Blackberry Peach Smoothie

Although I mostly stick with my go-to peanut butter and banana smoothie, I occasionally am interested in a more summery flavor profile. Typically I concoct one from whatever happens to be my in freezer at the time, which is usually a mixture of bananas, berries, and melons, and maybe a cucumber or two. Blackberries are far and above my favorite berry but as they are quite strong in flavor I like to pair them with something a bit more mild. Bananas are excellent for this, of course, but in late summer peaches are easily my ideal complement.

This is another excellent smoothie for any time of day, an equally delicious way to start your day as it is to end it. With plenty of fresh fruit and a hidden veggie boost, its flavor is reminiscent of a cobbler but much lower in sugar. The spinach muddies the color a bit, but otherwise it’s not even noticeable. Ground oatmeal makes a nice thickener as well as keeping you fuller longer, and my trusty dash of cinnamon rounds it out nicely. If you prefer yours a bit sweeter, add a dollop of pure maple syrup.

It’s not necessary to peel your peaches before freezing them, but make sure they are in small enough chunks to fit in your blender. I typically cut mine into eighths since that’s the easiest way to pit them anyway. Slice and pit a whole tray at once and then arrange on a piece of parchment paper to freeze. Once frozen you can transfer them to a Ziploc or other storage without fear of them sticking into one giant clump of peach. I use this method to freeze all my fruits and veggies for smoothies (and oatmeal) – everything from sliced bananas and berries to cucumber and zucchini. It takes a little prep time, but it’s well worth the convenience later.

Sweet peaches and tart blackberries come together in combination perfect for those later days of summer when both are overly abundant. Whether you’re buying from Costco or local stand, or lucky enough to be picking them yourself, it’s a delicious way to use up excess fruits that are maybe a little beyond the raw-eating prime. With these last few weeks of toasty weather ahead, you should have ample time to give this a whirl.

Blackberry Peach Smoothie
Makes one 16-20 oz smoothie

Ingredients

1/3 cup oatmeal

1 ripe peach (pitted, sliced, and frozen)1
1/4 cup blackberries, frozen
1 – 1.5 cups coconut milk (or any unsweetened milk)

1 – 2 cups frozen and crushed baby spinach
1-2 tsp maple syrup (optional)
cinnamon, to taste

Directions

  1. Place oatmeal in blender (I like to use the single-serve size so I don’t accidentally make a gigantic smoothie) and blend until finely ground.
  2. Add remaining ingredients (optionally reserving a peach slice and two berries for garnish) and blend until completely mixed (this could take a minute or so). If it’s too thick, blend in additional milk one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.
  3. Enjoy immediately with a straw, a sunny day, and a good book.

Notes

1  I typically slice mine into roughly eighths as they fit into my single-serving blender cup better that way. You can slice yours more or less to suit your needs.

I like to put a bunch in the freezer and then crush it all once it’s frozen. Then it’s really easy to measure out a cup or two for each smoothie on the fly.

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Race Day Smoothie

About five years ago I discovered my favorite green smoothie, which I basically lived on during an extremely hot and smokey summer in Helena. I was admittedly liberal with the peanut butter and a bit light on the spinach, but overall it was a decently healthy dinner option for those days I didn’t want to eat anything warmer than ice.

Over the years I’ve lightened up my original recipe, opting for coconut or almond milk instead of cow’s and substituting PBFit peanut butter powder instead of the real deal. Peanut butter powder may sound silly, but in baking or smoothies I actually prefer it over the original. The peanut flavor is a bit more concentrated and it really lowers the amount of calories and fat. I’m not a calorie counter by any means, but it makes it much easier to create a snack-sized version while keeping all that wonderful peanut flavor.  I’ve also probably doubled the amount of spinach I use, since I’m now inclined to add it to almost anything from smoothies to soup to scrambled eggs, and it’s definitely my preferred salad base. The spinach only vaguely modifies the flavor but gives a big nutrient boost – presuming you don’t mind the crazy green color. I admit it’s a bit off-putting to the uninitiated but I’m so used to it that this smoothie without spinach now looks and tastes strange to me.

