Decadent (and healthy) chocolate smoothie recipe

Healthy chocolate smoothie

Image credit: 2013-06-13 11.33.30, by griotsnet on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

I’ve been on a green smoothie kick for two months now and I love it. Having my smoothie every morning has become a vital part of my day. I can’t wait for that first delicious sip and I’m craving (and eating) more fresh and healthy foods.

Sometimes, though, I still crave chocolate. Chocolate cake? Yes, please. Chocolate chip cookies? I’d steal one out of Cookie Monster’s mouth. And because I know I’m weak, I try not to have these things in my house to tempt me. So, when I found out that I could make a smoothie that is the healthy equivalent of a chocolate milkshake, I was all in.

Eating healthy is wonderful but it’s even better when it tastes like you are eating something sinful!

Decadent Chocolate Smoothie

2 servings.

1 cup spinach

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (almond, cashew and soy milks also work well)

1 banana

1 tablespoon almond butter

1 tablespoon 100% unsweetened cacao powder (it’s in the baking aisle)

1/2 teaspoon ground ceylon cinnamon

Pinch of nutmeg

Add all ingredients to your blender and blend until smooth and enjoy!

Vegan tofu tacos with Asian slaw

Vegan tofu tacos with Asian slawI love tacos. They’re the perfect thing to throw together when you’re busy and want a fast, easy and tasty meal. If you pick the right ingredients, they’re pretty darn healthy, too.

These tacos definitely fit the bill. They do require some forethought, since you need to give the ingredients some time to get to know the marinade and dressing, but it’s definitely worth the effort to plan ahead. Your reward will be a healthy, flavor-packed dinner. You’ll get a hit of sweet and sour from the citrus and vinegar and hint of nuttiness, thanks to the seasame oil.

What about you? Are tacos a go-to menu item in your house? How do you make yours?

Vegan Tacos with Asian Slaw

Makes 6-8 tacos

6-8 6″ flour tortillas

Sriracha (optional, but recommended)

For the slaw:

2 c. shredded cabbage

6 radishes, julienned

1/4 c. carrots, julienned

1/4 c. rice vinegar

2 t. sesame oil

1 T. brown sugar

1 t. garlic, minced

1 t. ginger, minced

Salt and cracked pepper, to taste.

Put cabbage, radishes and carrots in a large bowl and set aside. In a small bowl whisk together vinegar, oil, sugar, garlic and ginger. Pour dressing over cabbage mixture and toss gently. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (overnight is better).

For the tofu:

16 oz. extra-firm tofu, pressed to get rid of excess water (if you’ve never pressed tofu, see this article)

1 c. orange juice

1 t. low-sodium soy sauce

1 t. garlic, minced

1 t. ginger, minced

Slice tofu in half (lengthwise to maximize the surface area) and set aside. In a container large enough to marinate the tofu, mix all remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (overnight is better).

After marinating, remove tofu and pat dry. Cut into slices about 1/2″ thick and place on to lightly greased baking sheet. Heat oven to broil setting and put baking sheet on the rack directly under the broiler. Cook for about 3-5 minutes on each side, until they start to brown on the edges (cooking time will vary depending on your oven and the level of moisture in the tofu, so keep a close eye on it).

When the tofu is to your desired doneness, remove from oven and assemble your tacos! Warm the tortillas and top each with slaw and tofu. If you like yours a little more spicy, drizzle with sriracha (you’ll be glad you did).

The Loofah Soap Experiment: Update #4

My loofah plant is exceeding all of my expectations for what a plant grown in a shady Ohio yard can achieve. It is the largest plant I have ever grown from seed. I garden for the simple joy of watching plants grow and this plant has been thrilling to watch as it takes over my fire pit, kindling pile and everything else that gets in its way.

Loofah plant

When I planted the seeds earlier this year, I hoped for at least one loofah that would be big enough to dry and use in a soapy creation. At last count, I have nine loofah and the largest currently measures 18 inches!

Loofah

The fruit of the loofah is edible when it is young and tender, before it has developed the exfoliating fibers most people are familiar with. It is similar in texture and taste to zucchini and can be used in any recipe that calls for zucchini. If Bubba had been a loofah farmer instead of a shrimper, he would have said, “You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it. There’s uh, loofah-kabobs, loofah creole, loofah gumbo.” You get the idea. (And, I may have seen a certain movie a few too many times.)

Bubba may have found a million different ways to prepare loofah but when it comes to home-grown veggies, I prefer a simple preparation with very few ingredients. I want to experience the flavor and character of the vegetables that I grow. When I cook zucchini, I sauté it with olive oil and a pinch of garlic and then season it with salt and pepper.  That preparation seemed like the easiest choice for my first foray into eating loofah.  The first chance I had, I picked a tiny baby loofah, cut it up into chunks and sautéed it just like I would a zucchini.

Tiny loofah

Four ingredients turned this tiny little vegetable into a tasty appetizer. (And I had fun stomping around the house and pretending I was a giant eating a full sized zucchini that I cut with my giant knife and served on my giant plate. I have an active imagination. Don’t judge.)

Loofah

 

My only regret is that I didn’t pick more so that I could try other recipes like this Thai stir fry called Buab Pud Kai.

Have you seen loofah sold in markets where you live? Have you tried it in a recipe? Tell me all about it in the comments and share your recipes!

 

Meatless brown rice and lentil taco filling

vegan brown rice and lentil taco filling

Mexican food is great, but the Americanized versions are loaded with meat, cheese, sour cream and other nutrition bombs that ambush my attempts at healthier eating. But I still love tacos, so what’s a gal to do?

