Fruit and Veggie Smoothie

I’m a pretty practical person. When my mom ask me what I want for a holiday gift, I usually have a hard time coming up with stuff. This year, I decided to take my birthday money though and invest in a Ninja blender. Sure, we have all seen the infomercials for it – but does it really work? I did a little online research. I usually don’t read people comments on stuff because it just gets my heart racing. The anonymity of the internet makes people think they can say anything. But I figured if the major of the 100 reviews written on multiple websites were good, maybe all those people weren’t paying to write them. I also chatted with a friend of friend who said it worked good at everything but chopping kale. Ice was my biggest concern. I had some cheap blender and it couldn’t chop ice for anything. I wanted a Starbucks quality blender at a price that fit my budget. The basic Ninja is $99. I used my Bed, Bath, and Beyond 20 percent off coupon getting it down to $80. With birthday money, I could justify the expense.

This smoothie was one of my first test. I have to say, it work beautifully. (Just so you know, I haven’t been paid a dime to say this or anything else on my blog). In the weeks ahead, I will share how it did on other recipe. (I’m even going to give homemade ice cream a try even though I didn’t buy that level of Ninja.) This recipe is definitely a keeper though. I saw it while watching Pioneer Woman on the Food Network and found the exact recipe on the internet. It will be on my Pinterest favorites if you want to tag it for later.

Orange Resolution SmoothieOrange Resolution Smoothies by Ree Drummond
2 c. frozen mangos
2 c. peaches
2 c. Greek yogurt
1 c. Orange Juice
1 c. pineapple
¼ c. honey
1 banana
1 c. mini carrots

Blend together and serve. Makes eight servings.

Notes:

  • I used canned pineapple packed in natural juices.
  • I chopped up the carrots.
  • I cut the recipe to a fourth and it made a good cup and half smoothie.

Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Honey, bananas, and Greek yogurt are great healthy recipe substitutions. The recipe has all plus the low fat, high fiber quick oats. Throw in a little flax seed which is currently being researched to prevent breast cancer. You might be surprised to learn this recipe is actually pretty good. I would totally make it again.

Banana Oatmeal MuffinsBanana Oatmeal Muffins from Pinterest
2 ½ c. oats
1 c. low-fat Greek yogurt
2 eggs
½ c. honey
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 T. flax seed
1 tsp. vanilla
2 ripe bananas

Food process oats to a finer consistency. Add remaining ingredients and blend until mixed. Pour into 12 muffin cups and bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

Notes:

  • I halved the recipe and it still made 9 muffins.
  • I substituted low-fat vanilla yogurt because it was what I had on hand.
  • I added some frozen berries to a few muffins. Feel free to mix chocolate chips or nuts into yours. The plain muffins were also good.
  • I didn’t have any flax seed so I made it without.

Berry-Burst Yogurt

In September, I took a job as the Volunteer Services Manager at Harvesters – The Community Food Network. The position was the perfect match for me – volunteerism and food. Plus, as a donor and episodic volunteer I knew just how great an organization Harvesters was…or so I thought. I quickly learned that this organization was even better than I realized.

Harvesters is the Kansas City area’s only regional food bank. The difference between a food bank and a pantry is something most people don’t know. Each week, Harvesters processes enough food to feed 66,000 people in our 26 country service area. They work with a network of over 620 food pantries, kitchens, and shelters to get the food to where people live. From some of the rural counties we serve, this might even be a few hours from our Topeka facility. Harvesters operates like a business – quickly processing food orders placed online like Amazon might do. The high level accountability and relationship building with local businesses mean that 97% of the food and funds received go right back out to the people served by our community partners. I’ve worked for a lot of great nonprofits by nobody with that little of overhead expenses.

I, like so many of you may be, was shocked by just how many people are food insecure. One in six people in our country are hungry. That means, probably someone you know has or currently is struggling to eat. And for some reason, many people have this perception that if someone isn’t skinny or displaying a bloated stomach than they aren’t really hunger. In fact, major health issues like obesity and diabetes are often the result of food insecurity. When people are limited on funds, they purchase unhealthy, cheap foods that fill up their bellies. Since 1980, the cost of processed foods has decreased by 40% while the cost of healthy foods like fresh vegetables/fruits and lean meats has increase by 40%. Are you as surprised as I am by this? What is even sadder is that one in three kids born in the year 2000 will develop Type II Diabetes (the kind that is caused by what you eat and limited exercise).

