Silky Smoothie – Banana/Strawberry

Make our yummy smoothie without the added sugar or dairy because you use coconut milk instead. You’ll think it’s better than the yogurt version because it’s nice silky texture has no sour taste and is surprisingly thick.

Silky Smoothie – Banana/Strawberry Recipe Silky Smoothie – Banana/Strawberry Recipe

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Why You Should Use Coconut Milk

I recently gave up dairy and discovered coconut milk as my go-to alternative. I’ve been surprised how versatile this ingredient is. This is one of my favorite alternatives because I don’t feel I’m compromising taste or texture in any of my recipes and unlike coconut oil, it does not taste like coconut.

I use it in my coffee in the morning. Not only does it have less calories than milk or cream, it is only has 50 calories per 1/3 cup serving. If you’re wondering if your coffee is going to taste like coconut, let me assure you that it doesn’t. I use Native Forest coconut milk which is organic and their cans are BPA free. I also use So Delicious Culinary Coconut Milk in cartons. The great thing about either of these is that you can store them in your pantry until you’re ready to use them.

In a recent hotel stay, I had gone to the store to buy Lite Coconut Milk for my morning coffee. I had stopped by the hotel restaurant to get an iced coffee. They happen to add dairy to their coffees, so I gave the girl my coconut milk as a replacement. All I can say is you’ve got to try it. She added vanilla and caramel sugar-free syrup (At home I use a mixture of 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1 part water and 1 part honey as a simple syrup) to the bottom of the cup, then ice, 1/3 cup of the coconut milk, and about 1/4 cup of very strong coffee. It was just as creamy and delicious as if she used cream. I’m actually surprised that it hasn’t caught on yet at restaurants. I see soy or almond milk, but not coconut milk.

You can use coconut milk to make yogurt, Greek yogurt and use them in your smoothies. NOTE: I use 2 probiotics instead of yogurt starter.

I’ve used coconut milk in my curries, soups and potatoes. You can even make ice cream in your ice cream maker with it. Just add pulverized bananas to sweeten it up (no sugar required) and a little vanilla. Pretty much anywhere you use milk or cream you can add coconut milk.

These are the three versions of coconut milk:

  • Coconut Milk – Use as a creamer or milk replacement
  • Lite Coconut Milk – Less heavier than regular coconut milk, but just as creamy.
  • Coconut Cream – A thicker version of coconut milk. Use as a cream replacement or use to make whipped cream (just store in the frig until ready to use).

I hope you give it a try. Drop me a line and let me know how you like it.

Upcoming Workshop: Warming Spices to Melt the Winter Chill

If you’re a curry lover, then you’ll love our first class of the Winter season, Warming Spices to Melt the Winter Chill. It’s getting much colder out and if you like spices like I do, then it’s time for something warm and comforting like curry. Additional spices like tumeric and ginger have been known to help with arthritis and circulation. I wouldn’t call them particularly hot spices, I’d call them warming spices. If you’re looking for another alternative to everyday dinners, then this should spice things up.

We’ll cook a delicious chicken masala (curry), gobi manchurian (cauliflower dish), and a vegetable coconut curry dish accompanied by brown rice. You’ll discover some delicious spices and learn to grind a garam marsala spice blend.

Class will be Friday, January 8 from 6 to 8pm. Please come out and join us.

Smoothie Demo at Silver Sneakers Exercise in Lawrenceburg, TN

I thought I’d surprise my Silver Sneakers workout group and make them all smoothies to sample. Here’s the Fit and Fab Smoothie I shared on Wednesday.

Most people can make smoothies, but I’m all about good ingredients (minimally processed and good sources of nutrition). I also try to inject flavors in unique ways. Being good for you doesn’t have to taste plain or boring. My base ingredients for one batch of smoothies are 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, 2 cups (about 6) fresh squeezed orange juice (including the pulp), and one frozen banana (cut in half). Some of the best combinations in addition to my base are:

  • Frozen peaches (a handful) and strawberries (about 6) or
  • Frozen peaches (a handful) and pineapple (a handful), 1 tsp. orange zest

