health gurus of all stripes, and just nearly everyone, protein powder is actually pretty unnecessary. I’ll do a whole post about protein sometime in the future, so I won’t rant too long here. But just know that unless you are at a calorie deficit (read: starving yourself), it is virtually impossible for you not to be getting enough protein. It’s a made-up problem that simply doesn’t exist for 99% of the well-fed folks reading this. That being said, sometimes I like to add a scoop of vegan, soy-free protein powder to my smoothie (unless organic, you can bank on your soy being genetically modified; and whey is just terrible for you — again, more later). I’ve been using Doterra brand’s V Shake, and find that it keeps me feeling fuller longer than my strictly fresh fruit and veggie smoothies. But never, ever feel that you need to buy a product such as this one, for any reason.

smooth

Alright, that’s all the time I have for smoothie building — drink up, enjoy, and happy blending! Let me know what you whirl up!

And be sure to check out these commercial roofers in Texas for all your contracting needs — they’re a proud sponsor of this site!

Cheers, J

The mighty Sweet Potato (What I made for Breakfast and Lunch Today)

Hello again and welcome back! I wanted to share what I made today, as all of it was absolutely phenomenal.

sweethash

Breakfast was a fun little southwest chipotle sweet potato hash. I need to go to the store today, but I was pleased with my ability to create delicious and satisfying meals with what I had. For the hash, I used:

1/2 a large sweet potato, cubed

1/2 can black beans

1/3 a medium zucchini, diced (sitting in a container in my fridge, this needed used up)

1/4 C or so of cooked brown rice (I add a spoonful of coconut oil to my rice while it’s cooking to give it a nice buttery flavor)

2 organic eggs

1 TBSP coconut oil

**If I would have had olives, peppers, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, organic corn – all would have been great in here**

Seasonings: 1 dash each salt, pepper, cumin, and chipotle pepper powder.

Fry the sweet potatoes in the oil until soft. Add zucchini, beans, rice, and spices, and cook until zucchini is tender. Crack the two eggs into the hash, and cover with a lid, a plate, or aluminum foil, until the eggs are steamed to the desired doneness (I like mine with a bit of runny yolk that you can mix into the hash, but another option instead of this method is just to scramble the eggs right into the hash. You could also have them on the side, however you like them, or omit them altogether. Truth be told I would have subbed scrambled tofu instead, if I’d had any.)

Behold, the mighty sweet potato!
Behold, the mighty sweet potato!

Lunch Time! Inspired by the other half of my sweet potato and a can of chick peas, I decided to make a yummy, easy curry. So simple, I don’t know why I don’t make a version of this every day! New goals?

Sweet potato Chana Curry

1/2 a sweet potato, diced

1 Tbsp coconut oil

1/2 can of garbanzo beans (chick peas)

1 medium tomato

2 Tbsp or so cooked brown rice

1 Tbsp or so of Curry powder (my favorite to use so far is sold at Whole Foods in their bulk spice section)

1/4 to 1/2 C coconut milk (I used Trader Joe’s brand, unsweetened, in the 1/2 gallon carton — a household staple for me)

Again, cook the sweet potato in the coconut oil until soft. Add all the other ingredients and cook together. Add as much or as little coconut milk as you like, depending on how much sauce you want, and how thick or thin you want it to be (the ingredients absorb the liquid the longer you cook it). As always, adjust the amount of curry powder to your personal taste. I also thought some mango or even raisins would be nice in there, though you get enough sweetness between the sweet potato, cooked tomato, and coconut milk sauce. Spinach would also have been wonderful in there (I add spinach to everything when I have it), as would some frozen peas.

This recipe was really filling, and I only ate about half of it. I plan to eat the other half before I hit the grocery store though, to try and make sure I stick to the list (although it’s better than going in hungry, this strategy hasn’t saved me yet, haha).

Enjoy, and let me know how you like it!

P.S. Summer is coming – be sure to test your air conditioner before you need it. I made the mistake of not doing this last year until the weather was incredibly hot. Thankfully, there is a great air conditioning repair service in my area. I’ll be sure to use them again, and recommend them to anyone who will listen.

Ch-ch-ch-chia!

Remember those chia pets that were made out of clay, that you would water, and little sprouts would grow out of the clay to look like hair or whatever? (I secretly wish I would have been the one with THAT million dollar idea!) Well they were called that because you were watering chia seeds, and growing chia sprouts!

Those little seeds are actually quite nutritious and versatile. Soaked in liquid, they can help keep you hydrated for long periods of time, earning them the claim to fame, “runners’ food.” Their gel-like texture when wet means that they’re great as an egg replacement when baking (read: you can veganize so many yummy baked treats it’s unreal). They take on any flavor you throw at them, oh and they’re packed with protein, fiber, and all the healthy omega’s you could ask for (yes, more so than mercury-laden fish).

One word to the wise – unless you plan to grind the seeds up (which I don’t particularly recommend), the pudding I’m about to describe will have a tapioca-like texture — meaning that it will be full of slippery little “pearls.” So if textures like that weird you out, try a very small batch at first.

So here it is as promised without further ado – chia pudding!

 

You need:

1/4 C chia seeds

1/4 C natural sweetener of your choice (maple syrup is kind of my go-to natural sugar, but if you’re into agave, raw cane sugar, honey, or whatever, they’d all be fine here. I fully expect to go on a little rant soon about why maple syrup is the healthiest and most balanced sugar; but use what you like for now)

1 C nut milk (coconut, almond, cashew, whatever. You could use regular cow’s milk or soymilk if you really wanted to, but I’m a huge fan of coconut, almond, and cashew milk. Hemp milk is supposed to be great for you, but literally every time I’ve bought it, it comes out so separated that it looks almost curdled, and that kind of grosses me out.)