One of the coolest things Harvesters does to help address these issues is that it provides nutrition education. We have a whole team of people who spend their days testing recipes and teaching nutrition classes. These dishes are selected for their healthy qualities, tantalizing taste, cost, and ease in preparation. I have to say, I haven’t tasted a recipe yet that I haven’t liked – and you know veggies aren’t my favorite. In addition to teaching classes for both children and adults, we also share these recipes at our Mobile Food Pantries. Each month, Harvesters distribute a ½ million pounds of fresh produce. Nutritious recipes help people utilize the healthy fruits and vegetables they receive.

Check out this Kids in the Kitchen recipe for a delicious breakfast/dessert favorite.

Berry-Burst YogurtBerry-Burst Yogurt with Granola by Harvesters Nutrition Services
1 c. uncooked oats (quick or old fashioned)
¼ c. honey
¼ c. canola oil
1 lemon, zested (2-3 T. juice, 1 T. zest)
1 (12 oz.) package frozen mixed berries (2 ½ c.)
2 bananas, ripe
¼ to ½ tsp. cinnamon
3 c. vanilla Greek yogurt

Combine oats, honey, and oil. Heat skillet to medium temp and add mixture. Stir frequently for 8-10 minutes until golden brown (but don’t burn). Immediately remove from skillet and cool on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet for 10 minutes. Then, break into clumps.

Zest lemon and add with cinnamon to yogurt. In a separate bowl, mash together bananas and berries. Dish up ¼ c. yogurt, ¼ c. fruit, and top with 1/8 c. granola.

Nutritional Information: (Serves 12) 178 calories, 6 g. protein, 27 g. carbs, 3 g. fiber, and 22mg sodium.

Notes:

  • Total cost is $8.31 or $.69 per serving
  • I made it with lemon juice and no zest.
  • I microwaved the berries for a few minutes to thaw. Leftover yogurts were refrigerated.
  • Greek yogurt is expensive so I used low fat vanilla yogurt. Greek yogurt is $1.15 per container. Each regular yogurt was $.40 per container. Just note it might change your nutritional information.

Crunchy Chocolate Chip Muffins

In February, Kansas City was buried in snow. I’m not talking a little bit of snow. One week we got 14 inches on a Thursday morning and the following Monday night another 11 inches. Needless to say, I didn’t leave the house for a few days each time. One of my friends was joking on the internet about why the grocery stores were sold out of all the staples (bread, milk, and eggs). While I on the other hand, always have a pantry and freezer always stock with food. I was cooking up a storm before and after working from home.

This recipe is an oldie but goodie from Taste of Home. I came from one of those magazines my sister shared with me. The recipe was originally published in 2005.

Chocolate Chip MuffinChocolate Chip Muffin by Kelly Kirby
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 c. plain yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c. chocolate chips

Topping
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 T. brown sugar
2 T. chopped walnuts (optional)
1/4 c. chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and mix. Then add yogurt and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, soda, powder, and salt. Add to mixture slowly. Fold in chocolate chips. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.

In a small, mix topping ingredients. Sprinkle over batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. This recipe makes one dozen muffins.

Note: If you don’t want to add the topping, I think the recipe would still be good for a chocolate chip muffin.

Pineapple Plantation

My junior year of high school, I was lucky enough to take my first plane ride to Hawaii. My family didn’t ever really go on vacation so this was HUGE! My Grandma and Grandpa Fletcher had taken many trips over the years for free based on points earned from selling fertilizer. (But just to be clear, they always paid taxes on these trips.) That trip to Hawaii was probably my grandparents’ fifth or sixth voyage to Hawaii. It was February and my mother didn’t trust her 16 year old to stay home alone and my sister was going on her college choir tour.

