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Category Archives: Beverages

Tropical Chia Green Smoothies

It’s been pointed out to me, that my own enthusiasm for holiday celebrations, may explain the intense energy my 5-year-old, Liam, puts into planning how we’ll honor each special day. We are two peas in a pod when it comes to festive occasions. Heck, we’re already co-planning the Temple Run themed birthday party we’ll throw in May, complete with a costumed gorilla to chase the party guests through the obstacle course we will assemble in the backyard. My husband is skeptical about the logistics involved in carrying out this event, but Liam and I have got it covered.

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As Valentine’s Day approached, Liam easily slipped into holiday planning mode. For weeks, I heard about the special Valentine’s Day he was planning for me. It was to be a spa day, as imagined by a 5-year-old, pieced together with ideas he’d gleaned from watching episodes of Phineas and Ferb or Spongebob. I was given a list of the supplies to acquire for this special day: bubblegum scented bubble bath, ‘some kind of soap’ for my face (a face mask), cucumber slices, candy, and bubbly water. Then I eagerly waited for Valentine’s Day and the one hundred arm massages I’d been promised as part of this luxurious spa package.

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But then I received the phone call from the school nurse. My sweet, little valentine was running a fever and needed to be picked up from school. After a bit of rest at home, I decided to turn his little spa idea around on him. It just seemed like he needed the extra attention more than I did. The boys enjoyed the funny face masks and cool cucumber eyes and they laughed their bubble-bearded faces to near tears in the over-filled bathtub. I poured cool glasses of cucumber water for the boys to sip while they enjoyed the soothing effects of the face masks, but none of the boys would drink what they perceived to be ‘pickle water’.

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After soothing face masks, ‘pickle water’, and bubble baths, we enjoyed some delicious tropical green smoothies. Inspiration for these smoothies came to me while watching a food documentary I ran across on Netflix, Hungry for Change. For the most part, the film spoke to what most of us already know; whole foods are good for you, processed foods are not. Eat lots of fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables and you’ll feel better, look younger, and have glowing skin. (They talked a lot about skin.) At one point, the filmed focused so heavily on juicing that I started to suspect I’d been tricked into watching an 89-minute long informercial for a juicing machine. But all-in-all, it was a decent film which drove home some important points about healthy eating.

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Above all, to me, the most interesting segment had to do with foods that have the ability to reset and detoxify our bodies, so that they function more efficiently and effectively. Leafy green vegetables and gelatinous plant foods, such as chia seeds, were given the biggest focus. After doing a bit of research into chia seeds and discovering their many potential health benefits, I made the decision to incorporate them into my diet, starting with these delicious and nutrient dense smoothies. These vibrant smoothies start with fresh tropical fruit and a big handful of baby spinach. Protein-rich greek yogurt, omega-3 and fiber-rich chia seeds, and natural, sweet honey complete the mix to form a nutritional powerhouse smoothie you can feel great about enjoying.

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Today’s Focus on Technique – Making Smoothies with Frozen Fruit

Keeping a stash of fresh fruit pieces in your freezer makes smoothie-making a breeze. Most fruit contains enough water content to give your smoothies that icy texture, without actually adding any ice. (Banana smoothies usually require some ice.) Clean, peel, and chop your favorite fruits, then freeze them in large ziploc bags or airtight containers. For extra convenience, consider buying the bags of pre-cut, no-sugar-added frozen fruit, which can be found in the freezer section of your grocery store.

Tropical Chia Green Smoothie

Ingredients*

  • 1 6-ounce container plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup pineapple, cut into cubes and frozen
  • 1 cup mango, cut into cubes and frozen
  • 1 cup kiwi, cut and frozen
  • 1 1/2 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 1/4 cup orange juice (or milk)
  • 3 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey

*All ingredient measurements are approximate.

Directions

Add all ingredients to a blender. Blend until well combined. Taste and adjust sweetness with additional honey, if desired.

