power juice

Want to know my favorite way to start the day?

other than a cup of coffee and catching up on my reading, but that’s irrelevant…

Freshly pressed fruit and vegetable juice! For me, there is nothing better tasting, refreshing, and just plain ol’ delicious than a mason jar brimming with the sweet pulp of fruits and vegetables. This is the best way to pack in your vitamins, my friends!

The hubs and I bought our first juicer late last December – I had wanted one for quite some time, but in typical “Alicia fashion” couldn’t justify the cost if I wasn’t sure how much use it would {or wouldn’t} get. I am not a fan of purchasing anything, only to have it sitting around and collecting dust. We finally bit the bullet after Christmas; a company gift card was put to good used, and we wound up ordering one, this particular model, in fact.

Fast forward to that first day of juicing. Not really knowing what I was getting myself into, I pulled whatever fresh ingredients I had in my bin out and began washing away. A few minutes, and a few passes through the juicer later, I had whipped up a brightly colored, fresh and frothy beverage. One sip was all it took, my dears…one sip, and we were hooked.

We go on kicks where I will juice almost every evening, usually after dinner when there are dishes to wash anyways, and siphon them into waiting mason jars for breakfast the next morning. I’ve experimented with some kooky combinations, but the one I’ve chosen to share here today is a personal favorite of the hubs. Rather than just rave on and on about how good it tastes, let’s take a look at how good it is for you!

-Carrots are perhaps best known for their rich supply of the antioxidant nutrient that was actually named for them: beta-carotene. However, these delicious root vegetables are the source not only of beta-carotene, but also of a wide variety of antioxidants and other health-supporting nutrients. The areas of antioxidant benefits, cardiovascular benefits, and anti-cancer benefits are the best-researched areas of health research with respect to dietary intake of carrots.

-Granny Smith apples have a high fiber content and a low amount of calories, helping you feel fuller longer. They help to slow digestion, regulate blood sugar, and aid in keeping your teeth healthy.

-Ginger is  is a free radical scavenger, antioxidant; thus inhibits lipid peroxidation and that these attributes could be contributing to its known gastroprotective effects. It provides relief from the common cold, and is a great way to keep your stomach feeling comfortable.

This combination is what I call our “power juice”. Taking care of yourself isn’t just about going to the gym, wearing sunscreen, etc. So much of what we do is affected by what we put INSIDE our bodies, so let’s start the day off on a healthy note, eh?

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Power Juice {serves 1}

Ingredients:

5-7 large carrots, washed/peeled, cut into chunks

1 medium sized apple, cut into quarters {I like to use Granny Smith apples}

fresh ginger root, about 1/2″ or so, peeled

other optional add-ins…

-cucumber chunks

-celery stalks

-fresh kale leaves

-half an orange

To Prepare:

Assemble all ingredients as listed above, making sure each piece is thoroughly washed and scrubbed. Add into the feeder tube of your juicer, making to to allow plenty of time between ingredients so each gets fully juiced. I like to do the ginger first, as its small size sometimes doesn’t always make it through – doing the other pieces after it helps to extract more of the pulp.

Drink immediately, or store in an airtight container for no longer than 24 hours. Keep refrigerated.

kicked up fish & chips

Raise your hand if you’ve ever experienced cafeteria food.

This, I know for a fact, is something that every single one of us has been exposed to in our lives, whether it be long or short. School age children do it {practically} daily, adults may have a workplace cafeteria they frequent for lunch, or you just can’t stay away from the beloved “all you can eat buffets”.  Regardless of location, I find there is always one thing you can count on – that, my dears, is the classic “fish stick”.

I am confident in saying that this is one meal that gets a terribly unfortunate reputation. My reasoning for asking about your cafeteria dining experience is because, almost always, you can ask a person about said fish sticks and I’m willing to bet you will get the same reaction…eyes rolling, hand flies to mouth, perhaps a dash to the bathroom {from a particularly terrible experience} or just a collective sigh of disappointment. It’s just one of those foods that no one liked, myself included.

That is…until I was introduced to the British staple of “Fish and Chips”.

Photo courtesy of  tripadvisor

While insanely delicious and filling, the meal itself is a calorie and fat bomb. Yes, this is what makes it so utterly delicious, and I am never one to pass up the occasional indulgence, but when I find a meal that I adore oh-so-much, I want to enjoy it more than once in a blue moon. So naturally, I decided to take matters into my own able hands.

Enter these kicked up fish and chips. I have been making these on a regular basis for several years now, and figured it was time to get them on rotation here. By subbing out the deep-frying aspect of the dish for an insanely hot roast in the oven, swapping out the large portion of French fries for thick strings of roasted vegetables, you’ve got a pretty darn good fill-in, if I do say so myself. I cannot tell a lie – I may have even patted myself on the back for this meal. It’s truly a winner. You won’t miss any of the greasy outer layers because the panko batter is so crispy from being roasted, and the fish inside stays so incredibly tender and moist.

It’s time we give those sad fish sticks from yesteryear a second chance – let’s start here, shall we?

