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.

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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.

Meyer Lemon Raspberry Spinach Salad

I feel a little silly even posting this as a recipe, and I don’t normally post recipes that require possibly hard-to-find ingredients, but I love this so much I just have to share it.

Last week I took a cooking class at Olivelle, a local store in Bozeman that sells olive oils, vinegars, salts, and spices. I’d never actually been in the store before I took the class on making crepes, and I’m guessing that was a solid financial decision as it’s very easy to spend a lot of money there.

Lemon Raspberry Spinach Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

One of the recipes in the class used a Meyer lemon balsamic vinegar, and it is possibly one of the most amazing things I’ve ever tried. Sweet and tangy, I knew it would be delicious all on its own as a salad dressing. Although I managed not to buy the crepe pan (yet), I did walk out with this Meyer lemon vinegar and a caramelized garlic olive oil.

Lemon Raspberry Spinach Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

I always buy giant bags of spinach for my breakfast smoothies, and I recently discovered Costco carries pretty reasonably priced sliced almonds as well, which are perfect for salad toppings. All that wonderful flavor and crunch without the giant pieces or the tedious chopping.

As my raspberry bushes are finally producing in abundance this year, I can’t just eat them all straight off the bush before they get overripe. Although I will probably freeze some, mostly I enjoy them fresh as a topping on salad, yogurt, ice cream, and probably soon, waffles. They add a wonderful burst of color and flavor to a salad, and change it up from my normal mandarin oranges or strawberries.

Lemon Raspberry Spinach Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

This salad is bright and tangy, and would go great as a side dish for almost any summer meal. I wrote out measurements for one, as that’s what I am usually making, but you can obviously increase it to feed several people at once. Make sure your spinach and your raspberries are reasonably dry and you are good to go for whatever quantities you like.

If you’re looking to make this into an entree, I think some chopped chicken or fish would be an excellent addition. I’ve eaten it as a side dish most days since I bought it, but if I ever bought chicken I’d certainly give the entree a try. If you do, let me know what you think!

And if you’re a local Bozemanite, get thee to Olivelle, pronto.

Lemon Raspberry Spinach salad
Serves 1

Ingredients

2 cups spinach, rinsed and dry
2-3 tsp Meyer Lemon balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup fresh raspberries, rinsed and dry
1 Tbsp sliced almonds

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine spinach and vinegar, and use a rubber spatula to gently stir until spinach is well coated.
  2. Gently fold in raspberries and almonds (or add them after it’s plated if you want to make sure they are visible.)
  3. Enjoy immediately.

Peanut Butter Banana Green Smoothie

Has summer hit your area yet? It’s been hit or miss here but we did have a lovely hailstorm the other day. And I say that with great sincerity, storms are fun so long as they don’t happen constantly.

The recipe I have for you today (although “recipe” might be kind of a generous term for a smoothie, if I’m honest) is great for those hot days when you want a healthy and filling meal but it’s too hot to make anything. It may not seem like much but I’m always surprised just how full I am at the end. Great for lunch (or dinner, if you’re as lazy as I am) and it is awesome for refueling after a long run.

Peanut Butter Banana Green Smoothie {{Baking Bytes}}

I’ll admit the green color can be a bit off-putting, but it tastes like a peanut butter banana milkshake. If you’re extra afraid of vegetables, like I was when I first started making this, just add a little bit more peanut butter or yogurt until you can’t taste the green. Maybe even put it in an opaque cup if that helps you come to terms with it.

Peanut Butter Banana Green Smoothie {{Baking Bytes}}

Cold, creamy, and sweet, it drinks like dessert but is a protein- and vitamin-packed meal replacement perfect for any day, but especially great on hot ones. A few years ago we had an extremely hot summer here in Montana (especially by Alaskan standards) and there were a couple weeks where I had one of these for dinner while I sat in front of the air conditioner pretty much every day after work. Five minutes to make and no heat to add to already scorching 98 degrees inside and out. Perfect.

Peanut Butter Banana Green Smoothie {{Baking Bytes}}

If you’re looking for a quick, cold, and healthy meal (or very large snack), this is the one you want. Go forth and blend!