Makes 2 generous smoothies

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Grown-Up Fruity Sangria Popsicles

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As first time parents, we had it all figured out..or so we thought. We did our research, planned and applied strategies, and relished in our grand successes. Our baby was sleeping through the night by four months, a skilled walker by 10 months, and a calm communicator using our own made-up sign language by a year. My husband and I would pass by other toddlers in the midst of full-fledged tantrums, while our own sweet boy happily babbled on and delighted elderly passers-by. With a wordless glance, we’d silently pat ourselves on the back for our stellar parenting, because clearly we must be doing everything right. Our child would NEVER behave in such an appalling fashion. You see, even parents find themselves silently judging other parents’ parenting skills. You think we’d know better, but we’re human.

Turns out, we’re not the only parents who have been through this. I remember chatting with a neighbor a few years back, who jokingly commented that he and his wife were so swollen with pride over their exceptional parenting skills with their first born, that they’d considered writing a book. They had this parenting thing all figured out and were going to share their remarkable wisdom with the world. After countless discussions with other parents, there seems to be a trend that first children are deceptively ‘easy’ (or as easy as raising any child can be). I’ve yet to figure whether this is a biological trait or simply the result of having more undivided attention to devote towards the first born. But many (not all, of course) parents have a deceptively idyllic experience with their first.

Such was our experience. And then we had our second son. Our second son was (and continues to be) an entirely different animal. Though we held the same expectations and applied our proven expert parenting skills, the result was not the same, by far. Our second son slept in our bed for a good part of his first year. He woke often. He screamed a lot more often than used sign language. And suddenly WE were the parents with the tantruming child in the grocery store, despite all of our best intentions. It’s just what he did. And sometimes no amount of thoughtful parenting can prevent that. We know that now. We don’t judge as much now.

Our third son is just as unique as his brothers. We’ve learned that there is no one set of parenting strategies which is guaranteed to work with every child. They are all born with their own little unique personalities. And sometimes it takes a whole lot of experimentation, trial, and error to find what works. We parents are like scientists testing hypotheses. And sometimes you need to be the parent with the screaming kid in the grocery store until you figure out what works with your particular specimen.

And that 3-year-old drinking Kool-aid from a baby’s bottle while my own 13 month old peacefully nurses hands-free in his baby sling as I load my shopping cart with all organic fruits and vegetables and cage-free, grass-fed, golden-egg-laying, smiling-as-they’re-slaughtered meats (totally exaggerating)…I don’t judge. Ok, maybe I judge a little, but I also understand that perhaps that’s the first moment of silence that mom had all day. Perhaps that Kool-aid was simply an unfortunate compromise to get her through the shopping trip. Because sometimes parents just need to get through, even at the cost of our own parenting ideals. I didn’t get that when I had my first. You couldn’t have convinced me of it then. But I get it now. Most of us are just doing the best that we can. We’re muddling through and hoping that in the end, we produce a kind, thoughtful, intelligent, and responsible human. It’s hard work. And for that you deserve a treat.

That’s why I made you these grown-up sangria popsicles. Even if you don’t have any kids, these are for you, because everyone deserves an ice pop made with wine. I froze them in the kids’ popsicle molds, which gave me the same naughty feeling as when I use the cupholder in the stroller to hold my beer at the fair. Thank you, Graco, for your thoughtful stroller design. When you’re sitting outside, baking in the 90+ degree heat, as you watch your children play, go ahead and pull one of these out of the freezer.

Sangria is simply a cocktail made with wine and fruit. It can be made a million different ways. Simply start with any kind of wine, then add some fruit and perhaps some other liqueurs, juices, sweeteners or spices. It’s really hard to go wrong when making sangria. (Check out these recipes for Ginger Peach Sangria and Very Melony Sangria) For this popsicle, I made  a simple white sangria. You can use any white wine. Pick something you enjoy drinking. I selected a white table wine from one of my local Finger Lakes wineries. (I picked it because the winery shares a name with my snuggly second son.) To the wine, I added a little gingerale and some fresh cherries, blueberries, and orange segments. A touch of honey adds a little extra sweetness. Freeze and enjoy.

