Creamy Pumpkin, Kefir and Chia Seed Smoothie

As odd as it may sound, I feel the New Year is around the corner. After Halloween, it feels like I blink my eye and I’m making stuffing for the turkey and then I’m decorating the house for Christmas with carols playing round the clock. And then the New year is here with all of the usual weight loss resolutions and juice fasts that come with it. So this year, I decided to start a clean-type of eating plan to get a kick-start on 2014. And part of it is avoiding my love or better yet, lust, my pumpkin spice coffees. I’m not giving up coffee completely and I’m sure if I put a pinch of pumpkin spice into my coffee no one will look at me too weird, as I take a McCormick jar out of my purse. (I was joking but what a good idea! lol) But I was inspired to make a creamy, yet healthy sort of smoothie with kefir and pumpkin puree so I can still enjoy the season and my pumpkin spice. And this is so tasty, it’s hard to believe it’s good for you! It’s almost like a pumpkin cheesecake in a glass. Almost. Cheers and happy weekend!

  • 1 cup of low-fat plain kefir
  • 1 heaping tablespoon pumpkin puree
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • generous pinch of pumpkin spice or a little cinnamon, nutmeg and mace
  • sweetener of your choice, (honey would be nice. I used a 1/2 teaspoon of xylitol.)

Combine the kefir and chia seeds and let sit for about ten minutes. Stir in the pumpkin, spices and sweetener. (The best part, you can use a fork to combine everything. Easy clean-up.) Serves 1.

DSC04299

Sunflower Seed & Honey Spread

I wasn’t hungry today, which is, I would say close to a miracle. A miraculous event occurred, my first meal of the day was at three in the afternoon and it was a nibbling of  this sunflower and honey spread with apple slices. Oh so good, a little too sweet but I enjoyed it. (Add in the honey a little at a time, until you have the desired sweetness.) Make it and share it with someone you love. Happy happy weekend!

  • 6 oz. raw sunflower seeds
  • 2 tablespoons hemp hearts
  • 2 heaping tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • sea salt

I’m not going to recommend using the immersion hand blender, because now I don’t think I have one; go with a blender. First blend the sunflower seeds, adding in a little at a time, until they are pretty smooth. Next, add in the rest of the ingredients. Adjust the seasoning as needed. Makes about a cup or so.

DSC03766

A Better Ice Cream Float?

Nothing beats an ice cream float on a rainy summer day. Maybe…enjoying it with a good book in hand or while watching a good movie or sharing it with someone special. But for me, they are usually guilt filled indulgences that I have to avoid at all costs. Or so I thought…until I found a delicious organic vegan ice cream made by Luna and Larry’s and a cream soda with zero calories sweetened with stevia made by Zevia. Who knew that this treat could be enjoyed again, minus the guilt? Enjoy!

  • 1 scoop of vanilla flavored coconut milk ice cream
  • 1 can of cream soda sweetened with stevia

Slowly pour the soda over your ice cream, keeping the soda nearby so you can re-fill and keep your cream afloat. ;) Serves 1.

ice cream float

Dark Chocolate Covered Banana Lollipops

It’s that time of year, it’s getting warm and summer is around the corner; beginning on Friday. I want to grab a good book and lay out on the beach and take in some sun. And then come home and have a cold treat like a rich, dark chocolate covered banana pop. Luck me, I was staring at perfectly polka-dotted ripe bananas ready to be dipped into some dark chocolate. The bitter of the chocolate with the sweetness of the banana is a match made in heaven, perfect as a end-of-day sweet treat. Once set, the snap of the chocolate is music to my ears and the taste, perfection on my taste buds. Enjoy! 

