ChocoBananaNut Smoothie Recipe

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My friend from way-back-when, Jennifer Menzer, is in incredible shape. So much so, that it begs the question: “Girl, what do you eat?” As a Nutrition, Fitness, and Lifestyle Coach for Boston Health Coaches, in Boston, Massachusetts, there is no question that she is in peak form, in part, through exercise; however, it is Boston Health Coaches lifestyle approach that got my attention. They advertise the belief that “food, health, and life should be savored.”  How opposite to what we normally think about diet. Their approach is not about deprivation, but about making the right choices instead. Brilliant.

So back to the question about what she eats. This foodie wanted to know. She gave us this wonderful recipe for the ChocoBananaNut Smoothie. Visit her website at Bostonhealthcoaches.com to learn more information and connect with Jennifer and her counterparts at Boston Health Coaches.

Makes 1 serving

1 frozen banana (freeze it with the peel off!)

1 tsp peanut or almond butter

1 tsp cocoa powder

1 tsp chia seeds

small handful kale

Cover with a bit of Almond Milk, blend, and enjoy cold.

As an aside, I served it to my kids, and they had no idea that they were drinking veggies. Bottoms up!

Mommy Needs a Drink Recipe: Frozen Bellini

drink!

What better way to cool down on a Summer evening than with a frozen Bellini?

Makes about 3-4 drinks

1 16-oz pkg frozen peaches

1.5 cups of Prosecco

A squirt of lemon juice

1 tsp. sugar

Fresh mint (Garnish)

Fresh raspberries (Garnish)

Place all ingredients except the last two (for the garnish) and blend until liquefied. Serve in champagne flutes.  Pierce a raspberry and one mint leave with a toothpick and place on top of the glass. Enjoy!

My Big Fat Italian Sunday Dinner

Before it turns murder weather here in New York and all we can bear to do is barbeque on the grill, I’ll share the normal Sunday tradition in my family, which involves a big pot of red sauce.  Tonight we’re having cavatelli, but really this pasta itself it not the important part, because this sauce goes with them all. So put your favorite Louis Prima song on blast and get ready to eat.

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Olive Oil

3 cloves of garlic peeled with the ends cut off.

1 28 oz can of peeled crushed tomatoes

1 small can tomato paste

A little red wine

A container of grated or a hunk of Locatelli Cheese

Add a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to a large sauce pan and add the cloves of garlic.  Heat the stove on medium.  Leave for about 3 or 4 minutes until you see the oil beginning to heat up.  Do not allow the garlic to turn brown.

Add the large can of tomatoes and the can of tomato paste.  Fill the tomato paste up with water one time and dump into the mixture.  Turn the burner up to high and allow the tomato mixture to come to a boil.  Then turn down to low and cover the pot.  Let cook for about an hour.  If the sauce is too bitter, add a couple of tablespoons of red wine and let it simmer for an additional fifteen to twenty minutes. Never ever ever ever put sugar in your sauce. It will sweeten up naturally the longer it simmers.

After draining the cooked pasta of your choice, place in a large serving bowl.  My favorite way to serve this dinner is to place a helping of pasta in each individual bowl with a modest amount of sauce on top.  Top with a generous spoonful of grated Locatelli cheese.  To complete the experience, yell the names of each family member expected at dinner from the kitchen, even if they are standing next to you.

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Garlic: the elixir of life.

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Start with good ingredients and you can’t go wrong.

Pizza a Deux: Margharita Pizza and Pizza with Carmelized Onions, Arugula, and Goat Cheese

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Pizzerias in New York are a dime a dozen, so I buy my dough pre-made from them. The rest I do myself.  If you don’t have a pizzeria near you, you’re stuck making your own dough.  Here’s a link with a recipe for that.
(Pizza Dough)

The Margharita Pizza is for the kids and the Goat Cheese one is for us grown-ups. Don’t be turned off by its name, as I was for years. This cheese is nutty and mild all at once.

Olive oil

2 lb. pizza dough, divided in half

I medium yellow onion

1 can peeled crushed tomato

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1 container crumbled goat cheese

1 cup arugula

balsamic glaze (or you can make a balsamic reduction by bringing balsamic vinegar to a boil and lowering it to a simmer until it turns syrupy)

Kosher Salt

Preheat the oven to 425.  Spread each lump of dough out on a pizza pan (round and non-stick) lightly coated with olive oil.  Flatten with your fingers until each lump of dough is thin like a pancake.

