Purple Smoothie

Purple SmoothieDid you know that foods that are naturally purple (like blueberries or acai berries) are exceptionally high in antioxidants are therefore are super good for you? It’s true. Back in 2010 when I first began my weight loss journey, before I discovered juicing, I would have a purple smoothie every morning with a slice of cinnamon raisin Ezekiel bread. It is such a good breakfast. In fact I may just have to start doing it again.

Blend all of the ingredients below in a magic bullet or whatever blender system you have. I specify the Sambazon variety of acai berry juice because this is the brand they carry at Costco – it’s 2 bottles for $10, whereas one bottle will run you around $7 at Whole Foods. I also get all my frozen berries at Costco. Usually I buy one of their huge bags of frozen strawberries and either frozen blackberries or whatever berry blend they have available. It lasts for weeks and is such a good bang for your buck. As far as bananas go, the more ripe the better. If you like your smoothies extra thick and cold you can freeze the bananas once they’re ripe and add them to  your smoothie that way. At the end of the day, it’s your smoothie, so put in whatever you like – I’d love to hear your variations!

The Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup Sambazon acai berry juice
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 fresh or frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen blackberries or blueberries
  • 1 large frozen strawberry
  • 1 generous squeeze of honey
  • 1 tbsp fresh ground flaxseed
  • pinch of old fashioned rolled oats
  • dash of vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp Greek yogurt (optional)

Now I am not an advocate of protein powders and the like because at the end of the day they are super processed products that your body will have trouble digesting. However, if you must, this smoothie will be a perfect vehicle for that or any kind of powdered or liquid supplement you take.

Warm Cookie Sundae with Nutella Hot Fudge

Warm Cookie Sunday with Nutella Hot FudgeAlright, I admit it, I am not the biggest fan of Valentine’s Day. There’s nothing like huge displays of roses and endless sappy happy facebook posts to remind you that you’re single (I’m not bitter)… But in all seriousness, I am happy for all my friends and loved ones who celebrate their companionship today. Besides, I always manage to find fun in even the most dire of situations. One of my life philosophies is to celebrate – whatever you have, whatever you’re given, celebrate it. I mean, come on, who doesn’t love doing anti-Valentine’s Day things when you’re single? Several years ago I found myself in a theatre in Times Square by myself on Valentine’s Day watching There Will Be Blood. What a love fest that wasn’t – perfect!

Putting aside anti-sentiments for a moment,  for me there are always two good things to celebrate on this day. The first is my parents’ wedding anniversary. That’s right, my mom and stepdad were married 21 years ago today. My lord how time flies. Here’s to 21 more! The other thing to celebrate is whether you’re single, happily married, or anywhere in between, Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse to indulge in some chocolate (not that I really need an excuse). I’ve been thinking for the past few days about what could make up a simple yet decadent treat that one could enjoy alone, with friends, or with a special someone. If you’ve read the title of this post, you already know what I came up with. Nothing says both decadence and sexiness to me like Nutella. I envision two people madly in love spreading in on strawberries and feeding them to one another…… sorry I just threw up a little…. but am I right? There’s something about the smooth silkiness that is just… well, sexy. But it’s not enough for the starving artist to spread it on toast and call it a day. How about we up the ante and make it into a warm thick hot fudge topping for a sundae… NOW we’re talkin’.

Here’s the Recipe: 

First, start with your favorite scratch-baked cookie recipe. If you’re in need of an idea, I highly recommend my infamous Dark Chocolate recipe – you’ll never make any other kind. To make the sauce, simply place 1/2 cup of Nutella in a small microwaveable bowl with 1/4 cup of whole milk or heavy cream. Give it a quick stir, then stash it in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Grab a small whisk and whisk like crazy until it gets smooth. It will look like hell at first, but just keep stirring – trust me. Once it’s nice and smooth you can decide whether you want to make it thinner by adding more milk and microwaving it some more. I like it on the thicker side. To assemble the sundae, place one or two warm cookies in a bowl or on a small plate. Scoop on your favorite ice cream (I used french vanilla), then drizzle the hot Nutella sauce liberally over everything. Done. You can also add chopped nuts or anything else that tickles your fancy. It’s a perfect little indulgence to have before going out to the local bar for an anti-Valentine cocktail.