Fruity Sangria Popsicles

Ingredients

  • 2 cups white wine
  • 3/4 cup gingerale
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 cup chopped fruit

Directions

Combine the wine, gingerale, lemon juice, and honey. Taste and adjust sweetness with more honey and gingerale, as desired. Place a few spoonfuls of the chopped fruit in each popsicle mold. Fill the remainder of each popsicle mold with the wine mixture. Freeze for several hours. To remove, dip the molds into a bowl of hot water to loosen.

Makes about 8 popsicles

Cranberry Chipotle Cocktail Meatballs

I hosted a little cookie exchange this weekend. It was really just an excuse to engage in a bit of holiday cheer with a few of my best girl friends…as if we needed an excuse! We drank pomegranate champagne cocktails and warm mugs of mulled wine as we laughed by the light of the Christmas tree. Then we loaded up our trays with the assortment of delicious cookies and homemade bread before saying good night. I love the holiday season exactly for such festive gatherings.

Our evening was as educational as it was fun. We learned such things as:

  • When offering your guests mulled wine, it helps to say the word “mulled” slowly and clearly, so your guests do not believe you are offering them some sort of fancy French mold wine.
  • Carrots are not only delicious, but also an excellent source of small talk.
  • If your boot gets stuck on your foot as you pass through airport security, you will need to sit in the naughty passenger area until the boot can be pried from your foot. (Try to appear as if you’re ok with this situation.)
  • Alec Baldwin likes Word with Friends and Wegmans. And we still like Alec Baldwin.

I made a few snacks for my cookie party, including some spinach-gorgonzola triangles (think spanakopita, made with gorgonzola cheese instead of feta) and these cranberry meatballs. They’re inspired by a recipe I spotted in an advertisement for Ocean Spray cranberry sauce. Ocean Spray’s recipe calls for a combination of jellied cranberry sauce and chili sauce over frozen cocktail meatballs. It reminds me of the sweet and sour meatballs which my mom used to make with a combination of grape jelly and ketchup. It was one of her standard dishes to bring to potlucks and they were surprisingly delicious. You’d never have guessed the sauce was made from jelly and ketchup, of all things!

I knew there was something to this cranberry meatball idea. So, I made a few little tweaks to raise the homemade factor in the recipe and to kick up the flavor with a bit of chipotle heat. The result is sweet, savory, spicy, and surprisingly delicious. These tasty little meatballs are going to make a prompt reappearance on my Christmas Eve menu!

Cranberry Chipotle Cocktail Meatballs

Ingredients

For the meatballs:

  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 1/2 medium onion, very finely diced
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper

For the sauce:

  • 2 cans jellied cranberry sauce
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 chipotle peppers (from a can of chipotle in adobo)

Directions

To prepare the meatballs: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine ground turkey, onions, eggs, bread crumbs, salt and pepper until well-blended. Form into 1″ balls. Place the meatballs on a baking sheet which has been lightly rubbed with oil. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until cooked through.

To prepare the sauce: Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium/medium-low heat. (Use one chipotle pepper for mild/medium heat or two chipotle peppers for medium-hot.) Use a fork to smash up the cranberry sauce. Stir and cook for about 5-7 minutes until a sauce forms. Remove the sauce from heat and allow to cool slightly. Puree the mixture using a blender, immersion blender, or food processor. Pour the sauce over the cooked meatballs.

Meatballs and sauce can be refrigerated or frozen until use.

To reheat: Reheat the meatballs in a foil-covered baking dish in a 350 degrees oven, until the meatballs are heated through, about 25-30 minutes (frozen meatballs will take longer). Periodically stir the meatballs as they reheat. Alternately, the meatballs and sauce can be reheated in a saucepan over medium-low heat or in a slow-cooker.

Makes about 60 cocktail-sized meatballs

Tis the season for festive cocktails, like pomegranate champagne cocktails and mulled wine.

For the pomegranate champagne cocktails: Place a few pomegranate arils (the bright red seeds) into the bottom of a champagne glass. Pour a splash of pomegranate juice over the arils. Fill the glass with champagne. The arils sparkle like floating gems and are really fun to pop in your mouth as you enjoy your festive cocktail.