  • 5 ripe bananas, peeled
  • 3.5 oz. 90% dark chocolate
  • finely chopped pistachios
  • unsweetened shredded coconut
  • (10) 6-inch lollipop sticks

Melt your chocolate, using a double boiler or the microwave. (Always be super careful when melting chocolate. And you can use any percentage of dark chcolate that you like.) Trim your bananas and cut them in half, removing any banana fibers. Insert a lollipop stick into each one. (I used cake pop sticks and they worked great.) Hold your banana pops, one by one, over the bowl of melted chocolate and spoon the chocolate over each one, so they are covered, letting the excess chocolate drip back into the bowl. Place the chocolate covered pops onto a sheet of wax paper and sprinkle the pistachios on half and the other half with the coconut place flat into the refrigerator, until the chocolate is set, about fifteen minutes. You can also place these in the freezer, for some frozen chocolate covered banana lollipops. Makes 10 pops.  

 

Dark Chocolate Hibiscus Bark…Hmm…Slab

Obsessed, I am with this hibiscus tea that my cousin sent me for my birthday! Yesterday was the first day I opened it up to find beautiful dried hibiscus petals in tea bags. I thought it could be nice combined with chocolate and maybe a little coconut or sea salt..or both. This was surely an experiment and would be something that will be added to the re-do, re-work pile but still, fun enough to share. But maybe not exactly a winner unless you like a slab versus pieces of bark and it is an aquired taste, not everyone likes to munch on flower petals. On second try, I would chop up the hibiscus petals and then it would probably break up more easily, making it more of a bark and maybe add something in along with it. So if you want to remind mom of the fun days of making mud pies and getting dirty, this could be a fun part of dessert on Sunday! Just leave it as a slab and have everyone break off a piece and have lots of napkins nearby. ;) Enjoy your weekend and Mom’s day!

  • 3.5 oz. dark chocolate
  • 1 hibiscus tea bag
  • unsweetened coconut flakes
  • flakes of sea salt, like Maldons

Steep the tea and enjoy it while you wait for the tea to dry out a little bit. I put them on a paper towel and let them sit out in the sun for about half an hour. Melt the chocolate, (use any percentage that you like) in a double broiler and place the petals on a piece of wax paper, fairly close together. Your bark, slab (lol) will be about 8 inches by 5 or 6. Spoon the chocolate onto the petals and sprinkle with the coconut flakes or sea salt or both. Allow to cool in the refrigerator until hardened.

Bee Pollen – Dark Chocolate Bark

Just in case anyone is in the mood for a sweet treat after mailing in those taxes…I’ve got just the thing. We all know the soothing effects of chocolate, giving us those good feeling, in-love vibes and what better day to enjoy a special piece of decadent chocolate than today? (Even though every day is a good day for having those good-feeling-vibes.) I’ve been obsessed with 90% dark chocolate but you can use whatever percentage of dark chocolate you like. The bee pollen gives it a light sweetness, so keep that in mind. I think this makes a nice gift also for that chocolate lover in your life. Take a deep breath in, exhale, take a bite and enjoy!

  • (1) 3.5 oz. 90 % dark chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon bee pollen granules

Melt the chocolate in a double broiler or a glass or metal bowl sitting securely in a pot of boiling water. (Please be careful when choosing this method. Use pot holders and don’t add too much water into your pot.) Pour out the melted chocolate onto a piece of parchment or wax paper, it will pretty much spread out naturally, you can always help it out by smoothing it out with a spatula. Sprinkle the bee pollen evenly over the chocolate and allow to harden, in a cool pantry or in the refrigerator. Break into pieces. Makes about 3 servings. 

Cupcake Martini

Standing at the bakery, asking for a cupcake with the frosting on the side may be a little odd but it’s just what you need when a birthday is coming up. And you need it deconstructed, so you can spike it! And birthday cupcakes need to be spiked, lol. You can spike your cupcake with whatever flavored vodka or liqueur you like and you can always use a little more. ;)  The amount used here is enough to get a little flavor without it being soggy. And fresh whipped cream would be a dream but something about the sweetness and thickness of cupcake frosting, I just love and it reminds me of happy days. And birthdays are happy days especially when you have a spiked cupcake to help with the celebrating. I’m beginning the celebrating a little early, so happy weekend everyone!