Speaking of anti-Valentine’s…

If you’re in Los Angeles and you’re looking to celebrate your singleness, I found this great article on the LA Weekly Blog that lists six bars/restaurants that are having anti-Valentine’s celebrations. One of them is Birds, which is right here in my neighborhood – yet another reason I love where I live.

So whether you’re single or happily partnered, I hope you all will enjoy celebrating on Valentine’s Day! Be sure to check out my facebook and twitter for more valentine and anti-valentine articles and ideas today.

Curried Coconut Roasted Vegetable Soup

Curried Coconut Roasted Vegetable SoupI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if the starving artist has one best friend, it is soup. Bang for your buck, hearty, delicious, and (usually) really healthy. This week I’ve been racking my brain as to what I could cook for dinner that won’t completely destroy all my healthy efforts but is also not a salad or scrambled eggs…. yes, this is what my life has come to.

Vegetables are of course the go to when trying to maintain or improve one’s figure, but come on, how many salads can one consume before having a psychotic breakdown? Now ROASTING vegetables is something I can get behind. The depth of flavor one gets is amazing, but aside from tossing them with brown rice, you can’t really  make a meal of a plate of vegetables…. and then it hit me. There’s a restaurant near me, Tender Greens, that makes soup out of their seasoned grilled veggies. Why not do the same thing here, except up the flavor quotient by using curry powder and some coconut cream. Well, let me tell you, the outcome is one tasty friggin’ soup that is completely vegan and completely amazing.

It’s super easy – all it entails is roasted a few pans of your favorite vegetables, then bringing them to a simmer in a broth made of Trader Joe’s vegetable stock, Trader Joe’s coconut cream, and a few spices. Then you puree and voila, a hearty meal to keep you energized and full without the guilt. Check out the recipe below.

Curried Coconut Roasted Vegetable Soup (Recipe PDF)

For the record, I wish I took the photo before I pureed the soup just so you could see all the colors and big chunks of vegetables. Trust me, it’s good stuff.

Also, I have not forgotten about valentine’s day. Look for a v-day post from me on here tomorrow – and don’t worry, there will be nothing heart-shaped coming out of this kitchen! In the meantime check out my facebook and twitter for fun v-day recipes I’ve been finding, like better-than-sex Chex mix. Any excuse for chocolate is ok in my book.

Blueberries in February…?

Raw Blueberrry JamAm I the only one who has been baffled by the mass quantities of cheap blueberries available in the middle of winter? A little poking around the internet tells me that they are apparently from Chile, which has turned into a mega producer and exporter of the little blue fruit. I suppose I should be suspicious of this new “global market” we’re living in and be cautious of what effect purchasing this product has on our planet… but I really love blueberries…. and they’re so cheap… and sooo goooooddddd……

These days when I am presented with a quantity of cheap blueberries, they wind up in my morning juice. Not only are they sweet and incredibly flavorful, they have more antioxidants than any other food on the planet – what better way to start your day? Still, I can’t help but wonder what other creative applications I can use on these amazing little berries. Being a lover of jam, I was thinking I could make some, but the amount of sugar one has to use to make jam is not really bootcamp-friendly. Besides, it’s so easy to just throw blueberries in a pot with sugar – what about keeping them raw? What about butter??? Ooooo!

So here’s what I did. I took a half-pint of blueberries and a half-pint of blackberries and emptied them into my food processor. I did some digging around my cabinets and found some coconut sugar I got from Whole Foods a month ago – it’s a natural sugar (i.e. not processed), so it’s super good for you. I put a tablespoon in. You can substitute maple sugar or sugar in the raw or just some white sugar if you’re not terribly concerned. I then added in two tablespoons of organic raw agave nectar. Why? Because I had it leftover from when I made fresh ginger ale last week. Honey would be perfectly fine as well. Then, a pinch of salt, a drop of vanilla, and I needed some citrus… hmmm…  oh, I’ll steal one of these fresh oranges from my roommate. I squeezed half of it in. But now we need something to thicken this concoction that is not flour or cornstarch or anything super processed. I did some digging around and came up with the answer: ground chia seed. It’s an incredible natural thickener. And more importantly I had it in my kitchen. 1 tablespoon in the work bowl. Grind it all up in the food processor until smooth, put it in a bowl, and refrigerate for 1 hour. Voila, raw berry jam. Not at thick as a real jam, but the flavor is crazy fresh and intense, and as you can see from the pic, it sits beautifully on toast. Here it is in list form:

