The best (spiked) smoothies

20140609-130700-47220396.jpgAlong with gigantic salads, summer is the time for ice cold smoothies. Depending on what you throw in them, you can turn your smoothies into a meal, snack, or dessert. This one falls in the later category – it’s so thick and creamy you can eat it with a spoon. All the sugar comes from the fruit, making it a much healthier alternative than most frozen desserts.

Smoothies and hard alcohol are two things that don’t usually go together but this one is perfect with a shot of vodka or rum tossed in. It’s one of the tastiest, and healthiest, blended cocktails I’ve ever had and is perfect enjoyed poolside on a hot summer day.

Of course, you can make it without the alcohol and it will still taste wonderful but I highly recommend the spiked version if you’re looking for a new summer drink.

I’ve given very, very rough estimates of the amounts. The beauty of making smoothies is that you can tweak the quantities to the get right taste, thickness, and alcohol content for you. Depending on the quality of your blender, you also may have to add more liquid to get everything moving.

As I mentioned before, frozen bananas really are key to getting a creamy smoothie. I always keep a container full of them in my freezer. Whenever my bananas start to get too ripe, I just peel them, break them into chunks, and toss them in to be used for smoothies or banana bread in the future.

Tropical Spiked Smoothie

Time: 2 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 part frozen mangos
  • 1 part frozen pineapple
  • 2 parts frozen bananas
  • 1-2 shots vodka or rum per person
  • almond milk

Instructions:

  1. Toss frozen fruit into blender.
  2. Add liquid and blend. Start with the alcohol and then add just enough almond milk to blend – you can always add more to thin it out.

Happy things that are not food

It’s finals week, but thankfully there have been plenty of bright moments in my life to complement all the studying. Microbiology was Saturday, Nutrition of Aging is tonight, and I have both Physics and Exercise Metabolism on Thursday. My commencement ceremony is Friday, and I can already tell the next few days are going to be a whirlwind. Here are a couple of the things that have been keeping me smiling lately:

This cat followed me home and it was all I could do not to keep it. I let it inside for a second and our bunny rabbit tried to attack it (yes, the bunny went for the the cat, not the other way around). The bunny isn’t a huge fan of sharing.

20140530-192228-69748828.jpgWe match to an embarrassing degree sometimes. Since we do a lot of things together, we have quite a few of the same shirts. More than once, we’ve shown up somewhere in basically identical outfits.

20140609-223338-81218558.jpgMy roommate’s guinea pig. Such a ridiculous animal. My roommate and I spent a few minutes looking up baby guinea pigs on Petfinder (which is the best study procrastination ever) and they were so cute it hurt.

Quick Ikea run. We went to get a stuffed carrot (like my stuffed broccoli) for a friend who is in the hospital. These hearts may have been the creepiest stuffed toy I’ve ever seen – just look at those fingers!

Side note – they sell half a dozen cinnamon rolls for $4 at Ikea!! My roommate almost grabbed them but ultimately decided that buying 6 cinnamon rolls, for herself, during finals week, was not the best plan.

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I walk by an elementary school on my way to campus and the crossing guard was passing out “happy pills” (Smarties) to all the kids as they came in. I’m pretty sure he knows I’m not 7 but he snuck me one anyway.

He says hi to me every morning, and it is always a nice reminder of the relationships outside of school that I’ve formed here. I’m grateful to live in a college town where the students are accepted as part of the community, instead of seen as a nuisance.

Good luck to all of you taking finals this week!

New favorite kale salad

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I’ve made variations of this salad four times in the last week. It’s filling enough to tide me over through finals studying and full of veggies, protein, and fat. I’m in love.

The salad pictured above has:

  • kale
  • fennel
  • tempeh
  • strawberries
  • broccoli
  • goat cheese
  • avocado

Garbanzos instead of tempeh, peaches instead of strawberries, and heart of palm instead of fennel would also be great here.

I made simplified version of this dressing, which is one of my favorites to use with kale. I like the way the bright, acidic dressing tempers the bitterness of the kale. I tend to dress my kale salads a little more heavily than normal; the leaves can be a bit tough and can use the extra dressing.

Instead of getting my blender dirty, I eyeballed it and tossed this together in a jar. I used:

  • olive oil
  • apple cider vinegar
  • dijon mustard
  • salt
  • pepper

I love finding new salads for summer. When it gets hot (like the 106° weather we had yesterday), the last thing I want to do is turn on the oven and there is so much beautiful produce in the markets. This is definitely one salad I’ll be coming back to throughout this summer.