There are a few things you can add for fiber and protein: 1 tbs. of chia seeds (fills you up and gives you energy), cacao nibs (raw chocolate pieces). and ground flax seeds (provides a nutty flavor). You can find some of these at Big Lots, Publix, Kroger and TJ Maxx. To make your smoothies sweeter without the use of highly processed sugars (like agave or refined sugar), add either: 1 Tbs of: raw honey, 1 tsp. stevia (Sweet Leaf Stevia Drops plain or with vanilla) or 1 Tbs. of date syrup (Amazon). If you do use stevia, the drops with vanilla are the nicest flavor. To add another level of flavor, you can also add one of these flavor freebies: 1/4 tsp. of extract: vanilla, almond or orange, 1 tsp. orange zest which is quite an effective flavor booster.

The Many Genres of Food

Just like music has many genres, so does food. Vegetarian, paleo, vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free and low-carb just to name a few.

I read one girl say she was a Selectarian, where she enjoyed multiple eating disciplines based on her own needs and desires. I guess you could say that’s how I’d describe what we teach. We give you the options and let you decide.

In the quest to eat healthy, opening up your taste buds to different eating genres can open up a whole new world.

One size does not fit all.

If You Love Salads Workshop

If you had a love affair with salads your whole life like I had, you would’ve loved the salads we made Monday night. What is it about salads that we love so much? Is it the crunch of fresh veggies or the tangy dressings? I am still am not sure. Not all salads are the same as we demonstrated with the 3 salads we made.

The Asian Cabbage Salad had cabbage, snap peas, carrots, lots of nuts and a tangy Asian dressing; The nuts gave it lots of crunch. The Thai Chicken Salad had cabbage, garden peas, garden cilantro, garden green onions, chopped green apple and a yummy peanut dressing; It had a lot of fresh produce going into it. The Warm Portobella Mushroom Salad was the simplest of all the salads (and one of the favorites) with spinach, sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts, Asiago cheese, and baked sliced mushrooms; It’s simple dressing was made from olive oil and balsamic vinegar that drenched the spinach and was topped with warm steak-like mushrooms.

The drawing for a  mini chopper and colander went to Sandi who drew her own name!

We had two girls from out of town: Debbie from California and Laura from North Carolina. It was a great venue to show our out-of-town guests how hospitable a little town like Loretto can be!

The evening summer weather was the perfect setting to eat our salads outdoors. Good food, good weather, good conversation: What more more could you ask for?

A Worthy Smoothie

Wondering what to do with your aging bananas? Freeze them! Not able to finish all your strawberries? Freeze them. They make fabulous smoothies! I even buy ripe pineapples on sale. Cut them up and freeze them. You can make all kinds of things out of frozen fruit.

Hate stevia? I used to, but have learned by experimenting and found better ways to use it. I love it now. Because it’s 300 times sweeter than sugar, the key is adding a little, then tasting and making adjustments. Don’t use Stevia in the raw, it contains maltodextrin and is associated with MSG. Pyure organic stevia is one one of the only organic stevias out there. Ditch the so-called “natural” sweeteners and avoid the GMO pesticide ridden products.

Want to eat whole foods? Choose an organic full-fat Greek yogurt with no fillers. Unfortunately, the process used to reduce fat in milk products does not make them whole foods. Better yet, make your own! It’s easy and you can even use your oven. Just make sure you use a yogurt (not Greek) with live cultures as your starter.

Strawberry/Banana/Pineapple Smoothie (no sugar added)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup organic full-fat Greek yogurt (or make your own)
  • 1/2 vial full Sweet Leaf stevia drops with vanilla
  • 1 banana, cut in half and frozen
  • 6 strawberries, frozen
  • 5 chunks pineapple, frozen
  • 2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice (Don’t cheat. Packaged and frozen orange juices claim to be all natural, but contain high fructose.)

Instructions:

Add all ingredients (in the order of the ingredients) into the blender. Blend and serve,

Makes 2 large glasses of smoothies.

A Weekday Vegetarian Meal Workshop

I took the heat (literally) when I prepared the ingredients for our vegetarian workshop on Thursday. Chiles are spicy before they’re cooked. My hands were feeling the heat! Mexican food takes a lot of preparation but it’s well worth the effort. I converted my Mexican rice from tomato to roasted red peppers for a guest who cannot eat tomatoes. I wanted to make sure we wouldn’t miss the tomatoes.