1/4 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla powder

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 C shredded coconut, unsweetened (optional)

 

Mix the above and let sit 2-4 hours in the fridge, or overnight. This gives the chia seeds time to soak up the milk. This will be the construction of your basic pudding – now comes the fun part: mix-ins! Try the following variations.

 

***My favorite:*** thaw a bag of frozen red raspberries. Mash the berries and mix into the chia pudding before you let it set in the fridge. Heaven! (OK, I may love raspberries a bit too much.)

Mix in a handful of thawed, frozen berries (of any kind, or a mixture) into the pudding without mashing. This also works very well with cherries!

Add a sliced banana on top of your pudding (I do not recommend incorporating mashed banana into the pudding).

Add a handful of nuts on top just prior to serving (I love pecans plus a fruit for this).

Add some cacao nibs or cacao powder to the mixture before leaving it in the fridge (note that this adds a bitterness, and you may want a bit of extra sweetener. Also a little cacao goes a long way.)

I’ve not tried this one yet, but I think some PB2 in the basic mixture would be awesome, with or without cacao, and some banana on top at the end. Or strawberries, for a PB&J type thing.

Matcha powder in the basic mixture is also nice; it goes really well if you then mix in some whole raspberries.

A drop of lemon essential oil in the basic mixture is also phenomenal, and goes beautifully with any type of berry mix-in.

Let me know what else you come up with! Enjoy!

Lentil Soup

This lentil soup is a modified version of one that a friend shared with me. It’s very nutritious and hearty. So while it fills me up, it seems to go very quickly because it’s hard to stop eating it!

You will need:

2 cups green lentils, rinsed and sorted

1 large onion

4 carrots

4 stalks celery (I was out of celery last time and this soup did just fine without, but it’s nice to have)

Extra virgin olive oil – about 2 Tbsp

1 large can (or two standard 14 oz cans) crushed tomatoes

Apple cider vinegar (to taste – 1 to 4 Tbsp)

2-3 bay leaves

Chopped fresh or frozen spinach, optional

Salt & Pepper to taste

Water or vegetable broth

The original recipe also called for a clove of garlic, but as I’m increasingly sensitive to garlic, I omit it from pretty much everything I make.

There are two ways you can go about this soup. I like to cook the lentils in a medium pan according to package directions, with one of the bay leaves, while I’m chopping the veggies. This makes the entire dish get done more quickly. I then saute the carrots, onion, and celery in the olive oil, right in the big pot that I will make the soup in.  Once the veggies are soft, add everything else to the pot (add the lentils only when they’re done cooking); cook together, and bam, you have soup.

If you want to one-pot it, that’s fine too; cook your veggies in the pot with the oil only a little bit before adding the rinsed lentils, liquid, tomatoes, and spices. Always add the spinach toward the end, as it requires VERY little cooking time.

Last time I made this, I added a fresh jalapeno, chopped very fine. It didn’t make the soup spicy, but it did add another nice layer of flavor.

Thank you to the best hot tub and spa repair, removal, and delivery Denver has to offer, for sponsoring this post! Bon Appetit! Next time, I’ll show you how to make Chia Pudding!

Spring Pesto Pasta Salad

Let’s dig right in, shall we?

I made this for a group gathering a couple weeks ago, and it was a huge hit. One friend told me I needed to patent it. I’ll tell you exactly what I used; as always you should adjust it to your liking!

Pesto Dressing:

1 bunch basil

1 lemon (juiced)

Pine nuts

Extra virgin olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Apple cider vinegar

Salt & pepper

If you have lemon and/or basil essential oil, a drop of each would kick this up to another level. In a good way

Blend all in a food processor. Adjust quantities according to your liking.

PASTA SALAD

1 bag of Trader Joe’s brown rice + quinoa pasta (I used the corkscrew shape) – Drain and rinse; set aside

1 red bell pepper

1 jar Trader Joe’s artichoke hearts (I used their new grilled artichoke hearts from a glass jar and they were outstanding here, but regular artichoke hearts would be just fine too)

1 bag Trader Joe’s fresh, shelled peas (refrigerated section)

1 bunch asparagus (1/2 to 1 lb)

1 can of garbanzo beans

1 zucchini

1 handful extra pine nuts

Chop up all the veggies and mix into the pasta salad along with the pesto sauce. Bam! Easy-peasy. Get it, peasy? I’m so cheesy. 😉

Other things I didn’t use but would go great in here are: olives, hearts of palm, roasted red peppers (instead of fresh, or why not both?), roasted or sundried or fresh tomatoes, edamame, cucumber, broccoli, literally any kind of cheese (if you do cheese), mushrooms, finely diced onion…basically any veggie.

Big thanks to our friends at jacksonroofingpros.com for sponsoring this post. They’ve provided amazing support to this site!

Shout Out and Noodle Salad!

Here’s a big “Ida Foods” shout out to Fully Raw Kristina. I’m going to bring you a lot of “cooked” recipes, but Kristina is one of my food idols – lol. She brings a bright light to the world through great food and vibrant health. She’s always so fun and positive and encouraging. I highly recommend you check her out on YouTube. This recipe in particular is a favorite of mine.

I did go on primarily raw foods following a Master Cleanse a couple of years ago. I loved the energy that I had on raw food; I loved the clarity, I loved just about everything about it. So why am I not “raw” now? Mostly, I don’t like to pigeon hole myself into a box or category. Not in relationships, not in my diet, not in any self-descriptor. I need the freedom where I’m at in my life right now, to be able to eat as I see fit that day. I’m fully vegetarian – I don’t eat any meat – but other than that, I like to keep options open to myself and to keep that flexibility for now. I still very much enjoy raw meals like this one, however.