The trip was an amazing opportunity. We stayed on the BigIsland – Hawaii. Grandpa got us a rental car so we were able to explore the island. It was my first time seeing the ocean which was this amazing shade of crystal clear blue. Grandpa and I flew in a helicopter over the an active volcano and you could feel the heat. I got to walk across the black sands beach which is made from the volcano ash coming from up from the ocean. We also participated in a luau just outside our hotel. Then, my mother and I flew over to Oahu for a day trip. We saw places like Pearl Harbor and a famous beach on Waikiki where they filmed a lot of movies.

One of the most interesting places we visited during that day trip was the Dole Pineapple Plantation. I had no idea how long and difficult the process is to grow pineapples. I believe they told us it takes two years. And if you have ever cut a real pineapple, you know what a prickly mess they can be. But I developed a new found appreciation for the fruit and have no issues paying the price for a fresh pineapple. That said, I did learn on the History Channel that the small or weird looking ones are supposed to be sold but canned for their imperfection. Just remember that the next time you buy an unusual one on sale at the grocery store for $1.99.

Today’s recipe also comes from Price Chopper’s produce recipe rack. You might not think this is much of a recipe but I thought it was something a little different than just eating the pineapple cold and raw. The lemon juice adds just a bit of a tang.

Pineapple Skewers with Lemon Yogurt
1 fresh pineapple, cored and sliced
3 T. of fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 (6 oz.) container of low fat vanilla yogurt
toasted coconut or granola (optional)
Skewers (Metal or wooden soak water for 30 minutes)

Cut pineapple and thread on skewers. Grill over a medium heat basting with 2 T. of lemon juice, turning occasionally. In the meantime, combine yogurt, remaining lemon juice, and zest. Top with coconut if desired. Serve while pineapple is still warm.

Nutrition Facts: 65 calories, 1 g. fat, 0 saturated fat, 0 cholesterol, 20 mg sodium, 160 mg potassium, 14 carbs, 1 g. fiber, 2 g. protein

Notes:

  • I did not have an skewers so I made the pineapple just laying it on my stove top grill. It worked just fine.
  • I made it without coconut. I substituted Honey Nut Cheerios for the crunch.
  • If you like fresh pineapple, purchase a pineapple de-corer. All you have to do is cut off the top and start twisting it down the pineapple. I keeps the juice inside the pineapple.
  • Looking to mix it up, maybe try grilling some strawberries with your pineapple.
  • Consider purchasing Yoplait yogurt right now. For every pink lid redeemed online and mailed it, your local Komen Affiliate will receive $.20 per yogurt lid redeemed. It’s an easy way to help provide dollars to fund breast cancer education, screening, and treatment in your community.

Strawberry Soup

The very first year I worked at SAFEHOME, we moved our gala fundraiser to the Doubletree. In lieu of salad, we started the June Jubilee with a cold Strawberry Soup. As someone who is anti-veggie, you know how excited I was and I had nothing to do with the taste panel. Some guests refused to eat it because they didn’t know what it was. I liked it so much I started looking for Strawberry Soup recipes. I’ve made a few over the years. This recipe I tried for the first time a few weeks ago and I really liked it. Just blend, chill, and serve.

Summer Strawberry Soup by Verna Bollin

2 lbs. strawberries, diced into 8 cups
1/2 c. Orange juice
2 c. vanilla yogurt (I used fat-free)
1/2 c. sugar

Mix all ingredients in a blender. Once smooth, put in the fridge for at least 2 hours to chill. You may garnish with fresh mint and yogurt.

Nutrition Facts: (Makes six 1 cup servings.) 204 calories, 3 g. fat, 2 g. saturated fat, 8 mg. cholesterol, 54 mg. sodium, 41 g. carbs, 3 g. fiber, and 5 g. protein. 

Spicy Chicken and Noodles

I think I found this recipe in a Betty Crocker email. It’s a super simple and quick recipe. The paprika gives this recipe a little bit of a kick. I also like that it uses yogurt because it is much healthier than most sauce ingredients. The sauce is a little limited on this recipe so double it if you want a more coated recipe.

