Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Blueberry Spinach Smoothie


Today I'd like to share one of my favorite smoothie combinations.  I make this in my Vitamix (a super powerful blender), but it would also likely work in a regular, good blender.  One of the main reasons why I bought the Vitamix 6 months ago was to get my family to eat more fruits & veggies.  It has worked!!  Two of the ingredients I almost always include in our smoothies are fresh spinach and frozen blueberries (from Costco).  I round it out with a few other fruits & liquids, and the result is this fantastic drink!  Not only do I love it, but the kids love it too!!

Two other things to note about this recipe- one is that I don't measure ingredients when I'm making a smoothie.  No need to make more dirty dishes!  So the amounts listed below are approximate.  Also, this makes one large smoothie, or a couple smaller servings.

Blueberry Spinach Smoothie
Printable version here

1 small banana (frozen if possible)
1/2 cup liquid (I use about 1/4 cup each juice & water)
1/3 cup diced pineapple (fresh or canned)
1 cup baby spinach (about one large handful)
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1 tsp. honey
1 kiwi, peeled
1/3 cucumber, cut into chunks 
Yogurt, if desired (a few scoops)

Blend until smooth.  Enjoy!

Why I love it? It is packed with nutrients!!  But just as important, it tastes good!  This combination of fruits & veggies lets me get the most spinach, without it having a noticeable taste. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Fruit & Nut Granola Bars

I have made many different granola bar recipes- there are tons out there, and today I stumbled on a new favorite!  They were easy enough that my kids did a majority of the work, with me just peeking over their shoulders.  The only problem was that I wish there were more!  This batch made 10 bars- enough for everyone in my family to have two... Next time I'll double it and use a 9x13 pan instead.

Homemade granola bars can have a wide variety of consistencies- hard, soft, crumbly, chewy, etc.  I found these ones to be perfectly chewy, not very crumbly, and I love that they're both sweet & salty!  The fact that they don't use the oven is a bonus (during the long summer months)! 

Fruit & Nut Granola Bars
Printable version here

1 1/2 cups puffed rice cereal
1 cup uncooked quick-cooking oats
3 tbsp. ground flaxseed
1/4 cup dried fruit (such as cranberries or raisins)
1/4 cup finely chopped nuts (preferably roasted or toasted)
1/3 cup honey
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional)

1. Combine the cereal, oats, flaxseed meal, dried fruit, and nuts in a large bowl.  (If using a larger dried fruit like apricots, chop first into small pieces.)

2. Bring the honey and brown sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly; remove from heat.  Stir in peanut butter and vanilla (and cinnamon if using) until blended.

3. Pour the peanut butter mixture over cereal mixture, stirring until all dry ingredients are coated (mixture will be stiff). 

4. Press mixture firmly into an 8-inch square pan (sprayed with nonstick cooking spray) using a large square of waxed paper (or your hands, sprayed with nonstick spray).  Cool completely in pan, and then cut into desired size bar. 

Yield: about 10 bars (You may also double the recipe and use a 9x13 pan)

Recipe Source:

Why I love it? They are cheaper & healthier than store-bought granola bars, they are customizable, and delicious!!  My kids and I both give them two hearty thumbs up!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Chipotle Chicken Skewers

This recipe was my favorite new recipe of the summer.  I ate it several times, and each time I was so sad when it was gone!  The recipe says it serves 6-8, and I would definitely make the whole amount, even if you're serving fewer than that.  The leftover chicken is fabulous, straight from the fridge.  I may or may not have eaten it for breakfast, just because I was so excited about it...

This chicken packs an incredible amount of flavor.  Making this was the first time I had ever used chipotle peppers and adobo sauce- holy moly are they tasty!  If you haven't ever used them before, know that they come together in a little can.  Like this-

They can be spicy (and I'm sure would be by themselves), but they work in this dish because 1) you scrape out the seeds, which is where most of the heat is located, and 2) the accompanying dip cools them off!  I have been using the leftover peppers & sauce in so many ways, too (because this recipe only uses a portion of the can).  My favorite is to mix the sauce with sour cream for an amazing burrito or enchilada topping (here's my favorite bean burrito recipe), or you could also mix it with mayonnaise to perk up a sandwich.  I only wish it hadn't taken 31 years for me to discover this little gem...