 

My momma’s pie

My mother was born and raised in Switzerland. She’s lived in California for the past thirty years now but there will always be parts of her that are distinctly Swiss – her slight accent (which everyone always thinks is Irish), cleanliness, punctuality, and cooking.

Whenever we visit my family in Switzerland, I’m always struck by how wonderfully simple the food is. Meats, cheeses, fish, potatoes, bread, and vegetables make up most of the meals. The food is unfussy and there is an emphasis on good quality ingredients. Meals are usually healthy but Swiss cooks don’t shy away from butter and cream – however, the portion sizes are notably smaller. A proper meal is one that is eaten with family and a glass of wine. It’s a beautiful way of cooking and eating.

My childhood is full of Swiss meals, one of the most memorable being pie. Tarts, pies, and quiches are rampant in Swiss cooking. Unlike their American counterparts, they are more savory than sweet and are often eaten as a meal instead of desert. If you ever get the chance to try kaeswaie, little Swiss cheese tarts, do it!

Pie, usually apple or apricot, was a frequently served for lunch when I was growing up. My mom made her pie with a layer of ground almonds, fresh fruit, and an egg custard. I remember trying American apple pie and being so confused by the double crust and sweet filling – it was nothing like the apple pie I knew.

This week, I stopped by the farmer’s market right before it closed and one of the vendors generously loaded me up with ripe apricots. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to try my hand at my mother’s pie.

She doesn’t have much of a recipe for her pie. It’s something she has made over and over, with a pinch of this and a splash of that. I did my best and was happy with how it turned out.

The only thing I would change is the crust – I used half whole wheat flour and substituted yogurt for some of the butter. It turned out okay but was a pain and a half to roll out and lost some of the delicious buttery flakiness that pie crust should have. I’m going to keep tweaking it, but for now I would recommend using your favorite crust recipe or doing as my mother does and picking up a package of premade dough.

 

Mom’s Apricot Pie

I’m sharing her recipe in the same bare-bones form she gave it to me. I may go back and add in specific amounts but for now, I like the simplicity of this loose recipe.

Time: about 1.25 hours (15 min prep, 1 hour bake)

Yield: 1 pie, serves 8

Ingredients:

  • premade pie crust, or your favorite recipe
  • almonds, or almond meal
  • apricots
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • cinnamon
  • vanilla

Instructions:  

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Butter pie pan and line with pie crust. Use a fork to poke holes throughout the bottom and sides of the crust.
  3. Cover with about 1/4 inch of ground almonds (grind your own in a blender/food processor or use premade almond meal – whatever you have around).
  4. Halve or quarter apricots and fill pie pan, starting from the outside in.
  5. Bake about 20 minutes or until crust just barely starts to brown.
  6. Whisk eggs, half and half, and sugar in a bowl. Add cinnamon and vanilla to taste.
  7. Pour egg mixture over pie. The apricots should be mostly covered.
  8. Bake until set, about 40 minutes to 1 hour.

Ride a wave weekend

My roommate and I went down to Santa Cruz for the last weekend of Ride a Wave. Getting to spend time on the beach with the kids was incredible. It’s always a great way for me to gain some perspective and remember that there is life outside of college, especially with finals approaching. 20140603-095857-35937714.jpgThat thing on my left? That’s a beach wheelchair. One of the men who works with Ride a Wave designed and built them.

While we were there, my roommate also got a haircut. I wish I had more pictures of her hairdresser’s setup. She works out of a shed in her backyard (which was also stunning) that she has turned into both a hair salon and full bar.

 

As always, we ate well while we were there too. We checked out Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing and had some tasty beers there. I tried a lavender IPA, which was delicious.

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Kelly’s French Bakery was right down the street and we stopped by for pastries after our beers. We split a bearclaw (my first!) one day and had a cinnamon roll and ollalaberry tart the next. Pastries and beer after a day on the beach was pretty much perfection, but we both agreed that it is a good thing we don’t live near a brewery/bakery combo.

Beautiful place, great company, and delicious food – I couldn’t ask for more.

Some better photos from Mt. Diablo

These are from my brilliant sister, who uses a nice camera instead of her phone to take pictures.

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Gorgeous, right? I love how the landscape on the mountain is so undeveloped and raw. In black and white, the pictures look timeless, like they could have been taken by early settlers.

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And back to present day.