Note: I like to blend the spinach and milk first to make sure it is well puréed. If you have a really nice blender and/or are not as averse to larger bits of leaf in your smoothie, you can definitely just blend it all at once instead of in two steps. Also! You can totally buy one of those giant containers of baby spinach (like Costco sells), blend it all up at once with some milk (or water if you prefer), and freeze it in to smoothie-sized portions. I used a muffin tin because that’s what I had on hand, and then I use two frozen portions per smoothie. Works great and there’s no risk of your spinach going bad (although I’ll admit getting them out of the muffin tin was somewhat annoying. In the future I will line it with foil or plastic wrap or something.)

Peanut Butter Banana Green Smoothie {{Baking Bytes}}

Peanut Butter Banana Green Smoothie

Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats
Makes one ~16oz smoothie

Ingredients

1/2 – 1 cup milk (I use 2% but any milk or plant wannabe will work)
1+ cups baby spinach, to taste1

1 ripe banana (peeled, sliced, and frozen)2
1/4 cup yogurt (I use vanilla honey Greek yogurt)
2 Tbsp peanut butter

Directions

  1. Blend spinach and 1/2 cup milk until reasonably smooth (no large pieces).
  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 and a sunny day.

Notes

1  I use one or two cups depending what fits, but you can add up to around four cups if you’re a big spinach fan. You likely want to use more yogurt and milk if you add much more than two cups of spinach.

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

Tortellini Tomato Soup

Guys. Guys. It’s not summer anymore! I need gloves and a hat for my bike ride to work! It’s a miracle! And very convenient because I happened across this soup recipe and it sounded so delightful I made it the next day. I would have made it that same day but I had a Halloween party to attend. I went as two-eyed Leela from Futurama this year.

Leela

Aaaand it’s winter. I wrote this last week and then left for my 6th and final half marathon of the year in Nevada. I got back last night and this morning I woke up to snow. A far cry from the 84 degrees at the finish line. But I got first in my age group! First time ever placing, so that’s fun.

In any case, soup. This one has a chunky tomato base with a hearty dose of tortellini and spinach to switch it up a bit from your average tomato soup recipe. Don’t get me wrong, Pacific Food Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato soup with a side of grilled cheese is one of my go to meals any time of year, but it’s nice to have a homemade option to add to the mix. Even better, this soup has great flavor, is very filling, and is easy to make vegetarian so long as you pick a package of tortellini without meat.

Tortellini Tomato Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

Spaghetti sauce is a key ingredient and flavor in this soup so make sure you pick one you like (or make your own if you’re into that sort of thing.) Adding diced tomatoes, onion, and garlic step it up a notch while the vegetable broth takes it into soup territory. I added a diced red bell pepper as well but that is totally optional. Add several big handfuls of baby spinach and a package of tortellini and you’ve got a quick healthy meal to add to your repertoire.

Tortellini Tomato Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

If you’re in need of a nice warm meal, this one is perfect. Serve with a side of bread (like whole wheat beer bread) or grilled cheese sandwiches for an extra hearty meal. It would also be great topped with a little shredded cheese.

Tortellini Tomato Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

Tortellini Tomato Soup

Adapted from DietHood
Makes about 3.5 quarts

Ingredients

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1 small-medium yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced

2 (14.5oz) cans Italian Diced Tomatoes
4 cups spaghetti sauce

4 cups vegetable broth
salt and pepper, to taste

1 package frozen tortellini1
10 oz fresh baby spinach2

Directions

  1. Over medium heat, heat oil and butter in a large pot until butter is melted.
  2. Add onions, garlic, and bell pepper, and cook for a few minutes, or until onions are soft.
  3. Increase heat to medium-high and add tomatoes and sauce. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  4. Stir in vegetable broth and return to a boil.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired.
  6. Add tortellini and spinach and continue cooking until tortellini is done (check your package instructions), about 10 minutes.
  7. Serve hot and refrigerate or freeze any leftovers.3

Notes

The original recipe called for 10 oz of tortellini, but I like a lot of pasta and the package I on hand was 20 oz so that’s what I used. Anything in that range would be great.

I buy spinach at Costco in the giant containers so I just added several large handfuls. Add more or less to suit your tastes.

It reheats great but it’s definitely thicker the next day (especially if you put in lots of pasta like I did because that is what soaks up the liquid.) If it doesn’t seem soupy enough, add a little water when you microwave it.