During the summer and fall I participate in tons of running events, where you have to get up stupid early in the morning in order to make it to the start line or bus pickup on time. My usual race day breakfast (or really any day breakfast) is oatmeal with banana and PBFit, but on the days it’s too hot for that I opt for this smoothie instead. They contain basically the same ingredients, with the smoothie having that extra spinach boost. It goes down much easier when it’s already 75 degrees or more, and takes just as little time to prep in the morning.

I like to pre-grind the oatmeal so there aren’t large chunks clogging up my straws, but it’s not strictly necessary if you have a really quality blender. The oatmeal not only adds some calories and makes the smoothie more filling, but I really enjoy the hearty flavor it adds to the palate. It’s not overwhelming but reminiscent of an oatmeal cookie, and is still pleasant for people who necessarily enjoy oatmeal on its own.

This smoothie tastes like a peanut butter banana milkshake but is a much healthier way to start the day. With the addition of oatmeal it sticks with you for quite a while, making it perfect for both pre-race and post-race. It’s also a pretty legit dinner for those days you’re feeling lazy or in a hurry but still want something on the healthy end of the spectrum, and your boyfriend isn’t around to insist smoothies are not a real dinner.

Race Day Smoothie
Makes one 16-20 oz smoothie

Ingredients

1/3 cup oatmeal

1 ripe banana (peeled, sliced, and frozen)2
1 – 1.5 cups coconut milk (or any unsweetened milk)
2 Tbsp PBFit
1+ cups frozen and crushed baby spinach
cinnamon, to taste

Directions

  1. Place oatmeal in blender (I like to use the single-serve size so I don’t accidentally make a gigantic smoothie) and blend until finely ground.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and blend until completely mixed (this could take a minute or so). If it’s too thick, blend in additional milk 2 tablespoons at a time until desired consistency is reached.
  3. Enjoy immediately with a straw, a sunny day, and a good book.

Notes

1  For a lighter smoothie I just leave out the oatmeal; this is great for the days you want a lighter breakfast or a healthier snack/dessert later in the day. But for an entrée smoothie the oatmeal adds great flavor and makes it a lot more filling!

2  I typically slice mine into roughly eighths as they fit into my single-serving blender cup better that way. You can slice yours more or less to suit your needs.

I like to put a bunch in the freezer and then crush it all once it’s frozen. Then it’s really easy to measure out a cup or two for each smoothie on the fly.

Lemon Basil Ice Cream

[Welcome to July AKA National Ice Cream Month! To celebrate, each Friday I will be posting a new delicious ice cream flavor alongside my regularly scheduled posts. Hope you enjoy the series!]

Once again we have arrived at the final week of National Ice Cream Month. It’s been a whirlwind of a month (at least for me) and hard to believe August is nearly upon us. With three weddings and two extremely intense races ahead of me, the next five weeks are set to be pretty crazy. Here’s hoping I make it out alive and unbroken. In the meantime, we can enjoy one more ice cream recipe together.

This one is easily my favorite of this year’s ensemble. Although I’ve really enjoyed the other three, this is the one that really struck home for me. Light and refreshing lemon with the herbal notes of basil, it’s a concoction more often found in a savory entrée than sweet desserts, but I assure you it works extremely well in both situations. I originally tasted this pairing at a gelato shop in Boulder, Colorado last summer, during a work trip. I loved how the basil added a different note to the whole experience, without being overpowering.

This year I attempted to create my own version to share with all of you. Although it took a few tries to get right, it was worth those mediocre batches to get to the final product. The superbly creamy texture is brightened with a pronounced lemon flavor without it tasting sour. The basil comes as a surprise since there’s no indication in the pale yellow coloring (unless you miss a few leaves when you strain it…which I did), so I recommend warning consumers ahead of time. The two are a flawless pairing and perfect on a hot summer day, but might be shocking if you aren’t expecting it.

