Beverages · Breakfast

De-Constructed Smoothie

I am going to take an unpopular stance today.  I am well aware that everyone, from my friends and family, celebrity chefs to food magazines have embraced the smoothie craze.   Invented by sellers of blenders and diet lifestyles, the world has embraced smoothies as part of an apparently healthy and nutritious diet.

I am also aware that by now, smoothie lovers far and wide have stopped reading this post and moved on to something more supportive of their dietary choices.   To those very few of you who are still reading, thank you!!

Who doesn’t remember their first Nutri-bullet and that smug, oh-so-healthy feeling we all got from sipping that drink in our cars as we battled rush hour traffic in our morning commute?  Honestly, until Nutri-bullet came along, I had no idea that I was supposed to feel so stressed in the mornings that I needed to eat in my car.  I had been in the habit of taking 10 minutes of calm for myself at my own kitchen table to enjoy a light breakfast before the days craziness began.  But, clearly, that was incorrect, so I changed my routine  to fit society expectations.

So, like (seemingly) everyone else,  I started making smoothies, often packing an entire days worth of fruits and or veggies into a single serving.  Wow!!   I thought, thinking how health-smart I was.  After a certain length of time, I began to wonder…’I just drank a serving of yogurt, half cup of apple juice, 1 banana and 1/2 cup of mixed berries.  More  than I would have eaten at a regular breakfast, yet  I was  starving by 9:30 or 10am.   And, why haven’t I lost any weight?

I started doing some research .  Turns out, smoothies are NOT the health elixir that we have been led to believe.   In fact, they can be harmful to your health.

To quote from Colin Campbell from the Centre for Nutrition Studies   “you will consume more calories later because the liquefied energy doesn’t satisfy your appetite as well as the solid food[1]. In addition, you may be changing the rate and effect of nutrient digestion in important ways.”

Of course, the occasional smoothie in your life isn’t going to harm you, but before you embark on a smoothie based weight loss plan, Fitness Magazine.com offers 8 reasons NOT to do this,  including potential digestive issues and the increased risk of developing gallstones because of your liquid diet.

If you add juice to your smoothie for “extra nutrition”,  you should know that some juices on the market contain up to 72 grams of carbohydrates and 60 grams per serving. That’s comparable to about five slices of white bread—or a 20-ounce sugar-filled soda. Meanwhile, yogurt- or sherbet-heavy smoothies are little more than 600-plus-calorie messes with more carbs and sugar than you will find in not one but two candy bars.

As I continued to research this, I found that most smoothie pushers were selling something:  blenders, juicers, protein powders to give your smoothie more staying power, diet plans with tall, fit blonde models as their spokesperson and horror of horrors, even Gordon Ramsay, who was the first I heard to speak out against smoothies is now publishing recipes for them.    Sigh…whatever brings in the bucks, right?

In reality, smoothies are pre-digested food.  Once you have put all those fruits and veggies thru your blender, you have destroyed the fibre content, altered the nutrients and basically given your stomach nothing to do but forward all that sugar directly into your system.  No wonder we all feel so energized after downing one.

I could rail on for days against the smoothie, but I think you get my point:  FOOD YOU ACTUALLY HAVE TO CHEW IS HEALTHIER.   If you are trying to loose weight, chewing your food is an excellent place to start.   For your own sake, please,  ditch your blender at least some times, and layer those ingredients into an 8 oz glass instead.

 

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De-Constructed Smoothie

1/4 cup homemade or pro-biotic yogurt (unsweetened)

3 Tablespoons coconut granola

1 Teaspoon chia seeds

1 teaspoon ground flax

1/2 banana, sliced

4 frozen strawberries, diced

1 teaspoon liquid honey (unfiltered if available)

Layer first 7 ingredients attractively into a glass.  Top with honey.  Sit down at your table and take 5 minutes to really taste your food.  I think you will enjoy it.

Serves 1

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Beverages

Spiced Rum

Yes, I know you can buy it in the store, but trust me, this is so much better!    Plus, you can customize the spice blend to suit your own tastes.

Be sure to use a  good rum.  It doesn’t have to be the most expensive, just one that you like.

Good anytime of year, but especially warming during the Christmas season, I think.

