28 July 2014

A Month of Smoothies: Week 4

This is the end of my month long experiment with smoothies.  It has been a fun adventure to start off the days, and as you can see from these recipes, you can basically toss in any combination of liquid, fruit, vegetables, and ice or yogurt to get your morning started.  Add some nuts, seeds, and/or oats and you've pumped up the calories a bit in a healthy way, which will keep you fuller for longer.  And if the green color freaks you out, just add more red berries.  Red berries are always the answer.

Coconut-Kale Smoothie

1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup frozen pineapple
1 cup chopped kale (Steaming or blanching this and keeping it in the fridge works well if you don't love the raw kale taste)

Blueberry Pie Smoothie

1 can (14 oz) light coconut milk
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 bananas
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup pecans (chopped)
2 tbsps maple pure syrup
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tbsps shredded coconut

Pina Colada Smoothie

1 cup fresh pineapple chunks
1 cup light coconut milk
1 bananas
1/4 cup ice cubes
2 teaspoons honey

Oatmeal Pumpkin Smoothie

1/4 cup pumpkin (canned, not pie filling)
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp maple syrup
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 cup greek yogurt (plain)
3/4 cup coconut milk

26 July 2014

(long) weekend trips in the Rockies

I am currently taking a long weekend in western Wyoming, but thanks to the magic of modern technology, I am able to simultaneously post while (I can only hope) I am drinking excellent local brews or hiking in amazing places. Once you're in the area, there are so many great road trips you can create for yourself; I'll fill you in on our excursions when we return, but here are some of the ideas we tossed around. If you notice a lack of world-famous attractions listed here, I'll warn you that we like to get off the beaten path, and I figure you don't need me to tell you how to get to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Ouray, "Switzerland of America", CO

Colorado: Drive from Denver south on US-285 through the Pike and San Isabel Forests to Salida. Head East on US-50 to the Curecanti National Recreation Area and on to Montrose, then South on US-550 down to beautiful Ouray, Colorado. OR, you can head West on I-70 out of Denver all the way to funky Grand Junction, stopping in Glenwood Springs for some local beer and a dip in the hot springs, then head South on US-50 to Montrose and on to US-550 to Ouray.

Visit the Travel section of this blog for more ideas in Colorado.

Ridiculously picturesque Helena, MT.

Montana: Go from the real, live Western city of Billings to the charming college town of Bozeman by heading West on I-90. From there you can head South on US-191 to West Yellowstone in Idaho. OR head North on US-287 from Bozeman to Helena and the Helena National Forest. We haven't ventured here yet, but it's next on the list.

Wind Cave National Park, SD.

Black Hills/Badlands, South Dakota: You can easily spend a pleasant day in Rapid City, and the local brew pub is pretty good. From there, you can head South on US-16 to the amazing, and enormous, Custer State Park and further south to Wind Cave National Park for a very fun and informative tour of the caves. By the time you get all the way down there, the hot springs of aptly named Hot Spring, SD are not far, so you might as well go. OR, head East on I-90 for otherworldly Badlands National Park, stopping on the way at Wall Drug for that terrible coffee they advertise on billboards as far West as Jackson, WY. Oh yeah, Mt. Rushmore really is awesome. Go there, too.

Sinks Canyon State Park, WY.

Wyoming: I've already posted about Saratoga and its lovely free hot springs pool, charmingly slow-moving Lander and nearby Sinks Canyon State Park, and everybody's favorite, Jackson.  This weekend, we're headed up from Cheyenne to Casper on I-25, where we leave the interstate and head West on US-26 to Boysen State Park and then north on WYO-789 to the Hot Springs Park in Thermopolis (have I mentioned how much I like hot springs?). Then we'll catch WYO-120 up to Cody through breathtaking Wind River Canyon, visit the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, and hit Buffalo Bill State Park west on our way to Yellowstone. Haven't decided how to get home, but if it drops us off in Rock Springs, at least we know there's some good beer.

And some helpful links to plan your trips:

Colorado Tourism Board

Montana Tourism Board

Western South Dakota Travel Info

Wyoming Tourism Board

25 July 2014

Homemade Creme de Menthe and a couple of (not too cloying) cocktail recipes

If you grow mint in your garden, your problem is never keeping it alive, or wondering if you'll have enough for that favorite recipe.  It becomes a weed--albeit a tasty, useful weed-- that overtakes everything around it. I finally got serious and dug trenches along either side of our mint and sank leftover pieces of flagstone into the ground to keep it from reaching out into the oregano and sage, but I still have random clumps of it popping up amidst grassy expanses throughout the back yard.  I make so many mojitos every summer I should own stock in Bacardi.  I chop it into every salad, fruit and vegetable based, hot and cold, that I make. And now I make my own creme de menthe for myself and for friends.  It doesn't have the toxic charm of that neon green stuff you buy in the store, but it's delicious and couldn't be simpler.

Homemade Creme de Menthe 

1 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves (divided)
1 1/2 cups vodka
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water

Tear the mint leaves up a bit to release their oils. Place in a sealable glass jar and pour vodka on top. Shake and let steep for 2 days up to a week.

After steeping is complete, strain mint leaves from infused vodka. Return infused vodka to the jar.

Bring the water and sugar to a boil, and let simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool, then add syrup to mint-infused vodka. Keep your creme de menthe in resealable bottle.


Serves 1

1 ounce gin
1 ounce dry vermouth or sake
1 teaspoon creme de menthe

Place all ingredients in a shaker with ice.  Shake thoroughly, strain into a martini glass, and enjoy.

Emerald Isle

Serves 1

1 ounces gin
1 teaspoon green crème de menthe
2 dashes bitters

Place all ingredients in a shaker with ice.  Shake thoroughly, strain into a martini glass, and enjoy.

Irish Flag: layered shot drink

Serves 1

1 part green crème de menthe
1 part Irish cream liqueur
1 part Grand Marnier orange liqueur

Pour the crème de menthe into a shot glass.
Float the Irish cream liqueur on top of the crème de menthe.
Float the Grand Marnier on top of the Irish cream liqueur.

21 July 2014

A Month of Smoothies: Week 3

This week's smoothies are brought to you (partially) by the power of coconut milk, which I sometimes have leftover after making a small batch of curry.  Actually, these drinks are turning out to be a great way to use up produce and other odds and ends in the kitchen.

If you find yourself using a lot of bananas in your smoothies, as I have been trying to do, you can slice and freeze the ripe ones and store them in sandwich baggies in the freezer until you're ready to use them.  If you do this and there is also ice in the recipe, you can leave out the ice.  And of course, add water whenever they turn out thicker than you want.


Pink Power Smoothie

1/2 cup chopped kale
1/2 cup raspberries 
1/2 cup strawberries 
1/2 cup chopped pineapple 
1 small banana 
1/4 cup almond milk 
1/2 cup Greek yogurt

Banana-Kale Smoothie

1 banana
1/2 cup chopped kale 
1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt 
1/4 cup skim milk 
2 tablespoons unsweetened apple sauce 
1 1/2 tablespoons chia seeds 
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup crushed ice

Green Tropical Smoothie 

3/4 cup light coconut milk
6 oz fat free Greek yogurt
3/4 cup fresh pineapple, cubed
1 ripe medium banana
1 cup spinach
2 tbsp sweetened shredded coconut
1 1/4 cups ice

Coconut-Mango-Carrot Smoothie

1 cup sliced carrots
1 mango, sliced
1 (6 ounce) tub Vanilla Greek yogurt
1 cup coconut drink
2 Tablespoons honey
2 cups ice cubes