Smoothie time!

First things first, I love Groupon.  Second, I just received my Groupon order of a Sharper Image hand-blender!!!  Since I moved to my new apartment, I haven’t had a blender and wanted one so badly.  With this, I can make smoothies of the perfect size and it is so.easy.to.clean.  What else could I ask for? 
I didn’t have smoothie ingredients when I first got the hand-blender, but I was too excited and couldn’t wait, so I threw in whatever I had!
  • ½ c milk
  • 1 greek yogurt- blueberry
  • 2 handfuls of spinach
  • 4 cubes of ice

This was exactly what I wanted on that hot day.  So delicious and so refreshing.  I loved the spinachy grinds, and you can’t taste it too much.  If you want to mask the flavor,  I recommend putting more fruit in.  I went to the store the next day and picked up other ingredients!  I made my next one with…
  • 1/2c Silk Soy Milk Light
  • 1 banana
  • 3 stalks of chopped celery
  • 2 handfuls spinach
  • 4 cubes of ice

Surprisingly, the celery was very subtle for how much I put in!  I like the taste of celery, but if you don’t like it, then this is a great way to sneak it into your diet.  By adding the milk, banana and yogurt, it came out much thicker, which is the way I like it. 
I’m going to make so many more smoothies and I can’t wait.  Summer is here!!! 
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My First Superfood Spotlight

         I originally started this blog as a health blog, and my goal was to post healthy information along with healthy recipes.  When I realized how long some posts can take, I started getting lazy and my blog has evolved into a recipe book for me.  I know blogs tend to evolve, but I really want to veer back to the core of my passion, health and nutrition.  I still want to continue cooking and talking about food, but I hope to add more nutritional value to my posts.
‘Superfoods’ has become a common term in the health realm.  In my attempt to redirect towards nutrition and healthy eating, my goal is to start a weekly Superfood Spotlight.  I will delve into a superfood, it’s benefits, and a possibly a good recipe to try.  There, I said it.  It is written down for everyone to read.  And I’m hoping it will keep me accountable!
What are Superfoods?
These foods are rated by nutritionists as the most powerful foods.  They are foods full of nutrients and vitamins that benefit our bodies in multiple ways.  By eating these foods, you will receive more nutrition with a smaller amount of food. 
 
By incorporating these foods into your diet, you will receive many more nutrients, vitamins and minerals to make your body healthier.  Once adapting to a healthier diet, you can really tell the difference.  Once I started eating more natural foods and a well-balanced diet, my skin was clearer, my nails were sturdier, and I had much, much more energy.  

Some superfoods are salmon, walnuts, blueberries, spinach, quinoa, beans, and the list continues to grow.  The first superfood I am diving into is… YOGURT!
Lowfat and nonfat Greek and regular yogurts contain 20% or more of your daily calcium needs. The mineral slows production of cortisol, a hormone that contributes to belly fat.  Additionally, yogurt is a probiotic which is essentially healthy bacteria that helps with your digestive system.  It can help yourimmune system, prevent bloating and constipation, and even decrease yeast infections.
Beware of some yogurts.  Some contain up to 35g of sugar!!!  To give you an idea, one regular sized Snicker’s bar has 30g of sugar, and a 12oz Coke has 39g.  As many people think of yogurt has a healthy snack, if you pick the wrong kind, it can be pretty unhealthy. Also, watch out for the fruit-on-the-bottom yogurts, those pack a lot of sugar.
Almost every day, I eat plain Fage 0% Greek yogurt and add a little bit of jelly.  There are a whopping 18g of protein in one serving.  That is more protein than some protein bars even contain!  Plus, with yogurt, you are foregoing all the hydrogenated oil and high amounts of sugar in the bars.  Fage yogurt has ZERO grams of added sugar, and the 7grams of sugar that it contains, is natural lactose sugar.
Yogurt is great as breakfast, a snack, a post-work out snack, and in cooking, as it can replace sour cream/creams.  Fage can be a little thick for first time greek yogurt-ers, but some of my other favorites are Chobani and Oikos!


My Trip to the Windy City

I have always wanted to go to Chicago (mostly for my admiration for Oprah) and I finally made it out there to spend time with two of my best friends!  I was so excited to eat and drink in this city… and we did just that.  Although I could not see Oprah, the city was filled with plenty of things to do!

I had so much fun on this trip and really loved the city.  It was very easy to get around (unlike LA) and there were lots of great neighborhoods filled with cute restaurants, cafes and bars.  Plus… a FREE ZOO!  Who does that??!  It was awesome.  And wow, how I have missed my friends out there 🙂  Here are some highlights of the trip!

Skyline View from Lincoln Park

Crossing Over to Lake Michigan
Beautiful!!

My very first Chicago deep dish!!!
Pequod’s
Houndstooth for Country Night.
You don’t find country places like this in California… I couldn’t get enough!