 

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Spiced Rum

750 ml amber rum

4 allspice berries

2 cloves

1 cardamom pod

1 star anise

1 x 4” cinnamon stick

pinch freshly grated nutmeg

4″ strip orange peel, easy to get if you happen to have mandarin oranges in the house

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a clean jar, or pitcher large enough to hold everything and cover tightly.  Shake to combine.  Let sit in cool dark place for 2 days, shaking once.

Strain mixture into a clean bottle, discard spices.

Seal tightly and store in cool, dry, dark place.  Keeps indefinitely.

Beverages · How To...

How to Make Simple Syrup

Used in many cocktails, this is a versatile sweetener.  This keeps for several  weeks  in the fridge.  With the Christmas season fast approaching, this is a good thing to have in your fridge for when friends drop over.

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Simple Syrup

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

Place in pot on stove top over medium heat.  Stir constantly until sugar dissolves.  Bring to boil.  Remove from heat, allow to cool completely.   Use in recipe as instructed.  Refrigerate any leftover syrup for later use.

Keeps almost indefinitely.

Beverages

Aged Eggnog

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When I was a child, my Mom would make eggnog for us when ever she had an excess of eggs.  Living on a farm did have its culinary advantages, tho’ I was far too young to realize just how fortunate we were!

In later years, we lived ‘in town’, and there was no need to make your own, because it had become a grocery store staple at this time of year.  While it doesn’t hold a candle to Moms’ home made version, one really can’t argue with the convenience of it.

My husband, Kevin,  who loves the stuff, would buy 2 litres as soon as it hit the shelves.   He would pour himself a huge glass, drink it down and declare the beginning of the Christmas season.  It is a very rich drink, and after the first glass , it would be several days before the second, and often we threw out more eggnog than we drank.

I was never a huge fan of the store bought version, but its arrival in stores, (and our refrigerator) was a sure sign of Christmas in Canada, and I missed  it  when we moved here.    Of course, I could have made my own, but the trouble with that was that it never seemed convenient to make it when the craving hit.  Too tired, too late, too many dishes… there was always a good reason NOT to make eggnog.

Which is why I was happy to find this recipe for Aged Eggnog.   I love this version for 2 reasons;

1. It ties in with my obsession for all things fermented, and

2.  It IMPROVES with age!   It is happy to wait in the fridge until one of us actually has a craving for it without going bad, making this the perfect addition to our holiday pantry.   They say an unopened bottle will age nicely in the fridge for up to a year.

We wont be aging ours for THAT long, as a matter of fact, you could actually drink this the same day you make it, but the alcohol will not have mellowed.  In that case, just add extra milk and enjoy!!   Next year, I intend to start this much earlier.

Here then, is my version of Alton Browns’ Aged Eggnog.

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Aged Eggnog

6 egg yolks

1/2 lb sugar

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1 1/2  cups heavy cream

1/2 cup amber rum

1/2 cup brandy

1/2 cup bourbon

1/8 tsp kosher or non-iodized sea salt

Separate eggs, freeze the whites for another purpose (merengue anyone?)

Beat the yolks, sugar and nutmeg in large mixing bowl until the mixture light in colour and the mixture falls from the beater in a solid ribbon.  Depending on your mixer, this  takes 5 – 7 minutes.

Combine milk, cream, alcohol and salt in a pitcher and slowly beat into egg mixture.

Transfer to 2 litre glass jar, cover and age in fridge for minimum of 2 weeks.  Alton Brown says a month or even 2 is better, and you can age this for up to a year.

To serve, pour into a glass, sprinkle a little nutmeg or cinnamon over top and enjoy.

Happy Holidays!!

 

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Beverages

Mango Margarita

Why, yes, I did just post a recipe for Watermelon Margaritas.  What can I say,  we are now in the middle of mango season!   Remember, you can always leave the alcohol out of this one, in which case, you could actually have it for breakfast!

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Anyway, the response to the photo on our Facebook page was immense, so I thought I would share the recipe.

If you don’t have access to fresh mangos, frozen will work just as well, maybe even better.

Oh, just to give you fair warning…I found a recipe for “The Ultimate Margarita” which is actually lime based and includes making a tincture from Chile d’Arbol.   Once I have tried it, I will let you know all about it.

Mango Margaritas

(SERVES 2)

3 large ripe mangoes, pit removed, peeled and cubed

1″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

1/4 cup simple syrup

1  cups water (plus more if needed)

1/2 oz cointreau

3 oz tequila

Tajin  for garnish

ice cubes for serving

Plunk everything in your blender, and puree until smooth.  Pour into 2 glasses, sprinkle with Tajin to taste and sit back and enjoy.