For the margharita pizza, spread 2 to 3 tbsp. of the tomatoes in a thin coat on top of the pie. Leave about 1/2 along the outside diameter of the pie.  Use a pastry brush to pain olive oil along the edges without sauce.  Sprinkle kosher salt and mozzarella cheese on top.  Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Let cool slightly, and cut into triangular pieces.

For the goat cheese pizza, cut the onion into long strips.  Place in a frying pan with 1 tbsp. olive oil on medium-high heat.  Allow the onion strips to caramelize, turning a dark brown color.

Spread a thin layer of crumbled goat cheese on the top of the other helping of dough, leaving a half inch diameter on the outer edge.  Use a pastry brush to paint olive oil on the outer edge.  Sprinkle a small amount of kosher salt over the entire top of the pie. Add a bit of arugula.   Using a slotted spoon, generously place the caramelized onions over the top of the pizza.  Bake  at 425 for approximately 20-25 minutes. After removing from the onion, drizzle the balsamic glaze delicately over the top.  Cut into triangular slices and enjoy.

Weekday Meal: Pat’s Casserole

pat's casserole

 

This is on my steady weeknight rotation and was always on my mom’s, too. It’s so quick and the kids think it’s a treat. Again, I’m able to sneak a veggie in. Think of it a homemade version of hamburger helper. Minus those ingredients you can’t pronounce.

Makes 4 to 5 servings

1 box small shell pasta

1 lb lean ground beef

1 8 oz can of tomato sauce

1 green pepper diced

1 small onion diced

2 to 3 slices of american cheese

Olive Oil

 

Add tbsp of olive oil to a large frying pan and set stove on low-medium heat. Add green pepper and onion and cover. Sautee until peppers are soft and onions are translucent.  Stir frequently and turn heat down if necessary so onions don’t brown. Add ground beef and cook until browned. Drain fat if necessary and add can of tomato sauce. Bring to simmer and turn off heat.

Prepare elbow pasta as indicated on box. Return the cooked pasta to the pot, adding a small amount of olive oil to keep it from sticking.

Add the beef and veggie mixture to the pot of the small shell pasta and mix together.

Tear the American cheese into small pieces and add to the pot, stirring it in until cheese is melted. Serve and enjoy.

Lemon-Blueberry Pancakes

pancakies

By now, you’ve probably figured out my modus operandi: sneak as much fruit and veggies into my kids as possible without them realizing they’re eating a diverse and healthy diet.  Here is another example. We usually eat this for dinner, because our schedules almost never allow for a leisurely breakfast.  It’s super-easy.

Makes 12 to 18 pancakes

2 cups pancake mix

1 1/2 cups water

1/4 cup milk

1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried

1/2 tbsp. vanilla

zest of one small lemon

Confectioners sugar

Add all liquid ingredients to dry pancake mix and mix until lumps disappear.  Remove the zest of a small lemon with a microplane (if you don’t have one, you can use a cheese grater, but watch your fingers!) into the mixture.  Add more or less to taste.  Add the blueberries.  Using a griddle or large frying pan, cook the pancakes until golden brown on each side.  After placing the pancakes on each plate, sprinkle confectioner’s sugar on top of each stack of pancakes.  You can serve with or without a modest amount of maple syrup.

Memorial Day Dish: Pasta Sbarra

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One of the dishes I look forward to most each Memorial Day is a pasta salad my Aunt Joan makes. It’s light and tasty, and it’s a great side dish to anything you have cooking on the barbeque. Here’s her recipe, which she was happy to share for the greater good!

1 lb bow tie pasta

1 wedge of Fontina cheese, rind removed and cut into small chunks

1 large Roma tomato (or 2 small ones)

5 large basil leaves, chopped

1 garlic clove

1 envelope of Italian dressing (prepares as indicated on the envelope)

1/4 cup olive oil

black pepper

 

1. Cook the pasta according to the package. Drain it, and place it in a large bowl.  Toss with 1/4 cup of olive oil and the garlic clove.  Toss a few times until cooled.  Remove the garlic clove Leave until room temperature.

2. Add diced tomato and cheese.  Add 1/2 of the prepared dressing and stir.  Add chopped basil and some black pepper to taste. Stir. 

 

This salad can be served at room temperature or refrigerated. If refrigerated, save some of the extra dressing to add in before serving.  Ingredients can be adjusted to your taste.  

 

What’s for Dinner, Mom?: The Free App You Need

appity app

I wander the supermarket as in an ethereal haze. The kids’ voices echo through the corridors of my grey matter, “What’s for dinner mom? What’s for dinner-inner-inner…”

I wish it was all a bad dream, but it’s a fairly accurate description of my grocery shopping trip each and every Sunday. Kind of. Maybe a little less dramatic. But still harrowing.

Anyway, there’s this free app (available gratis both for Android and iPhones), aptly titled “Food on the Table” that helps with the age old question, “What’s for dinner?”

You begin by entering your local supermarket. The app can tell you what’s on sale at your store. You can then browse the sale items and pick a recipe within the app based on the main component (i.e. sirloin steak, chicken, etc). But the fun doesn’t stop there. Once you’ve picked your recipe, the app composes a grocery list based on the ingredients. I know, right? Pure genius. Food shopping just got a little easier.

This is not not food…

bar article

I am not a breakfast person.  In the morning, time is at a premium. Kids are awoken, dogs are fed, lunches packed. The thought of sitting down to eat rarely crosses my mind.  For a while, I picked up breakfast on the way to work, but the options were so carb-y.  Roll and butter? Bagel? (I live in New York, that’s how we do.)  Even if I would indulge in such a bready breakfast, I would find myself hungry about an hour later.

Enter the protein bar. They come in all flavors and even resemble more of a food item than something an astronaut would eat.   Most days, I throw one in my purse and eat one on the way to work or at my desk.  But caveat emptor,  these little treats can vary vastly in nutritional content. There are bars packed with up to 20 grams of protein. These will keep you full but may be tough on the tummy.  Some are very sugary.  It’s important to read labels.  The following are some of my favorites:

Cliff Bars: These have a chewy cookie-like consistency, and the Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal Raisin flavors will have you swearing you are devouring a cookie for brekkie. They are packed with vitamins. Try Chocolate Brownie, too. They are high in fiber (20%DV) and packed with vitamins. 240 calories

thinkThin: This is the one packed with protein (20g) but it also has 0g sugar.  The Chunky Peanut Butter flavor resembles a peanut butter cup, and it’s coated in chocolate.  It’s also got some calcium (10%DV). 240 calories

Balance bar Gold: The Chocolate Mint Cookie Crunch bar tastes like a girl scout cookie (Thin Mint) and has 14g protein.  Additionally, it’s packed with vitamins and antioxidants.  200 calories

What healthy items do you enjoy for breakfast?

Pasta Julian

Pasta Julian

My kindergartener calls this “Mommy’s best dinner.” You have no idea how simple it is. And the best part is, I know he had some vegetables in him without him making that “blehhhhhhhh” sound. It’s made with pancetta, an Italian pork belly meat. If your grocery store or delicatessen does not carry pancetta, you could sub out bacon or ham, as long as it’s cut thick enough to dice.

Dash of salt

3/4 Box Bowtie (Farfalle) Pasta

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

1/4 lb. pancetta (sliced thick, like bacon)

one cup frozen peas

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 pats of butter

 

Boil a large pot of water (a 4 quart pot about 3/4 full), into which you have thrown a dash of salt on high heat.

Dice the pancetta into small pieces.  Coat the bottom of a medium frying pan with the olive oil and warm it up on medium heat.  Place the pancetta in the oil until the pancetta turns light brown.  Drain a bit of the fat that has accumulated in the pan and reduce heat to low. Add in the peas and stir until they are no longer frozen.

Drain the cooked pasta (per the directions on the box) in a colander and place the pasta back in the 4 qt pot.  With a slotted spoon (to allow the oil to drain), remove the peas and pancetta and add to the bowtie pasta.

Add the cream and the butter to the pasta mixture in the pot and stir until the butter is melted.  The cream will not be an overwhelming sauce, but more of a light coating to the dish.  You can add more to suit your taste if you wish.

Kids will like the dish with no further embellishment, but you can also grate some parmigiano reggiano cheese and some cracked black pepper for an extra flourish.