Fruit Juice Spritzer

This recipe is a great alternative to sodas and other sweetened beverages!

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Quick Cucumber & Carrot Pickle

Ahh the pickle-perhaps the greatest snack ever made. Hearty cuts of cucumber that are sweet and salty, crunchy yet tender, and perfect at anytime. All hail the pickle! At this moment, you could easily run to your local convenience store and grab a jar. Take a minute to think about the stressful decisions you would have to make though: Kosher or dill? Gherkins or bread & butter? Chips or whole pickles? The small jar for just now? Or maybe the massive one in case of a worldwide pickle shortage? (Anything can happen, you know). By the time a pickle is picked, the lights are dimming, the last cashier has left, and the store manager is waiting angrily for you to leave. Perhaps he doesn’t know the gravity of the decision you’ve just made. Your entire night is depending on this single craving and all this time you’ve had to let distant manufacturers and brand names fulfill it! Instead of sifting through labels, take a look in your kitchen. Everything you’ve ever needed to create your own perfect pickle has been there. No more multiple choice; you have all the answers! Instead of merely choosing a jar, why not create one? Mastering the art of the pickle, like any skill, takes time. The journey of a thousand jars begins with a single cucumber. With this quick and easy recipe, you can start that journey now.

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Roasted Vegetables

I am a person that has always struggled with eating enough vegetables; or really, any vegetables if it could be helped.  As I’ve grown older, I have found some veggies that I not only tolerate, but even enjoy eating and have worked on a number of recipes to utilize those vegetables in different ways.  However, there are still 4 or 5 vegetables that I tend to steer away from – cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts are chief among those.  I guess memories of vegetables boiled until soft and flavorless have kept me from discovering just how good these vegetables can be.

A few months ago, while having dinner at a friend’s house, she served a mixture of sprouts and sweet potatoes that had been lightly seasoned and roasted to perfection.  Since then, I have tried roasting almost any vegetable I could think of and it has made all the difference.  Roasting brings out the natural sweetness in vegetables and enhances the flavor greatly.  A little olive oil, salt and pepper are all that is required to turn ordinary vegetables into something that is not only healthy, it tastes great.  Additional seasonings can be used and almost any vegetable can be roasted.  Potatoes, beets, yams, beans, carrots, broccoli, and many more will taste better than you ever knew they could.  I put them in the oven and then start cooking the main dish so dinner is ready in about 30 minutes.

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Strawberry Salad with Honey & Lime Vinaigrette

The last post, Macaroni and Cheese Cauliflower Bake, suggested serving with a side salad. This recipe is one I was lucky enough to discover in a Teaching Kitchen cooking class this summer and has become one of my personal favorites. The vinaigrette is fresh and tangy and adds a great flavor to the greens that is further brightened by fresh strawberries. If you can’t find strawberries, don’t despair, other fruit can easily be substituted in. Any type of berry can be used, peaches would be wonderful, and I’ve even done this with frozen blueberries, thawed before serving. The fruit could be omitted if you want, but I definitely suggest trying it with the berries!

Other additions that would taste great include ¼ cup sliced almonds, 2 tbsp feta cheese instead of the parmesan, and mixing up the types of greens used (baby spinach or romaine lettuce would both be excellent). The vinaigrette can be mixed up by using different types of vinegars and mustards; the only types I would not use are plain, white vinegar and regular yellow mustard.

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Macaroni and Cauliflower Cheese Bake

This is a tasty and healthier take on some good comfort food:  macaroni and cheese. Some of the pasta is replaced by cauliflower; spinach is added for color, texture, and additional nutrition.  The cheese sauce is made only of cheese and sour cream—no heavy cream, no half and half, no roux—three things that make it healthier and very easy to put together.   The spinach is wilted first over the boiling water and the cheese is melted in a double-boiler style.  It’s a 2 pot meal with an additional baking pan if you choose to bake the macaroni before serving.

Steaming Spinach 2

The original recipe did not include spinach, and it can be left out if you want.  Other greens, such as arugula, collard or mustard greens could be added.  Broccoli could be used instead of the cauliflower, onions could be sautéed and added – the variations are as many as you can imagine.  A small amount of pureed butternut squash or pumpkin can be added to the cheese sauce to create a more vibrant color.

Low-fat cheese and whole-wheat pasta are recommended to decrease the saturated fat content and increase the fiber of the dish, but keep in mind that while healthier, this is still not an every-day meal.  A side salad is a great accompaniment as it provides additional vitamins, fiber, and helps fill you up.

Before bakingAfter Baking

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Black Bean Soup

This soup is great – served with corn chips it provides a complete protein, is made from ingredients readily available in most pantries, and is ready to go 20-30 minutes after you start cooking.

Some great additions would be fresh bell pepper, carrots, green beans or any other vegetables you have on hand.  The addition of 8 ounces of cooked, lean hamburger, or diced and cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts is also very tasty.  Top with sour cream (or plain yogurt) and a tablespoon of shredded cheese.  Serve with corn chips, pita chips, or on its own.

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Breakfast Smoothies for Two

Breakfast can be a hassle in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the morning.  Many people are looking for quick, transportable meals for breakfast, or they will skip it altogether.  The breakfast smoothie is a great solution:  you can prep the blender the night before, take it out of the fridge, give a quick whir and pour it into a go-cup.  The smoothie has a blend of protein and carbohydrates to fill you up and keep your energy levels stable until lunch, and with only 200 calories a serving, it’s a great way to start the morning.

Frozen fruit is not only convenient, it’s also the best thing to throw into a smoothie.  The orange juice adds a little extra sweetness and can be left out if desired.  We are using peaches and bananas, but really any fruit can be used:  great substitutions are a triple berry blend with grape, acai, or pomegranate juice or 2 bananas and 1/2 pound of strawberries with orange or orange/mango juice.

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