Must go to Wrigley Field…
Must try the Goose Island 312…

Bruschetta from Lou Malnati’s
Dutch Apple Pie

Big ol’ watermelon slice
Pressed Lechon Sandwich from Cafecito
Pork, Arugula, Tomato, Grilled Onions
Drinks at the Hancock!
View from the 96th

View from the women’s bathroom on the 96th, haha

Vegetable Gratin

I came upon a zucchini-tomato gratin recipe and thought it looked delicious!  I have never made gratin and I don’t even think I had eaten it before, but it looked like something I would enjoy.  I had a bunch of other veggies, so I figured I would throw those in as well.  So, it ended up being a zucchini-tomato-brussel sprout-asparagus-broccolini gratin! 🙂
This dish is packed with vegetables, making it very healthy by providing nutrients, minerals and antioxidants.  But did you know that the way you cook your vegetables can alter the nutrient content?  When you cook vegetables in water (blanching or boiling), many of these vitamins and nutrients seep into the water, going to waste.  The most common nutrient lost is Vitamin C.  In order to retain the maximum nutrients, cook your vegetables with as little water as possible.  By stir-frying, steaming, or baking/roasting (as seen here), you will be getting the most out of your vegetables.

Veggie Gratin

3 zucchinis
1 bunch asparagus
1 onion, chopped
15 brussel sprouts, halved
Baby tomatoes, halved
1 bunch broccolini
12 oz mozzarella cheese
Bread crumbs

  1. First, pan-grill the zucchini (this ensures they will be fully cooked)
  2. Toss chopped vegetables (minus zucchini) in olive oil and salt
  3. Layer the chopped onions on the bottom of an iron skillet or baking pan.
  4. On top of the onions, place the first layer of mixed vegetables
  5. Add a layer of zucchini
  6. Add a layer of cheese and sprinkle bread crumbs.
  7. Repeat until the pan is full
  8. Bake at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling
Layer of veggies
Add cheese and bread crumbs

Freshly roasted, right out of the oven

Enjoy!
As you may know, I’m not a huge cheese person, so I went easy on cheese for half of the gratin, but on the other half, I loaded it on for my cheese-loving friends.  It was delicious right out of the oven, the bread crumbs were crispy and the veggies were well roasted!

There are plenty of vegetables in this dish, which means only one thing…. fiber!!  Although there is a lot of fiber, there isn’t much protein so I would recommend this as a side dish.  Nonetheless, it is still a filling dish and very tasty!  It can be made year-round with various seasonal veggies.  I can’t wait to make this with butternut squash in the fall.  Next time, I am going to add tofu or chicken to improve the protein content!

A Light and Fresh Birthday Cake

For Ashley’s Birthday, Kaitlin and I made a cake that will definitely, definitely be made again.  With the help of Pinterest, we found this recipe from SkinnyTaste.  It is an Angel Food cake layered with cream and fresh berries.   Genius Kaitlin came up with the idea of making them in individual cups, and they were perfect for the party!
They were great for the day party, a night snack, and even for breakfast!  (Yes, we really did eat them the next morning).  It was pretty simple, and lots of fun to make!
Berried Angel Food Cake
  • 1 box Angel Food Cake
  • 1 package Instant Vanilla Pudding
  • 6 tbsp Low Fat Condensed Milk
  • 1 and 1/2 c. cold water
  • 12 oz light Cool Whip
  • 1 big box of strawberries
  • 2 boxes raspberries
  • 2 boxes blueberries
Directions:
1. Cook the Angel Food cake on a flat tray, according to directions.  Let it cool.

2. Meanwhile, whisk the condensed milk and water until combined well.  Whisk in the pudding for 2 minutes and then, fold in the cool whip.  Place in the refrigerator.

3. Slice the strawberries and other fruit, if needed

4.  Once the cake cooled, we attempted cookie-cutting the cake into round circles to fit into the cups.  That was a little tedious and cake was being wasted (which is not okay), so we ended up cutting the cake into squares.

5. Layer the cake in the cups.  Cake, cream, fruit, cream.  Cake, cream, fruit!

Angel food cake is much lighter than regular cake, and the cream filling is much lighter than regular frosting. Although we used low fat condensed milk and lite cool whip, you couldn’t tell the difference.  It was delicious, I highly recommend trying it (especially with the 4th of July coming up!)

Happy Birthday Coop!

Our quick trip to Austin

Austin was INCREDIBLE.  It is such a unique, fun, adventurous, active and beautiful town that is filled with the nicest and friendliest people.

I rented my very first car, which to me, was quite exciting, but the rental car lady told me, “Now, don’t get too excited…”  Nonetheless, Kelsey and I were stoked.  We had a great road trip which, of course, was accompanied by country music the whole way.  We had the most amazing time, and it will be visited again very, very soon!

First night out on 6th!
6th St

Cute shopping area in South Congress
South Congress Cafe… delicious!

warm cornbread basket 🙂
best bloody mary’s in town! (or ever!)
Migas plate (scrambled egg whites with tortilla chips and peppers, potato pancake, black beans and corn tortillas)

One of the many outdoor music places

Crossing the river into downtown

Famous fries of Hyde Park Bar and Grill
Delicious chicken salad sandwich
Blueberry Pie from Quack’s Bakery!