Like the blueberry lavender from a few weeks ago, this ice cream tastes much lighter than it actually is, but I assure you it’s as high in fat and sugar as ever. I portioned mine into small 4-6oz servings as it’s very easy to get carried away, and then I can just grab them straight from the freezer. This makes it easier to serve, and to make sure it’s a reasonable amount – it’s also much faster to serve to guests! I will admit the containers I use have a tendency to fall over, but I’ve yet to find stable ones that are both small enough and not crazy expensive. The search continues.

This ice cream is delightful all on its own, but I think it’d also be lovely with a scoop of blueberry crisp. Lemon and blueberry are always a sure bet, and I think the basil would blend wonderfully into the whole shebang. The next time I make crisp or cobbler I will definitely make a batch of this to pair with it.

I hope you have enjoyed this month’s series and have some fun new flavors to try, or at least drool over. We will now resume our regularly scheduled programming, with plenty of deliciousness ahead!

Lemon Basil Ice Cream 

Makes ~6 cups

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups whole or 2% milk
1 oz fresh basil leaves (a large handful), chopped
zest of 2 lemons

3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup egg substitute
juice of 2 lemons

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, lightly muddle basil and lemon zest. Add milk and heat to a light simmer.
  2. Remove milk from heat and let steep at least 15 minutes.
  3. In medium bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients until completely combined.
  4. Slowly stream in milk with the basil and zest, whisking constantly.
  5. Cover bowl and chill in the refrigerator at least 4 hours, or overnight. (Mixture will likely be rather thicker than normal – this is expected!)
  6. Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain mixture to remove leaves and zest.
  7. Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s directions, then place in a cold freezer-safe bowl to freeze overnight, or until firm.

Roasted Red Pepper and Bacon Salad

I’ve written about my favorite Italian restaurant in Bozeman, Fresco Cafe, as the inspiration for one of my grilled cheese concoctions from April. This is probably the place I go to with the most regularity, both for team lunches with work and with out-of-town visitors. It has delicious pastas and paninis, several delightful salads, and the specials are always on point. Although a semi-expensive place to dine, it is worth every single dollar to have amazing food and service every time. (As an aside, it’s also one of the few places that serves plain water rather than ice water, which is always worth a lot of points in my book.)

A couple of weeks ago during team lunch, the special salad was basically the combination of all my favorite things: bacon, bell peppers, goat cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette. Served atop a bed of mixed spinach and arugula, it was one of the best salads I’ve ever had, in addition to being the perfect size for lunch. I expressed my ecstatic review, as well as requested they put it on the regular menu, which is something I’ve never actually bothered to do at a restaurant before. Since they haven’t heeded my advice yet, I set out to recreate a similar experience in my own kitchen.

It might sound plain and possibly too light, but with a slice of bread and a latte (I always get a latte at Fresco) it was properly filling without leaving me feeling overstuffed and heavy for the rest of the afternoon. Roasted red peppers are something I could eat with every meal, and you’ve probably already noticed I have a slight obsession with goat cheese (blame Costco.) Bacon and walnuts bring a little salt and a lot of protein to the dish, and a bed of leafy greens rounds out the meal nicely.

The original uses their house-made balsamic vinaigrette, but I opted to dress mine with plain balsamic vinegar from my local oil and vinegar spot. This was mostly out of laziness but also because it’s one of my favorite ways to top any savory salad. In any case, you can substitute your favorite balsamic vinaigrette or reduction in its place for a more traditional pairing.

I served mine with the bacon and peppers still warm (which will be extra great in the winter), but you could absolutely let them cool to room temperature during these excessive heatwaves everyone is having. I made myself all four servings and then each day assembled the leftovers for lunches this week. If you do the same, you could either serve it all cold or briefly reheat the bacon and peppers in the microwave before stirring it all together, as I’ve done for the past three days. Goes perfectly with a side of focaccia fresh from the Co-op.