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Kicked Up Fish & Chips

{serves 2 generously, 3 for a more “tapas” style dining experience}

Ingredients:

cooking spray

1 lb. {give or take} of cod, cut into thick strips

1 to 1-1/2  C. all-purpose flour*

1 to 1-1/2 C. panko bread crumbs *

1 large egg*

2 egg whites*

2 to 4 Tbsp. milk*

a few dashes of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, or your preference of sauce {optional}

your favorite dried herbs {optional}

salt and pepper, to taste

 *for a thicker style coating, double the amount of coating mixtures in each bowl – essentially, you’ll run the strips first through the flour, then the egg, then back through the flour, then back through the egg again before ending up in the panko mixture. This is a great way to get that extra crackly coating!…and my preferred choice. 

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, making sure to come up the sides. Place a wire cooling rack atop the baking sheet and spray liberally with non-stick cooking spray.

Line up three shallow dishes:

-In the first bowl, add the 1 cup of flour and season to taste with salt and pepper. This is where you can add your favorite herbs, if choosing to do so.

-In the second bowl, whisk together the egg, both egg whites, milk, and a few dashes of hot sauce.

-In the third bowl, mix together the panko, making sure to season again with salt and pepper {we’re building layers of flavor here, folks!}.

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Bread fish strips by first dredging in the flour mixture, making sure to coat all sides thoroughly – don’t forget the edges! Shake of any excess, then run through the egg mixture bowl, allowing any excess to drip off. Finally, pat into the panko mixture, making sure to get a good coating on all sides.* Place on wire baking rack, then repeat the steps with the remaining strips of fish.

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Spray the tops and sides of fish strips with cooking spray – this will help them further crisp up in the oven.

Bake in the preheated oven for at least 10-15 minutes {I often find that it can take upwards of 20-25 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish}, until the flesh is opaque and flaky.

I like to serve this dish with a side of roasted vegetables – whether it’s sweet or russet potato wedges, asparagus, carrots, etc. – or a good basket of crispy French fries. You cannot go wrong!

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Happy dining!

kale pesto

Kale is, easily, one of my favorite greens. Aside from its gorgeous green color, it’s chock full of nutrients!

One cup of chopped kale has:

-33 calories (!)

-9% of the daily value of calcium, 206% of vitamin A, 134% of vitamin C, and 684% of vitamin K {wowzers!}

-it is a good source of copper, potassium, iron manganese, and phosphorus

-rich in the anti-oxidants {carotenoids and flavonids} associated with fighting cancer

-rich in lutein {great for eye health}

-its high fiber content helps to bind bile acids, helps lower blood cholesterol

-reduces the risk of heart disease

…..makes you want to run out and buy some right now, right?

 Aside from being a nutritional powerhouse, kale is also easily adaptable into many of your run-of-the-mill recipes. Chopped and eaten raw in salads, sauteed and served as a side dish, run through your juicer for the delicious “green juice”, wilted and served atop salads, let’s not forget the hugely popular kale chips – the list goes on and on.

I’ll take a leap and say that this particular pesto is one of my favorite ways to jazz kale up. Don’t get me wrong, I love a traditional pesto packed with fresh basil, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese, but this is such a fun twist on it! I made it one evening for a quick pasta dinner not too long ago, because…right now…as we all know, fresh herbs are hard to come about before the bounty of spring/summer starts hitting the market {I just can’t bring myself to buy basil when I grow it in groves during the summer!}.

So….enter kale – the hearty leaf is the perfect substitute! Aside from the benefits listed above, I also set out to slightly lighten the pesto sauce. I’ve found in the past that replacing some of the extra virgin olive oil with a splash of two of stock does nothing to the flavor, but rather, adds another depth and richness to the dish. It also lets you go back in for an extra big scoop without the guilt, amiright?

I love to serve this as an appetizer, with crusty bread or whole wheat crackers. It’s also great for smearing on sandwiches {think a grilled cheese topped with a fried egg!}, or just tossed with warm pasta and olive oil. Whichever path you choose, you will be sure to enjoy the bright and fresh flavors of this pesto!

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Kale Pesto {original recipe}

Makes about 1 to 1.5 cups

Ingredients:

5 cloves of garlic

1 lb. kale

juice of half a lemon

1/4 C. grated pecorino romano cheese

1/3 C. chicken stock {feel free to use a combination of olive oil and stock, making sure you keep the overall amount of 1/3 consistent with the recipe}

salt & pepper, to taste

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To Make:

Fit your food processor with the standard blade. Add in the kale and garlic, and process well to combine {you want the kale to be very finely processed, and the garlic as well}.

Add in the chicken stock and lemon juice, processing again. Lastly, add in the cheese and season with salt and pepper. Give it one last final whirl.

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Pesto will last up to one week, tightly sealed, in the refrigerator. It also freezes extremely well! 

 

black bean brownies

Don’t let the title of this recipe fool you, dears. I promise, this is a winner.