The girls really enjoyed preparing the meal and sampled along the way. That’s the fun about cooking with a group. We made stuffed poblanos with enchilada sauce accompanied by Mexican rice and a farm fresh salad with a Caesar dressing.

The weather was beautiful, so we ate outside. Everyone cleaned their plates!

Speaking at the Master Gardener Plant Sale

Photos by Sandi Pettus

We couldn’t have asked for a nicer day for the Master Gardener Plant Sale in Lawrenceburg on Saturday. I spoke on cooking with culinary herbs.

My brother Eric and his family came to give us support. I’m so thankful to my sister-in-law, Helen who worked with me during my presentation and kept me organized. I’d also like to thank a girl young named Breanna who helped us keep our area clean.

We all know there’s a multitude of ways to use herbs, so I focused on the areas of  barbecuing, condiments, compound butters, preserving, infusing, steaming and finishing with herbs. I explained some tried and true methods and gave some unique new ideas. Two of the noted favorites were an herb fire-starter and pretty ice cubes filled with herbs and edible flowers.

In the last part of my presentation, I chose to demonstrate pesto because of it’s simplicity and knew it’s something people could recognize. Pesto, which means “‘pounded” in Italian, was historically prepared using a mortar and pestal. However, it has since been revised for modern day. Most of us now use food processors to prepare this sauce.

I put my spin on the traditional basil pine nut pesto and added it to a prepared layered terrine (of sun dried tomatoes, tipenade and goat cheese) and topped it with our freshly made pesto. Then, I introduced a cilantro pepita pesto and a parsley almond pesto. Everyone got a chance to sample everything on crusty bread. I think the favorite of the day was our layered terrine.

I really enjoyed myself and was glad to see others enjoying my demos and samples. I had one lady tell me that she knows a lot about herbs, but she said she actually learned some new things, so I thought that was a great compliment! Sharing cooking knowledge is the one thing I really enjoy.

 

Cooking with Alcohol Part 3 Workshop

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Wednesday night was our last workshop in the Cooking with Alcohol series.  We made a marinara sauce with a gluten-free pasta, accompanied by a salad tossed in lemon/garlic salad dressing and pan roasted green beans in pine nut butter.

This marinara sauce is made completely from scratch, but don’t let that deter you. It’s easy to make. We roasted garlic and roma tomatoes tossed in olive oil for about 30 minutes. We then whirled them up in the food processor and added fresh raw garlic, basil, parsley and balsamic vinegar. We used balsamic vinegar instead of sugar to cut the bitter taste of the tomatoes. Sauvignon Blanc white wine was added instead of the red wine typically used. Using white wine gives a lighter and fruitier flavor. Once our sauce was pureed, we added it to a saucepan and let it simmer for only 30 minutes. 30 minutes was enough time to achieve a pretty thick sauce. However, I typically let the sauce cook for about an hour or more to achieve a deeper color and richer flavor.

While the sauce cooked, we tackled our gluten-free pasta. Making pasta is an art and test of patience, but it is well worth the effort. I pre-made our dough out of organic cornstarch, tapioca flour and potato flour and added Xanthum gum to give it that gluten-like stickiness that’s in traditional wheat pastas. Eggs were added to finish off the dough.

The girls used the pasta roller to make sheets before turning the dough into spaghetti. It took a few passes before we were ready to use the spaghetti attachment. The pasta drying rack came in handy to hang all our noodles on until we were ready to use them.

Next, we prepared our lemon/garlic salad dressing with olive oil, fresh garlic, lemon, salt and pepper. It’s a nice, light and healthy dressing.

The last dish of the night was our pan roasted green beans with pine nut butter. Although the title says, pine nut butter, there is only a tablespoon of butter which gives it just the right amount of flavor. If you like butter, but want to cut out all the calories, combine butter with olive oil. The olive oil will also prevent the butter from burning.

The pasta and marinara sauce turned out perfect. However, I believe the pan roasted green beans stole the show. It’s a simple recipe with amazing taste.

Our entire calorie count for the evening was 593 calories!

Get ready, our next class will be making light, healthy appetizers on Wednesday, April 9.