Roasted Red Pepper and Bacon Salad

Inspired by Fresco Cafe
Serves 4

Ingredients

8 slices bacon
2 large red bell peppers, thinly sliced

1 cup walnuts, halved

~8 cups fresh spinach & arugula (10-12 oz)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (or your favorite vinaigrette or reduction)

4 oz goat cheese, crumbled

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a rimmed cookie sheet (or two quarter sheets, if you have them) with foil. If you’re using one sheet, create an edge of foil in the middle of the pan.
  2. Arrange bacon in one half of the pan; lightly coat the other half with olive oil and arrange the peppers on top.
  3. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or to desired doneness. Remove bacon to paper towels to drain and set aside bell peppers.
  4. Spread walnuts on the bare pan and return to the oven to toast for 3-5 minutes.
  5. In a large bowl, gently toss greens and balsamic vinegar (or dressing.)
  6. Divide greens into four bowls or plates – don’t scrape the mixing bowl.
  7. Gently toss bell peppers in the large bowl with leftover vinegar/dressing, then arrange on top of the greens.
  8. Slice bacon on an angle into bite-size pieces and arrange in the bowls.
  9. Top each with walnuts, goat cheese, and freshly ground pepper.
  10. Enjoy immediately, optionally garnished with a slice of bread.

London Fog Ice Cream

[Welcome to July AKA National Ice Cream Month! To celebrate, each Friday I will be posting a new delicious ice cream flavor alongside my regularly scheduled posts. Hope you enjoy the series!]

Ten years ago (wow time flies) whilst gallivanting around London with a few high school friends, one of them introduced me to what has remained a favorite of mine ever since. Called a London Fog, it’s comprised of steamed milk, vanilla, and Earl Gray tea. Warm and caffeinated without being overly sweet, it’s one of my go-to treat beverages during the winter months.

It’s not even vaguely chilly outside, but I bribed a friend into watering my garden during a recent vacation with promises of homemade ice cream and she requested I attempt an Earl Gray version (as well as maple chipotle). Given my love of the London Fog I had no qualms about doing so and set off to make it happen. After a stop at our local Townshend’s Tea House for some loose leaf tea, I was pretty much set to give it a whirl. I chose to use loose leaf tea because it is not only typically much better quality, but it infuses into thicker liquids (i.e. milk) much better than bags do. You can certainly try a bagged tea if you really want, but I highly recommend splurging here if you can.

This is one of those flavors that worked beautifully the first time I tried, basically following my usual method for infused ice creams, like the coffee and lavender from years past. The wonderful and cozy flavor of Earl Gray works just as well in chilled dessert as it does in a warm beverage, and makes it much easier to enjoy during this 90*F nonsense we’ve been having. A dash of vanilla adds a mellow touch and, in my opinion, balances the tea nicely with the cream.

 

I like my flavors quite strong so I used a full half-cup of tea and let it infuse in the fridge overnight. It is critical to heat the milk before adding the tea, as the cold-brew method doesn’t quite work here, but it doesn’t take too long to heat some milk on the stove. If you prefer a milder flavor, you can use less tea or steep it for less time (or both). However, keep in mind it will be a bit more mild after churning than straight out of the fridge, since the volume of the ice cream is much larger.

This ice cream is a perfect way to bring a favorite cold-weather beverage into a warm-weather dessert. I enjoyed it plain, but for a little flair it’d be delightful with a shortbread cookie topping.

 

London Fog Ice Cream 

Makes ~6 cups

Ingredients

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cups egg substitute (optional)
3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups whole or 2% milk
1/3 – 1/2 cup loose-leaf Earl Grey tea

1 tsp vanilla

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together cream, egg substitute (if using) and sugar. Set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat milk on medium until it just starts to simmer, then remove from heat. Add tea to the milk and allow it to steep for about 30 minutes.
  3. Slowly stream into cream mixture, whisking constantly (leave the tea in!)
  4. Cover and chill in the refrigerator completely, or overnight.
  5. Whisk in vanilla, then strain mixture with a fine mesh sieve, pressing on the tea to extract as much milk as possible.
  6. Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s directions
  7. Place in a cold freezer-safe bowl to freeze until firm, or overnight.