First, I tried the vegetarian crumbles available in my local grocer’s freezer case with some packaged taco seasoning. It works for some people but it just didn’t please my palette, so I started experimenting.

After a few failed attempts using tofu as a low-fat protein substitute, I tried another tool in the vegan’s toolbox: lentils!

To add more even protein and fiber to my creation, I added some brown rice. Some veggies, canned tomatoes and mushrooms round out the mixture (and add flavor and moisture). I’ve made this taco filling several times and I think I prefer it to the meaty versions I used to eat. Even die-hard carnivores have had to admit it’s pretty tasty. It’s great as a filling for tacos or burritos, but it’s also fantastic on a bed of greens with other healthy vegetables like raw red peppers or, if you’re being indulgent, some diced avocado.

Give it and try and let me know what you think! I’d love to hear your feedback!

Some notes before getting started:

To make this recipe, I recommend you do a little preparation to keep things quick and easy. In the past, I had many failed attempts to cook lentils (they always turned to mush); after I found this tutorial from The Kitchn, the world of lentils was wide open to me. Since cooked lentils freeze well, I make a large batch and freeze in one cup portions. You also need some cooked brown rice on hand. This grain has also been a cooking challenge for me. This method explained by Gina over at Skinnytaste.com is the best method I’ve used so far for perfectly cooked brown rice. I follow the same process as I do for the lentils to save time: make up a big ol’ batch and freeze in one cup portions.

Meatless brown rice and lentil taco filling

Makes about 12, 1/2 cup servings 

1/2 onion (yellow or sweet), diced

1 large red bell pepper, diced

8 oz. button or baby portobello mushrooms, diced

2, 10 oz. cans diced tomatoes with chilies

2 c. cooked brown rice

1 c. cooked lentils

2 t. salt-free seasoning featuring the words “fiesta” and some sort of citrus fruit (your favorite taco seasoning would work, too)

1 t. hot sauce (optional if you’re a wimp you don’t like things too spicy)

1/2 c. water

Cook onion and pepper on medium heat until soft. Add mushrooms and tomatoes and cook until mushrooms are cooked through (about five minutes). Add lentils, rice, seasonings and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for five to ten minutes.

 Use as you would any other type of taco filling. Enjoy!

Vegetable barley soup (vegan)

Vegetable barley soup 2

It’s no secret we love soup here on Emmet Street. (Need proof? Here’s Exhibit A, Exhibit B and Exhibit C.) It’s easy to make, filling and (usually) a budget conscious way to fill our tummies.

This vegetable soup is one I make a lot and I never get tired of eating it. It has my favorite fruit that is used as a vegetable (tomatoes) and flavors: garlic, oregano and basil. Viva l’Italia! 

The recipe below makes a big batch, but if your mathiness is good, I’m sure you can cut it down to make a smaller number of servings. (I figure if I’m going to the trouble to make this soup I might was well make a big batch–it freezes well. Cook once, eat 10 times!)  

This Sunday, April 6, is National Fresh Tomato Day; why not make a pot of this soup to celebrate? It will warm your belly and your soul.

Vegetable barley soup

Vegetable Barley Soup

Makes 10 servings (about 2 c. each)

1 c. onion, diced

1 c. carrots, diced

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 c. cabbage, diced

8 oz. kale, stems trimmed

2, 32 oz. containers low-sodium vegetable broth

1, 28 oz. can low-sodium diced tomatoes

1/2 c. uncooked pearled barley

2 c. water

1 medium zucchini, cubed

8 oz. container mushrooms, sliced

1 T. dried basil

1 T. dried oregano

Salt & pepper, to taste

Cook onion, carrots and garlic over medium heat until they start to soften (about 10 minutes). Add broth, water, cabbage, kale, tomatoes, and barley. Bring to a boil. Reduce reduce heat and add basil and oregano. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add zucchini and mushrooms and simmer 15 minutes longer, or until zucchini is tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Hearty harvest chili (vegan)

harvest chili 4

Even though it is technically spring now, it’s still cold outside. And, for me, chili is the perfect meal on a balmy day. 

I have a tried-and-true vegan chili recipe I usually make, but lately I’ve been feeling like it needed a bit of kick in the pants. I’m trying to add more color to my dreary winter days, so I thought adding some orange-fleshed yams, some pumpkin and three different kinds of beans to the recipe would help make it more zazzy.

harvest chili 1

Hooray for Beta-carotene!

Boy, am I glad I did! It gave a my chili extra dimensions of texture, flavor and nutrition. The ingredients may seem to be a bit unusual, but they really play nicely together. The recipe makes a large batch, so I recommend freezing any leftovers in single serving containers for a quick and easy lunchtime treat!

Hearty harvest chili

Makes about 10, 1 1/2 c. servings

1/2 sweet onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large yam, cubed

28 oz. can low-sodium diced tomatoes

2, 10 oz. cans diced tomatoes with chilies

1 c. frozen corn

1 c. pure pumpkin

3, 15 oz. cans of beans, rinsed and drained (I used no salt added black, kidney and cannellini beans)

1/2 c. bulgur wheat (prepared according to the manufacturer’s recommendations)

1 T. chili powder

1 T. cinnamon

In a large stock pot cook onion over medium heat until it gets soft (add a little water if they start to stick to the pot), about 10 minutes. Add yams and 1/2 c. water, cover and let steam for five minutes. Add remaining ingredients; turn up the heat and bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes.