Tag Archives: fruit

Smoothie Recipes and Tips: Drinking Your Lunch

Gentle Readers, it’s confession time. I like to chew my food. Having grown up in an era of diet plans that included SlimFast, I have never understood how people lose weight like that. If I drink calories, I’m still hungry. So I can not in good faith recommend a drinkable only diet.

My preferred means of cold yogurt consumption! (And current addiction--I love toppings.)

My preferred means of cold yogurt consumption! (And current addiction–I love toppings.)

However, when it comes to feeding growing kids who have loose teeth and/or braces something nutritious in a short time, I’m willing to go outside my own personal set of rules. Smoothies are very calorie dense, and when that’s important, they are a great option for portable snacks, breakfast on the go, and infinitely variable lunch additions.

Here are some of my findings.

The Practical Cook’s Smoothie Recipes and Tips:

1. Use frozen fruit instead of ice to achieve good smoothie texture. No one likes a watered down smoothie. My favorite trick, throw that last banana that’s almost too ripe in the freezer, in its own wrapper.

2. However, let the frozen fruit come up to temperature a bit, or pop in the microwave to speed the blending process. Remember that banana? Thirty seconds in the microwave and you can peel it and blend.

Start with the liquids before adding the fruit to avoid the dreaded blender jam.

Start with the liquids before adding the fruit to avoid the dreaded blender jam.

3. Put the liquids and yogurt in first. This will absolutely aid the blending process. I’ve blended a lot of food in my time, in commercial and home settings. Trust me on this. No matter how much you paid for your Blend-O-Matic, this rule holds true.

4. Try orange juice or another whole fruit juice as your liquid/sweetener. If that’s not enough, add a dash of honey!

Mango Raspberry Smoothies--Pretty Snacks!

Mango Raspberry Smoothies–Pretty Snacks!

5. Mix your fruits. This goes without saying, the blends usually work better. The house favorite right now is plain low-fat yogurt, OJ, mango, raspberries, and a dash of honey. My personal favorite? The Elvis: plain low-fat yogurt, peanut butter, a frozen banana, a little milk, and honey.

The best way to transport? We’re saving the drinkable yogurt bottles for re-use with homemade concoctions. It’s a great hit of protein and calcium that can be consumed very quickly while talking during a short school lunch period.

So drink up, and share your favorite combinations! Post a comment or tweet in my direction. I can hear you out there.

Send your frozen fruit, lucrative ideas, and travel cups practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

Follow practicalcook on Twitter

Coming up next: Weekly Menus, Remote Edition

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Recipes, Snacks

Weekly Menus: Fast Food Edition

Gentle Readers, sometimes one must concede to gravity, time, or other immutable forces. This is one such week. I’m at the crossroads at one of the largest events I work every year, with one of the most important ones. That would be my company’s tech conference and The Youngest Practical Cook’s Birthday Party. Yes, there were two parties, it happens sometimes.

Fast Food: Toast, Egg Over Medium, Bacon, Sprinkle of Frank's Hot Sauce. Side of Watermelon.

Fast Food: Toast, Egg Over Medium, Bacon, Sprinkle of Frank’s Hot Sauce. Side of Watermelon.

I can now make a carrot cake in my sleep (and almost did after midnight last night). The larger point being–I still have to pull a Weasley Car act and shove more into one bag than should fit. At least I’m generally packed for this business trip, but I still have miles to go and need some sleep.

Carrot Cake, Stark Naked. Renamed WTFCake due to the state of the week. Smells like magic and sunshine.

Carrot Cake, Stark Naked. Renamed WTFCake due to the state of the week. Smells like magic and sunshine.

So I’m breaking format with some thoughts about how I eat and feed TPCs Jr during crunch time, something I often tag on Instagram as #fastfood. My friend @ConvertibleLife had a great picture the other day of a pita pizza topped with produce-box offerings.

Peanut Butter Toast: Seriously Fast Food. Side of Cherries.

Peanut Butter Toast: Seriously Fast Food. Side of Cherries.

My version of #fastfood is a commitment to keeping the house stocked with things we can eat quickly that provide more nutritional firepower than the commercial Fast Food. We are not making quiches and roasts here, I ate quesadillas for lunch most days last week, under 10 minutes prep including bringing a cast iron skillet up to proper heat.

Another spinach quesadilla, but with Pepadew Havarti and Cowboy Caviar. Fast Food.

Another spinach quesadilla, but with Pepadew Havarti and Cowboy Caviar. Fast Food.

We keep a lot of fruit on hand at this time of year–cherries, apples, bananas, watermelon, strawberries– and one day I fueled up almost exclusively on watermelon and granola bars. This is not ideal, I’ll fully admit, but it’s still better for me than the alternatives. I don’t want to rely on frozen heat-up meals. I don’t want to eat powerbars or drink my lunch. I like to chew.

I can’t afford the physical crash that follows a typical burgers and fries fast food meal. Believe you me, I heart junk food, it’s just not sustainable when I need to stay alert and energized. For me, plain yogurt with fruit, nuts, and a sprinkle of muesli or granola is a much better option. More importantly, it’s faster than driving through.

Spinach salad with walnuts, cherries, and goat cheese. Balsamic and olive oil drizzle. Fast Food.

Spinach salad with walnuts, cherries, and goat cheese. Balsamic and olive oil drizzle. Fast Food.

I made this salad in 5 minutes, the key was having the ingredients on hand. Obviously I have my breaking point when it comes to time, as this not-weekly menus post proves. I’m traveling on business next week, and I need to push pause here and focus. I’ll pick back up next Sunday. In the meantime, I encourage you to find new ways to eat and feed your family when time is the most precious commodity. Try cheese, crackers, fruit, and carrots.

Summer happiness = watermelon

Summer happiness = watermelon

And forgive yourself the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches too. One day I’ll cook complex and interesting meals again, just not this week. See you soon–would love to hear your comments and see your #fastfood.

Send your SPF, watermelon, and good ideas to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

Follow practicalcook on Twitter

Coming up Next Sunday: Back on Track, Weekly Menus Resume!

Leave a comment

Filed under Punt!, Weekly Menus

Chocolate and Fruit: Where Do You Stand?

Gentle Readers, though The Practical Cook is fond of chocolate, deeply fond, she does not think it goes with every fruit under the sun. Yes, there, I said it. There are some fruit/chocolate combinations of which I’m not fond. As the Golden Globes are going on, let’s nominate our favorite fruit and chocolate pairings, shall we. And in some cases, it is not an honor to be nominated.

Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries

Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries

In the category of fruits that pair well with chocolate, we have:

1. Strawberries. This is a clear winner. Easy to make, delicious to eat. Love them. Dearly. Here’s a simple recipe for chocolate-dipped strawberries.

2. Cherries. A favorite since childhood. I would show you a picture of the box I got for Christmas (thanks Mom!), but I ate them all.

Sticky Popcorn: Chocolate Almond Cherry

Sticky Popcorn: Chocolate Almond Cherry

3. Bananas. Banana splits, I put them in my chocolate yogurt, they’re frozen and dipped in chocolate for the fair! A clear front-runner.

4. Apples. Rolled in caramel and then dipped in chocolate and a variety of candy. Brilliant invention. Yes, please.

The Caramel Apple That Eats Like a Meal

The Caramel Apple That Eats Like a Meal

5. Boysenberries. Just trust me on this. I had a chocolate torte on a black walnut crisp with boysenberry sauce. It was as good as it sounds.

For fruits I don’t want near chocolate, we have:

1. Oranges. Yeah, you heard me. Though I have admittedly consumed several pieces of chocolate orange from the holidays, it was a matter of chocolate desperation, and I was unhappy with myself. This combo doesn’t work for me.

Chocolate peanut butter, chocolate orange, chocolate mint.

Chocolate peanut butter, chocolate orange, chocolate mint.

2. Raspberries. I know, you can boo me off the stage on this one. I think it goes back to the days of the Whitman’s sampler, when I would always manage to get the “raspberry gel” no matter what. Ugh and double ugh.

Whitman's Sampler

3. Peaches. This just came to me as an extremely unfortunate pairing. Having never tried it, I can’t say for certain. I would add kiwi and mango to this category as well.

Okay, the nominations are in, it is time to vote! Post a comment below, or Tweet with #chocofruit as the hashtag.

Questions, suggestions, chocolate? Email me at practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

Follow practicalcook on Twitter

Tomorrow, speaking of cheesy, it’s Veggie Nachos Perfected!

Leave a comment

Filed under Kitchen Philosophy

Apple Smiles or Playing With Food

Sometimes seeing is believing. The Practical Cook is all for extreme food presentation, but until I researched Apple Smiles, I was in Little League. I knew the basics: apples, peanut butter, marshmallows. But how to put it all together?

Here’s how:

Smile, Apple, Smile!

Smile, Apple, Smile!

Freaky, but delicious. Which led to the creation of the literary smile, the Wife of Bath:

Wife of Bath Apple Smile (the gat-toothed woman)

Wife of Bath Apple Smile (the gat-toothed woman)

I knew memorizing that prologue would serve one day. “Whan that April . . .”

These snacks are even more fun en masse:

When Food Smiles Back

When Food Smiles Back

Admittedly, it borders on creepy. Here’s what I learned:

  • Use the peanut butter sparingly. Otherwise you’ll end up with gingivitis.
  • The redder the apple, the more realistic the look.
  • If you’re using pre-sliced apples (guilty, I was in a hurry!), cut them in half again. The voluptuous lip may work for Revlon, but creates a sliding smile.
  • Have fun with the marshmallow “tooth” placement. You can see gap-tooth above, but there are several smiles missing teeth, just like the young patrons who were consuming them.
  • Marketing works. When delivering the smiles, I asked the recipient if they thought that one was a good tooth-brusher. Great ice-breaker for the under 7 set.
  • I’m ashamed to admit how tasty these were. I’m a fan of all three ingredients, but together, magic. I won’t tell if you make some for yourself.
Apple Smile Work in Progress

Apple Smile Work in Progress

I found it simplest to slice the apple slices in half (or make them fairly thin if you’re slicing your own), smear them lightly with peanut butter, then add the marshmallow teeth and assemble, as shown above. Push the marshmallow from skin side to interior or risk unsightly peanut butter gums.

This is a great option for Snack Week if allergies are not an issue. Much fruit was consumed based on presentation and taste.

Coming up next, spring is in the air somewhere, so it’s time to think about the Farmer’s Market. Are you a Farmer’s Market fan? Join us tomorrow and tell us what you shop for (or why you haven’t gone yet): practicalcook at gmail dot com

Follow practicalcook on Twitter

10 Comments

Filed under Kitchen Philosophy, Recipes

Fruit Aplenty

So this week in review. We’ve handled vegetable marketing, let’s address the sweet cousin of veg, fruit. It’s time for the Practical Cook polling machine to roar to life. The challenge—go to your kitchen and tally up how many types of fruit you have there. Compare that against how many other types of snacks you have available. Which group is winning?

The Food Pyramid

The Food Pyramid

This is so not the Food Pyramid of the Practical Cook’s youth. Methinks someone has been in the Powerpoint SmartArt playing around. But I digress. If you’d like more charts and graphs, or a fascinating Fruit Gallery, visit MyPyramid.gov.

The point of today’s poll comes from a combination of Marketing 101 and something I heard so long ago that I can’t remember the source. If any loyal reader can find the citation, I will happily add it here. It’s called “mass of product” + choice. If you have more options for fruit, displayed nicely together, than junkier snacks, you’ll eat more fruit.

(Clearly, the banana council both had and has a serious marketing budget.)

I had this “duh” moment a few years ago when I realized I just couldn’t keep that many salty boxed snacks around. I am not a marathoner nor do I play in the NFL. Blogging doesn’t burn that many calories, I’m sorry to say. It was time to change the ratio. Here’s a list of fruit purchased, stored, or consumed during this past week in the Practical Cook’s Kitchen:

  1. apples: Granny Smith (tart lady that she was) and Honeycrisps (my new passion–seek these out and tell me what you think)
  2. pears: Bosc, Red, Anjou
  3. grapefruit
  4. blood oranges
  5. clementines
  6. bananas: If they start to go brown, just toss them in the freezer, skin on, and break them out when you want to make a smoothie, banana bread, banana walnut pancakes, etc.
  7. blackberries: Out of season indulgence
  8. dates: If you’ve never tried the non-sugared buy it in bulk type dates, give them a whirl. They’re like candy.
  9. raisins
  10. dried cranberries
  11. frozen blueberries
  12. avocado
  13. cherry tomatoes: A technicality, also an out of season indulgence
  14. mango
  15. peaches: fruit-cup style

My good friend, the Complicated Vegetarian, introduced me to the idea of putting a plate of sliced fruit on the table not just at breakfast, but lunch and dinner, too. It works.

We also hold tastings when we have more than one varietal of fruit—we recently determined that Red Pears were the sweetest ones of the bunch. Do green grapes taste different than red ones? This changes the conversation from “eat more fruit because it’s good for you” to “what tastes better to me?”

That’s enough kitchen philosophy for today. Feel free to share your fruit lists—the Practical Cook is always on the hunt for new ideas. Coming up next, Weekly Menus! Spring is just around the corner, the groundhog has promised, which means lots of new veggies and cooking challenges.

Leave a comment

Filed under Kitchen Philosophy