I like to think of these particular brownies as the perfect balance between healthy and indulgent. There are times in life, certainly, when nothing beats a full on, calories-don’t-count kind of dessert, but there are also times when sometimes you want to be a little bit more mindful.

Enter these brownies. The rich cocoa powder brings depth of flavor, the maple syrup adds the perfect amount of sweetness…and then there’s the black beans! These little gems are what brings the “fudge factor”, if you will, into this recipe. Thick and creamy, they elevate a rather simple list of ingredients into something amazing. So rich, when you bite into these, you’ll think you are eating the most decadent and gooey brownie you’ve ever tasted.

The black beans also provide a great nutritional punch. A one cup serving sets you back only one gram(!) of fat. Low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium but high in fiber, iron, magnesium and manganese – let’s talk about a vitamin powerhouse! Not to mention the 15 grams of protein in there as well. You won’t need to cut a big slice from the pan in order to feel satisfied…but I won’t be upset if it does end up on the slightly larger side.

Before I forget, there is also the fact that this recipe is essentially a one-bowl wonder. That is a treat in itself, no? Because who wants to be doing dishes when there’s the alluring aroma of freshly baked brownies sitting on your counter…not this girl, that’s for sure.

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Black Bean Brownies {recipe modified from Chocolate Covered Katie’s recipe}

I doubled the recipe so the amounts listed below reflect that – if you want to use the original size, simply halve everything

3 C. black beans, drained and rinsed very well (2 15-ounce cans)

4 tbsp. cocoa powder (I use a Dutch processed)

3 C. quick oats

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tbsp. freshly ground coffee (espresso powder would also work well)

2/3 C. pure maple syrup or honey (I went half and half)

4 tbsp. turbinado sugar (regular granulated sugar will work fine, if that’s what you have on hand)

1/2 C. peanut butter

4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/2 C. peanut butter chips

1/2 C. chocolate chips (I prefer a semi-sweet variety)

To make the brownies:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine all ingredients except chips in a good food processor, and blend until completely smooth. Blend very, very well. A blender can work if you don’t have a food processor, but the texture is much better when a food processor is used. It results in a smoother, creamier batter.

browniebowl

{Photo courtesy of Chocolate-Covered Katie}

Pour into a greased 9 x 13 pan. Sprinkle on the chocolate chips and peanut butter chips, then push down slightly into the batter.

Cook in the center rack for 20 minutes, then let cool at least 10 minutes before trying to cut. When tightly covered, these brownies will last several days in the refrigerator.

black-bean-brownies

{Photo courtesy of Chocolate-Covered Katie}

italian turkey meatballs

Cloudy with a chance of meatballs today.

And no, I’m not referencing the adorable movie that, come on, you know you love. I’m talking slow cooked, succulent, and flavorful meatballs, served atop a bed of pasta and swimming in sauce. You’re with me now, right?

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We had a snow day here not too long ago, and since I was stuck at home all day (happily, I might add!) I decided to let the hubs pick out whatever he wanted for dinner. Being the meat lover that he is, it took him all of one second to blurt out “Meatballs, please!”. This cook was happy to oblige, but with a few special twists.

I am a huge fan of using ground turkey instead of the more ‘traditional’ ground pork, chuck, beef, etc. You all know my food philosophy – if I can make it taste great and keep it healthy, then why not? For me, meatballs are a no-brainer in this situation. Lean ground turkey is a great flavor base, and who doesn’t love turkey?!

In this particular recipe, the lean meat is paired with an assortment of flavorful herbs. Think cracked pepper, oregano, basil, and parsley – all the components you would find in a classic meatball. These are elevated with the addition of earthy Parmesan and sharp Romano cheese.

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Once combined,these beauties come together in no time. And by cooking them in the oven, elevated on a wire rack, most of the fat renders from the meatballs. The outer edges are crisped slightly, giving you that satisfying crunch when you first cut into it. The interior is moist, packed with flavor, and truly satisfying. It doesn’t get any better than that. Enjoy these with a glass of good red wine (I love a Cabernet with this) and I promise, you will be in heaven, and ::probably:: going back for seconds.

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Turkey Meatballs

{adapted minimally from Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis}

1/4 C. plain dried bread crumbs

3 T. dried Parsley flakes

1 tsp. oregano

1 tsp. basil

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 T. milk (I used 1%)

3/4 C.grated cheese (I use a blend of Parmesan and Romano)

3/4 tsp. salt

3/4 tsp. fresh cracked pepper

1 lb. ground turkey

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place a wire cooling rack on top, and spray liberally with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, oregano, basil, eggs, milk, 1/2 C. of the cheese, and the salt and pepper. Add in the turkey and gently stir to combine, being careful not to overwork the meat. Shape the meat mixture into 12-15 meatballs. Line up on the cooling rack, with enough space between them so they are not touching each other.

Bake for 30-35 minutes (cooking time will vary depending on the size of your meatballs). Check halfway through, and rotate the pan if necessary. Serve atop your favorite pasta with sauce of your choice. I love it with my ‘fresh tagliatelle’ pasta and ‘tomato sauce with onion & butter’!