Friday, March 9, 2012

Tropical Fruit Smoothie

One of my favorite healthy weekday snacks is a yogurt-fruit smoothie.  Smoothies are a great way to pack a bunch of nutrition into a one-cup, portable package.  I use Greek yogurt as a base to maximize protein and then jazz it up with whatever combination of fruits or juices that I have on hand.  Whenever I have berries or bananas that are on the verge of super ripe-about-to-go-bad, I throw them in the "smoothie drawer" of the freezer for later.  (Peel the bananas and slice into chunks before freezing.)

Tropical Fruit Smoothie- serves 1-2

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt- I like Fage, fat free
half of a banana- in this case I used frozen pieces
1/3 cup frozen blueberries
1/3 cup frozen mango (I buy this already frozen- they make great popsicle-like snacks)
1/3 cup fresh pineapple chunks
1/2 cup orange juice (almond milk works well too)

Combine all ingredients in the blender and process until smooth and pourable. 

You might need to adjust the liquid amount to get the right consistency.  If its too thick, add more juice/milk.  If its too thin, add a few ice cubes or more frozen fruit.

In my experience, you can keep the smoothie in the fridge for a day.  It melts down and/or starts to separate a bit but you can reblend with some ice before serving to revive it.

You can experiment with all kinds of fresh or frozen fruits, juices or even veggies.   You can throw fresh spinach or kale in for a huge boost of healthy without altering the flavor.  (You will end up with a green beverage though.)  Peanut-butter, banana and almond milk is also a stellar combo.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Chicken Tacos with Pineapple Salsa

As the countdown to Spring begins - I'm already looking forward to warmer temps and grilling season thus my taste buds were craving something light, fresh and tropical this past week.  The secret to a great taco in my opinion is three fold:

1) a super flavorful marinade or spice rub
2) a buttery-toasty warm tortilla
3) lots of texture in the toppings

In this case I concocted a chile-garlic-citrus marinade, slicing the chicken breasts in half lengthwise to maximize the flavor and to reduce marinading time.  I warmed delicious organic corn tortillas in a buttered skillet just before filling them and I topped the tacos with a crunchy pineapple salsa and creamy avocado slices... so in my opinion they met all requirements.

Serves 4

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (Organic!), halved lengthwise so they are half their original thickness
10-12 small Corn or flour tortillas
2 ripe avocados, sliced and spritzed with lime juice to avoid browning
Fresh lime for garnish

1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, grated
zest and juice of 1 lime
juice of half an orange
1/2 teaspoon chile powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 heaping tablespoon of fresh cilantro, chopped

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl.  Pour the marinade over the chicken in a ziplock bag.  Seal the bag well and massage the chicken so that it is evenly coated with the marinade.  Place in the fridge to marinade for at least 1 hour, up to 3 hours.  (This would also be great with shrimp!  Reduce the marinade time to 30-45 minutes max to avoid making ceviche out of them.)

Grill the chicken or as I did here- cook the chicken in a skillet over medium high heat until browned and cooked through- approx 3 minutes per side.  Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing thinly.

2/3 cup fresh pineapple, diced
1/4 cup bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/2 a fresh jalepeno pepper, minced (more if you like it hot!)
2 tablespoons of cilantro, chopped
juice of half a lime
pinch of salt

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl- cover and chill until ready to use.  Can be made a day before.

Using a griddle or a large skillet- melt some butter or vegetable oil over medium heat.  Toast the tortillas on one side for 1-2 minutes.  If using corn tortillas (my preference) the fat softens them, making them less likely to split apart when you pick them up.  If they are thin, I also recommend doubling them up to avoid breakage.

Fill the tortillas with a few strips of chicken, a tablespoon or so of salsa and a few slices of avocado.  Serve with additional lime wedges and hot sauce.  I like to serve black beans and rice on the side.  This time I actually made brown rice and lentils spiced with cumin and topped with caramelized onions which was a yummy (and healthy) compliment. 

Graham Cracker Toffee

This is a super easy and delicious snack that I stumbled upon when searching for "graham cracker" recipes online.  I had a mega-size box of graham crackers left over from a smores party and was looking for a fun way to use them. 

While it takes all of 15 minutes to prepare, it makes for a fun and festive treat for teachers, neighbors or to keep on hand in your freezer for those late night choco-cravings.


16 graham crackers
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups semi sweet chocolate, chopped or chips
1 cup of pecans, chopped

First- Preheat oven to 250 and then line a 15 x 10 x 1 inch baking sheet or jelly roll pan with foil.  Arrange the graham crackers in the bottom of the pan.

Second- combine the butter and sugars in a sauce pan.  Cook over medium heat until the butter is melted and the mixture is just bubbly- reduce the heat to low and let cook for 4 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and a pinch of salt before pouring the caramel mixture over the graham crackers.  Have a spatula handy to help spread the mixture evenly before it starts to set.  Bake the crackers with the toffee for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop the pecans and the chocolate if using a bar.

When the pan comes out of the oven, sprinkle the chocolate over the warm toffee and let sit for a minute or two until the chocolate is melted.  Spread the chocolate with a spatula and then sprinkle the pecans over the chocolate, pressing gently to help them sink in.

Place the pan in the fridge (or outside if you've had cooler temps like us) for 10 minutes or until the chocolate has cooled and it is completely set.  Break the toffee into pieces and enjoy!  Store in an airtight container.  Again also freezes well. 

You could play around with various toppings.  You could add chopped pretzels, peanuts, M&M's, Reece's Pieces, etc. The same recipe using saltine crackers in place of graham crackers is also delicious!  The salty contract and thin crispiness also works well.