For the mulled wine: Mulled wine is warm, spiced and flavored wine…sort of a warm sangria. It’s typically made with red wine. The flavors and spices can vary. I combined 1.5 liters of Merlot with 1/4 cup honey, 1 cup of pomegranate juice, and two cinnamon sticks. Then, cut one navel orange in half. Squeeze the juice into the mixture, then place the orange halves into the liquid. Slowly warm the mixture to a very gentle simmer. Allow to gently simmer for about 20 minutes. Do not boil. Serve warm. You can prepare the wine on the stovetop in a saucepan or use a slow cooker.

Tropical Smoothies

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Apparently, when your child turns four, their inner menace is instantly activated. With this activation comes such inexplicable behaviors as hurling oneself at a moving swing, superman-style, with such force that said four-year-old flies directly over the swing, head first into the gravel. Ouch!

Pulling down one’s pants and walking around the produce section of the grocery store, butt cheeks fully exposed, is apparently another new behavior triggered at age four. True story.

Oh, the list of things I never imagined myself saying goes on and on…

Pull up your pants! You’re in the middle of a grocery store!

Stop licking your brother’s feet. 

The baby doesn’t want your underwear on his head.

You shouldn’t be eating any type of boogers! I don’t care which ones taste better.

Sometimes, the only response I can muster is Why?? Why would you do that??

But with this new mischief also comes a deeper passion for favorite things. And my four year old has a deep passion for smoothies. Lucky for him, I happen to love them too, so I’m more than happy to fire up the blender for a daily smoothie. We’ve enjoyed all sorts of smoothies this summer, but these are the smoothies which brought my son to tears. Literally, to tears. They’re really that good!

Tropical Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 2 bananas, chopped and frozen
  • 1 mango, chopped and frozen*
  • 3/4 cup pineapple yogurt
  • 3/4 cup mango yogurt
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk
(Click here to see my photo guide for how to dice a mango.)

Directions

Blend all ingredients together until smooth.

The coupon for FREE Dannon Activia Selects yogurt is still available for a few more days. Get it while you can! Their new French-style yogurt comes in both the mango and pineapple flavors needed for this recipe! (Check your grocery stores’s coupon policy before redeeming, as some stores will not accept printable coupons for free products.)

Visit the Activia Selects Facebook page to get your FREE coupon now!

This sponsorship is brought to you by Activia Selects who we have partnered with for this promotion.

FREE coupon offer good 8/3 /11 – 8/15/11, up to 1 million coupons, on any Activia Selects Single Serve, up to $3.00. One coupon per household. Offer valid in the U.S only. VOID IN LA, NJ, CA. Coupon valid until 8/15/11.

Residents of LA, NJ, CA will be given a ‘$1 off 3 Activia Selects’ coupon.

Very Melony Sangria

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Well…the new windows are installed! What a difference it makes to have fully functional windows throughout the house! And I’m completely in love with the new sliding glass doors which open our living room to the backyard. At the moment, I’m enjoying a cool breeze being wafted through the open doors as a summer storm passes by. Ahhhh… The end result is well worth the week of craziness we endured.

A second batch of sangria sure helped make the week a bit more pleasant too!

I gave my second batch of sangria a very melony twist; loaded with three different types of fresh melon, soaked in melon liqueur, and finished with a crisp white wine. The result is a bright and refreshing summery beverage (for those of drinking age, of course); perfect in a tall glass filled with ice!

Melon Sangria

Ingredients

  • 1 cup honeydew melon balls
  • 1 cup cantaloupe melon balls
  • 1 cup watermelon balls
  • 1 1/2 cups sparkling water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup melon liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 (1.5 liter) bottle white wine
Directions
Combine melon, sparkling water, sugar, melon liqueur, and lemon juice in a large pitcher. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Refrigerate for at least one hour. Add the white wine. Serve over ice.

Ginger Peach Sangria

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This week will forever be known as the week we got the windows replaced, the week we toured the Syracuse public restrooms, and the week mommy officially lost her mind.