  • 1 pint of fresh blueberries (or a mixture of blue and blackberries)
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar (or any raw, unprocessed sugar like maple or stevia)
  • 2 tbsp organic raw agave syrup (or honey)
  • 1 drop vanilla
  • 1 small pinch of salt
  • the juice of 1/2 an orange
  • 2 tbsp ground chia seed

–Process all ingredients until smooth. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Done.

Now you could stop here, but I looove me some compound butter, so I did that too. Take 1/2 stick of room temperature butter and mash in about 2 tablespoons of the jam. Form the mixture either into a ball or a log or whatever you want and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours. Now you have this wonderfully colorful butter to spread on toasts, muffins, croissants, your body – whatever you like! If you want to double or triple the recipe, I would recommend using a hand mixer or kitchen aid to whip it together really well.

If you just can’t get enough blueberry,  check out these other fantastic recipes from my blog:

Blueberry Coffeecake Muffins
Blueberry Pie
Mixed Berry Salsa
Maple Vanilla Fruit Salad
Crust Knots (if you decide to make pie)

The Green Secret

Green Juice ArrayHave you ever had one of those mornings where you wake up and just feel thinner? That sensation that your body is shrinking from the inside out and you know when you get on that scale the numbers are going to be down. This has happened to me two days in a row… and it feels beyond fantastic. After battling with my body for weeks I feel that I finally have it under control and I am finally reaping the benefits of all my hard work. Alleluia!

Now is the perfect time to talk about one of my “secrets” (though it really isn’t a secret) and that is juicing. Green juice to be exact. I know many people cringe at the thought of drinking juiced kale or spinach. And rightfully so – by itself that sh*t is nasty. But when you combine greens with the right blend of fruits and other veggies, it becomes a refreshing, healing elixir that you’ll never want to live without. I have juice for my breakfast pretty much every day – I find I get the most out of it in the morning on an empty stomach. When I’m really feeling ambitious I will also juice for either lunch or dinner. The philosophy behind juicing this is that you’re getting all the vitamins and nutrients of an entire bushel of fruits and vegetables – an amount you could never eat in one sitting – condensed into a beverage that you can drink down in no time and will be easily absorbed into your body.

If you’re a long time follower of my blog, you may recall a post from many months ago where I spoke of my recipe for the magic green elixir. I have since changed my recipe and I think it’s a winner:

  • 1/2 bunch of kale
  • 2 or 3 leaves of beet greens (see below)
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 beet
  • 2-3 small apples
  • a 1-inch chunk of ginger
  • 1 lemon

When I buy beets they come with huge beautiful greens attached to them. Instead of throwing them away, I juice a few stalks along with the kale. It’s delicious. Also when blueberries are in season I will juice them in here as well for an antioxidant boost – it’s phenomenal. I also have been adding an aloe solution to my juice for an extra cleansing kick. I use Herbalife’s aloe, but I am sure you can find a good one at Whole Foods. It may seem crazy, but I promise this will not only help you lose weight, but it will do wondrous things for your overall health.

If you’re in need of a juicer, I highly recommend this Breville on amazon for $150. Its feed tube is extra wide so you can put in whole apples and cucumbers and carrots without having to cut anything up in advance. Considering it’s a product I use every single day, the price is a super deal.

If you’re still in need of convincing, you can read about some of the benefits here. I also highly recommend checking out a documentary called Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. This film is what turned me on to juicing in the first place and presents a very compelling real-life case for making juicing a part of your life.