 

Beverages

Watermelon Margarita

No surer sign of summer than watermelon, but sometimes it is difficult to eat the entire thing before the inevitable happens and half of it ends up in the trash.

Happily, I have a solution for that.  Simply remove the rind, cube the watermelon, pop into freezer bags and freeze.   Watermelon is juicy, so don’t over fill the bags and the flatter you can store them, the easier the frozen fruit will be to work with when you want to use it.   (This works best with seedless watermelon, but you can try it with a seeded one as well.)

So, now that you have all that frozen watermelon…

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Watermelon Margaritas

  • Serves 2

4 cups frozen seedless watermelon cubes

1 cup of water (plus more if needed to blend)

2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice (from about 3 small or 1 large lime)

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons sugar, more or less,  to taste

3 oz silver tequila

1 1/2 oz cointreau

lime slices or quarters for garnish

Tajin seasoning or kosher salt (see cooks note)

2 large margarita glasses

Put frozen watermelon in blender and let sit 10 minutes so it thaws a bit.  This helps with the blending.

While watermelon is thawing, put a couple of tablespoons of Tajin on a flat plate.  Run a lime quarter around the rim of 2 glasses and then dip the rims in the Tajin and set aside.

Add water, lime juice, salt, sugar, tequila and cointreau to watermelon and blend on medium speed until no lumps remain.   If mixture is too thick to properly blend, add a bit more water to loosen the mixture.

Pour into prepared glasses and serve.

COOKS NOTES – Tajin is a brand name for a spice mix of salt and chile powder.   Found everywhere here in PV, it is sprinkled on fresh fruits and veggies alike for a flavour boost.  If you can’t find it in the Mexican section of your local grocery, substitute kosher salt or even sugar.

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Beverages

Tepache – Fermented Drink

This  drink is made from pineapple rind, and is fermented on your countertop.  It is  commonly made all over Mexico and probably anywhere else pineapple is grown.    Because of the fermentation, you should be  aware, there may be a trace  of alcohol in the drink, but certainly not enough to make you woozy or unable to operate heavy machinery.

I have been making this for several years now, with great success.  I did have 1 bad batch but that was because I used a different type of sugar.  Lesson learned, white sugar, not brown must be used here!!

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Tepache

1 pineapple

3 cups water (more if needed)

1 cup white sugar

Special Equipment

2 quart glass pitcher or jar

Fermentation lock (found in any wine making store.  Optional but handy to have)

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Instructions

Remove leafy top of pineapple and discard.   Cut peel off of pineapple, taking about 1/4 inch of fruit with the peel. Set fruit aside to eat fresh.

Place the peels in a 2 quart glass jar or pitcher, arranging so peel will  stay submerged. ( I put the larger peels on top and jam them in so they cannot get past the neck of the jar.  A small, heavy glass or fermentation weight will also work very well.)

Dissolve the sugar in 2 cups of cool water and pour over peel in jar, adding additional water as needed just to completely cover the peel.

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I use a shot glass to prevent the pineapple rind from floating.

If you are using a pitcher, Cover  loosely with plastic wrap.   If using a fermentation lid, just screw it on to the jar .  Put the jar on a saucer to catch any drips if it happens to overflow while it is fermenting.

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Place in a warm, spot on your kitchen counter, out of direct sunlight. Cover with a kitchen towel if you don’t have a shady spot to put it.

Mixture will become cloudy and start to bubble after 12 – 24 hours, depending on how warm it is in your kitchen.  This is supposed to happen, it tells you that fermentation has begun.  Soon after that, you will notice it is also becoming fizzy, and may overflow from its container.  Dont worry, this is normal, and perfectly ok.

After  2 days of fizzing check  the flavour of your Tepache.  It should taste sweet, and a little tangy.   If you have achieved this goal, strain, pour into an ice filled glass and enjoy.

If , on the other hand, your tepache tastes “off”, has a bad smell or has darkened in colour, throw it all out, sterilize all your equipment and start over with the next pineapple you buy.

The whole process will take from 1 to 5 days, depending on the  temperature of your kitchen.    On a hot summer day, if I start this in the morning, it can reach the fizzy stage within 24 hours!  Keeps, refrigerated 3- 4 days.