It’s hard living the gypsy life with three very young children in 95 degrees weather. Even the fun adventures I’d planned to keep everyone engaged have gone wildly awry. Who even knew it was possible to not have fun while enjoying a picnic at a beautiful park on a sunny day with bubbles and a gigantic bouncy ball??? I’m here to tell you that it’s entirely possible.

In fact, the best part of today was the hour I drove the kids around in our air-conditioned Honda Pilot while two out of the three napped and the third watched Up on our second row DVD entertainment system. Did you know that gypsies drive well-equipped Honda Pilots?

To say that this has been a tiring week is an understatement. The level of exhaustion involved in caring for an extremely active preschooler, a potty-training toddler, and a breastfeeding newborn everyday, for an entire week, from the trunk of my car, is overwhelming. It’s akin to having taken the three of them through Disneyworld on a hot summer day, by myself, only a heck of a lot less fun. We’ve tried to make the best of a tricky situation, but it’s been tiring for us all.

The weather is expected to hit nearly 100 degrees tomorrow. I’m planning to keep the kids in the air-conditioned mall most of the day, since the outdoor activities I’d planned for today were such a bust. The new windows are almost completely installed. I think we’re going to make it through this odd week (with sanity partially intact).

In the mean time, mommy needs a drink. An iced cold drink. Something of the adult beverage variety. How about an icy pitcher of ginger peach sangria??

Yes, please!

(Oh, and in case you’re wondering…our local Wegmans takes the prize for best ambience in a public restroom.)

Ginger Peach Sangria

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, very finely grated
  • 3/4 cup peach schnapps
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1-2 white peaches, chopped
  • 1-2 granny smith apples, chopped
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1 large (1.5 liter) bottle Pinot Grigio or other dry white wine

Directions

Combine the water, sugar, ginger, and lemon juice in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Stir until sugar is fully dissolved. Remove from heat and allow the liquid to cool to room temperature. Add the peach schnapps and the fruit. Transfer the mixture to a pitcher and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight. Add the white wine. Refrigerate until well-chilled. Pour over ice.

Strawberry Spinach Smoothies

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Obsession, thy name is Strawberry Spinach Smoothies.

I honestly can’t quantify the amount of fresh baby spinach my family has consumed over the past two weeks. We are a family obsessed. It would probably behoove Popeye to snatch up whatever remaining spinach he can get his hands on, before my family calls dibs on every last green leaf. I suppose there are worse things to be obsessed with.

It all started with the Strawberry Basil Smoothie recipe I recently shared. While adding the bright green basil, it occurred to me that a bit of spinach might be a nice match to the ripe summer strawberries.

So, as soon as I was able to get my hands on some spinach, I set about making my first ever strawberry spinach smoothie. I started with just a small handful of spinach. A quick taste led to another handful. Another taste, another handful. Turns out that these smoothies can easily handle a full bag of fresh baby spinach without sacrificing any of the sweet strawberry flavor.

Now, admittedly, adding vegetables to a smoothie is not an insanely novel idea, but it’s one I hadn’t tried before and I just had to share the recipe with you! These smoothies are so insanely nutritious and delicious, you won’t be able to stop smiling. You’ll smile even wider while watching your young picky eaters happily gulp down massive quantities of fresh, spinachy goodness.

Strawberry Spinach Smoothies

Ingredients

  • 3-4 cups frozen strawberries
  • 6-8 cups baby spinach
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup apple juice, milk or water

Directions

Blend all ingredients until smooth and frosty. Enjoy!

**Tips**

Buy and freeze plenty of strawberries now, while they’re in season and priced low.

Freeze your strawberries on a baking sheet before placing in a container to help prevent them from sticking together.

Chop large strawberries before freezing to make things easier on your blender.

Freeze leftover smoothie mixture in ice cube trays. Blend your frozen smoothie cubes with a splash of juice when you’re ready to enjoy!

This recipe is fully customizable. Have fun playing around with different combinations of fruits and vegetables!

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