Chicken and Noodles Paprika

2 c. uncooked cholesterol-free noodles
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 lb. of boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/3 c. plain fat-free yogurt
2 tsp. flour
1/2 c. chicken broth
1 tsp. chopped fresh or 1/4 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 medium onion, cut into thin wedges
Chopped green onion (optional)

Cook and drain pasta. Cook chicken, then slice into 1/2 inch strips. In a small bowl, mix yogurt and flour. In the same skillet you cooked the chicken, heat broth, thyme, paprika, and onion to boiling. Reduce and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Gradually stir in yogurt mixture into broth. Stir constantly, until thickened. Add chicken back to pan to coat. Spoon over noodles and serve.

Nutrition Facts: 420 Calories. 7 g. of fat, 70 mg. cholesterol, 240 mg. sodium, 55 g. carbs, 5 g. fiber, 6 g. sugar, 37 g. protein. Recipe serves two.

Notes:

  • I make this recipe without the slices of onion.
  • I grill the chicken because it is healthier than cooking it with oil.
  • The website recommends serving this with steamed fresh broccoli.

Milk-less Cereal

When I was a kid, my sister and I had to agree on what cereal we were getting at the grocery store. My mother allowed us one box and we had to finish it before could by a new one. The other option was Corn Flakes. This was the cereal my father ate ever morning (and still does 40+ years later).

Stephanie loved cereals like Cheerios, Lucky Charms, and Frankenberry. I, on the other hand, enjoyed Apple Jacks, Fruit Loops, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Stephanie and I used to scope out the boxes at the grocery store. What were the new cereal choices? What box had the best toy? (But we weren’t allowed to dig through the box for it – you got the prize if it dumped out in your bowl.) We usually ended up with something healthy like Crispix or Triple because we could both agree to eat that cereal. If we picked Life, we mother would even eat a bowl or two. Probably our favorite – oh so bad for you cereal – was Ice Cream Cone cereal. We didn’t really like the “ice cream” but we loved the “cone” part of the cereal.

One of my favorite cereal memories was when Stephanie and I request Frosted Mini-Wheats. My mother tried to warn us that we would not like them but we didn’t listen. The commercials made them look healthy but sweet. That really wasn’t the case. If you have ever eaten Shredded Wheat, you know what I am saying! My mother held to her guns on not letting us get a new cereal. She finally agreed that if we could get something else to take the box, she would replace it with a new cereal. I can’t remember if Stephanie said we got Bob Colligan (our super sweet next door neighbor) or my Grandpa Fletcher to take the box off our hands. But trust me, we never made that mistake again!

Today, Stephanie and I always have several different kinds of cereal on hand at our homes. I bet on any given day we have at least 4-7 boxes in our cupboards. Most of Stephanie’s boxes are to make Caramel Chex Mix and I just like to eat different kinds every day.

If you saw my recipe for the Crunchy-topped Strawberry -Kiwi Parfaits, I got this recipe from the same flyer. It is probably one of the few times you can enjoy Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal without milk.

Crunchy Yogurt Parfaits

8 medium strawberries, sliced
1 1/3 c. fat-free strawberry Yoplait yogurt
1 c. Cinnamon Toast Crunch

Cut up six of the strawberries. Layer strawberries, cereal and yogurt in two containers and repeat. Top with a whole strawberry. Serve immediately.

Crunchy Parfait

I don’t know if any of you shop at Hen House. Although it isn’t where I buy the majority of my groceries, they sometimes have really great deals in their ads. Plus, they double coupons of $.50 or less. In the front of their store, they sometimes have special inserts with coupons and recipes. I got this recipe from one of their inserts promoting General Mills products. I thought this recipe was pretty good so I decided to share it. With low fat yogurt, this is a healthy breakfast or afternoon snack.

Crunchy-Topped Strawberry-Kiwi Parfaits
1/2 c. Banana Cheerios

1 T. almonds
3 oz. of low fat vanilla or peach yogurt
1 large strawberry, chopped
½ a kiwi, chopped

Bake the almonds and Cheerios at 350 degrees for 6-10 minutes. Let cool. Layer yogurt, strawberries, kiwi, and Cheerios mix. Repeat layering. Serve immediately.

Recipe modifications:

  • I only had Honey Nut Cheerios so I used those.
  • I omitted the almonds.
  • I used vanilla yogurt when I made it.