Anyway, I absolutely love this dish, and I'm sure you will too!  (PS- don't be intimidated by the length of the recipe.  It's not too hard, and it's worth it!)

Chipotle Chicken Skewers with Creamy Dipping Sauce
Printable version here

Chicken Skewers
2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (4-5 medium chicken breasts)
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced (scrape out the seeds before mincing to reduce spiciness)
2 teaspoons adobo sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
12 bamboo or metal skewers 

Creamy Dipping Sauce  (*I always have more dip than we use, so feel free to reduce this somewhat)
3/4 cup lowfat sour cream
1/4 cup lowfat mayonnaise or Greek yogurt
1/4 cup lime juice, from 2-3 limes
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, minced
2 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  1. Slice the chicken breasts into long, thin strips, about 1/2-inch thick. You should have right around 30 strips. In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, cilantro, chipotle chile, adobo sauce, salt, chili powder, garlic powder, and pepper. Toss the chicken with the brown sugar mixture coating all the pieces evenly. Cover the chicken (or place in a ziploc bag) and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.
  2. For the dipping sauce, in a bowl, stir all the ingredients together. Cover the mixture and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes until the flavors combine. Alternately, you can make the dipping sauce in advance and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Be sure to season the dipping sauce with additional lime juice, salt and pepper to taste before serving.
  3. 30 minutes before grilling, cover the bamboo skewers with water and soak. Skip this step if using metal skewers.
  4. Preheat an oven broiler or gas/charcoal grill. Weave two strips of chicken onto each skewer. Broil or grill the chicken for 5-8 minutes until cooked through, using nonstick cooking spray on a foil-lined pan if you are broiling. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce.

Recipe Source: 

Why I love it? It is full of flavor (it's sweet, spicy, fresh & creamy), and pretty healthy!  I've served this with various sides such as potato salad, fresh fruit, roasted potatoes, etc.  Next time I make this it'll probably be indoors (bye bye summer...), so I'll try to update this recipe with cooking directions for the stove/oven once I figure that out.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Blueberry Baked Oatmeal

I don't know about you, but I have a thing for 1) Blueberries & Lemon, and 2) Make-Ahead-Breakfasts!  I found this recipe one time when I was searching for healthy recipes that use blueberries.  Blueberry muffins are great, but not healthy enough that I'd want to eat them every day... This recipe, though, is a winner!

It's easy to make, healthy (full of fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants), and it reheats great!  I reheat a serving in a cereal bowl (about 30 seconds in the microwave), and sometimes top it with a little bit of milk.  It's perfect for those busy school or work mornings!  If you haven't tried baked oatmeal yet, you should give it a shot!  It keeps 100x better than just regular cooked oatmeal. 

Blueberry Baked Oatmeal
Printable version here

1 medium lemon
2 cups nonfat milk
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt (or 1/4 tsp. table salt)
1/2 tsp. nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

1. Preheat the oven to 375ยบ.  Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.

2. Zest lemon; set zest aside (remember you only want the yellow parts, not the white underneath). In a bowl, combine milk and juice from the zested lemon to make "buttermilk".

3. In a medium bowl, combine the oats, baking powder, salt, spices, and lemon zest.  In a small bowl, whisk together the "buttermilk", butter, egg, and sugar.

4. Spoon half of the oat mixture into the baking dish, and then half of the blueberries.  Add the remaining oat mixture and scatter the remaining blueberries on to the top, pressing them in slightly.  Pour in the milk mixture and place in oven.

5. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the mixture is a light golden brown along the edges, and the center has set up.  Serve warm.  Store leftovers in the refrigerator in a covered dish for up to 5 days.

Recipe Source: 

Why I love it? I love that it's a delicious way to eat two very nutritious foods- oats and blueberries!  The fact that it reheats well is a bonus!