  • 1 regular size vanilla cupcake, cake part
  • cupcake frosting
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla vodka
  • nonpareils
  • small martini glass

Cut your cupcake in quarters. Lay them on a plate, cut side up and sprinkle with the vodka. While the cupcake soaks up the vodka, using your finger tips, run the outer rim of the glass with a little water and dip into the nonpareils. Arrange the cupcake in the glass, pressing against the sides, so there is an opening in the center for the frosting. Next, using a decorating tip, pipe the frosting into the crevices and on top of the cake. Top with sprinkles. Serves 1 birthday girl or boy. Double and triple the recipe as needed and adjust the recipe according to how big your cupcakes and glasses are. Enjoy!

                           No matter how old I am, I will always love sprinkles!

Saffron Lemonade

The first real warm spring day, where the birds are singing, pointy green tips are coming up and a lemonade would be just perfect; not quite over ice yet but a nice room temperature lemonade. It’s tart but not too tart and has that special touch of saffron flavor and just perfect to drink while you enjoy the crocuses finally blooming…It’s been a long winter, pull up a lawn chair and enjoy!

  • 4 cups water
  • 2 jasmine green tea bags
  • 1 teaspoon xylitol
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • tiny pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt
  • squeeze of half a lemon

Brew your tea for the recommended time and remove the tea bags. Next stir in the xylitol, sea salt and the saffron and stir well. (You can substitute any kind of sugar that you like, in place of the xylitol. I like to use it because it’s guilt free.) Allow to cool naturally and squeeze in the juice of the lemon. Serve at room temperature or over ice, if you like. Garnish with lemon slices. Makes 4 cups.

Strawberry Greek Yogurt Granita

Okay, so not all is lost with the frozen strawberry yogurt! It came out great, but not exactly super creamy like a traditional frozen yogurt, more like a creamy granita? Is there such a thing? I’m not too sure, but it sure beats all the calories of a creamy soft serve ice cream cone, that I have been fantasizing about. (Can you tell that Dairy Queen has opened up again? It has. And it’s so tempting every time I pass it by.) So, I had to find an alternative to that creamy ice cream cone and thought this would be nice with all ingredients being pretty healthy, especially with it being sans sugar. It’s a nice treat to have in the freezer. Enjoy!

  • (1) 17oz. container of full fat Greek yogurt
  • 4 tablespoons coconut milk creamer
  • 3 cups roughly chopped strawberries
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon xylitol or more to taste
  • pinch of sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper*optional
In a small sauce pan combine the strawberries, water, xylitol, salt and the pepper. (Add more xylitol if needed, depending on the sweetness of the strawberries.) Bring it up to a simmer for about 10 minutes over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. You want the strawberries to break down a bit. Adjust the seasoning once more. Allow your strawberry mixture to cool. Once cool, with an immersion blender, combine the yogurt, coconut milk creamer and the strawberry mixture. Place in a freezer overnight. Once ready to serve, thaw in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, until it’s not rock solid and you can break it up with a fork. (You can also freeze in individual containers and you can also, alternatively let it thaw in the refrigerator.) Serves 3.

Ugli (Pretty) Fruit Brulee

I detest that this pretty colored fruit is called ugly. “Can I have that ugly fruit over there?” I ask the guy at the fruit stand. It doesn’t sound right and I can’t imagine it encourages the young ones to bite into an ugly fruit-unless it’s cool or something. “Yeah let’s hang out and eat some ugly fruit and watch movies?” Am I over thinking this? Lol, maybe but I really like this fruit with an ugly name. Not only is it’s color pretty but it’s tasty with it being a mix of citrus flavors. And I think it’s beautiful enough to serve for dessert. Enjoy!

  • 1 ugli pretty fruit
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Cut your pretty fruit in half and if needed, trim the bottom so it sits better on your board. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over your fruit halves. (I tried both regular sugar and raw and the regular sugar worked better.) Now the fun part, torch that baby until it starts sizzling and bubbling. I used a Bernzomatic torch with the flame about 3-4 inches away from the surface of the fruit, waving it back and forth slowly so the sugar caramelizes. (When working with your torch please follow all safety precautions.) This could be great when having company over, just use a kitchen torch for a more classier look, lol. ;) Serve a half per person with a scoop of a citrusy gelato on the side with a little mint as a garnish.