Coffee Breakfast

I was absolutely intending to post last night’s dinner today, but while the coffee maker was doing its thing this morning, I took a couple of minutes to sort through some clutter on the kitchen table.  I came across a smoothie page from Good Housekeeping, July 2015.  My friend Mary mentioned her morning routine of smoothies and coffee after she read yesterday’s post, and I found one that mingles the two.  Unfortunately, most of the smoothies in the article are adapted from a GH cookbook, so there is no link with all 10 recipes on the same page.  I’m putting a picture of the page here; you can search for individual recipes on their website.


Java Banana Smoothie

Blend 2 ripe bananas, preferably frozen; 3/4 cup each chilled coffee and milk; 3 T brown sugar; and 1 cup of ice until smooth (serves 2).

I brewed a strong mixture of Kirkland’s medium roast coffee with a flavored Kahlua and creme blend from a cute boutique in suburban Geneva, Illinois.  While that coffee chilled (1/2 cup coffee with enough ice to equal 3/4 cup), I zapped a bag of frozen bananas for 10 seconds in the microwave, long enough to allow me to chip off the equivalent of 2 bananas.  I was really tempted to use buttermilk (Woodman’s clearance, 50 cents a quart), but I opted for vanilla soy milk instead since I didn’t think anyone else would try this recipe with buttermilk.  3 tablespoons of brown sugar? Ridiculously excessive!  I used (against my better judgment), 1 scant tablespoon of vanilla sugar from the Spice House (also in Geneva, IL, and other locations).  The things I do for my readers!  I did throw in a scoop of protein powder and didn’t use a whole cup of ice; I eyeballed between a half and three-quarters of a cup.


Verdict: ERMIGERD! Delicious! The soy  milk set off the strength of the coffee, leaving just a hint of the bitterness that I love.  The sugar content was still more than I needed, but I can see where non-coffee drinkers would need the sweetness.  The texture was smooth and creamy, the banana flavor just slightly more prominent than I would have expected (I found myself searching for it, which wasn’t a bad thing).  I hardly ever bother with ice in a smoothie because I usually don’t drink them quickly enough; I hate the separation that occurs when the ice starts to melt.  But this concoction stayed pretty well blended. Mary’s peanut butter powder would not fight with the coffee or banana here, so she should put some bananas in the freezer and plan to make this one soon.  I know I’ll be making it again!  And if you wanted to add a shot of real Kahlua for an afternoon or happy hour treat, I wouldn’t tell anyone….


Morning Smoothies

My summer walking bestie and I switched up our routine this week.  Instead of our usual hour at a local park, we headed out to a historic Chicago neighborhood to admire old architecture and some phenomenal landscaping.  Turns out the neighborhood is a little hilly (for a plains state), and we were able to get more steps and a more challenging workout.  I haven’t been as routine as last summer about my post-walk breakfasts (for a variety of reasons), but this smoothie caught my eye the other day because we have a lot of fresh mangos in the house.

This recipe is from a feature of 4 smoothies from Prevention Magazine, January 2014.  The mango one has been reblogged quite a few times (thanks, Google), but all 4 recipes are in the link.

Mango-Strawberry Power-Up


¾ c coconut water
½ c 2% plain Greek-style yogurt
1¼ c frozen mango chunks
¼ c frozen strawberries (about 5)
2 Tbsp almond meal (ground almonds)
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Combine ingredients in high-power blender and puree until smooth. Divide between 2 glasses.

NUTRITION (per serving) 181 cal, 8 g pro, 30 g carb, 4 g fiber, 24 g sugars, 4.5 g fat, 1 g sat fat, 27 mg sodium


Change the flavor: swap frozen peaches for the mango, or use a frozen tropical fruit blend.

Pump up protein: Add raw almond butter or unsweetened whey protein powder plus a dash of pure vanilla extract.

Pack more potassium: Toss in a banana (sliced and frozen) or a few golden kiwifruits.

I put a chopped mango in the freezer along with the strawberries, then went about some other business while I waited for the fruit to firm up (note– must plan ahead for this smoothie unles you have frozen mango in the house).  I used a handful of almonds instead of almond meal and bottled lemon juice instead of fresh. I also put in a scoop of my protein powder, which adds about 110 calories.


Verdict: refreshing and sweet! This was a perfect breakfast.  Skip the yogurt or substitute soy yogurt to make this vegan.  Confession: I made the batch as listed here and drank the whole thing myself, but it really served as breakfast and lunch, so I don’t feel guilty about the calories.   Here’s some confusion though– the original recipe lists the servings as 2.5, but says divide between 2 glasses.  So is the calorie count here for 1/2 the recipe, or one serving?  I don’t care that much, since I’d rather get 24 grams of sugar from real fruit than a can of pop, but the inconsistency made me wonder.  I also have made the beet orange smoothie that you’ll see if you click the original recipe link, and I thought that one was tasty as well, though a little earthier than this one.  Maybe it’s time to get back on the smoothie bandwagon–it’s just a little weird to sit back and linger over a cup of coffee when breakfast is another beverage.

Spicy Salmon

I love challenging myself to get a decent dinner on the table in a reasonable amount of time, even on a busy day.  Husband has a devilish commute, so I usually beat him home by 60 to 90 minutes. Because cooking is a therapeutic meditation for me, I like to wind down with a recipe (okay, and a glass of wine) and a little music, and see if I can be ready to serve a great meal as Husband walks in the door.

Yesterday I helped my mother-in-law out with my twin niece and nephew.  I got home around 4, fed the cats, and got to work on this Chipotle-Orange-Glazed Salmon, a recipe from Dr. Oz’s Eat What You Love diet, featured in Good Housekeeping, April, 2012.


  • 1 c. quinoa
  • 1 orange
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce
  • 2 tsp. adobo sauce (from chipotle chiles)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 bunch radishes
  • ½ c. fresh corn kernels
  • ½ c. fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 green onions
  • salt
  • 4 pieces skinless salmon fillet


  1. Arrange oven rack 4 to 6 inches from broiler heat source. Preheat broiler on high. Line jelly-roll pan with foil. In 2-quart saucepan, prepare quinoa as label directs. Transfer to bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, from orange, grate 1 teaspoon peel and squeeze 1/2 cup juice. In blender, puree chipotle, adobo sauce, garlic, cumin, and orange juice.
  3. To bowl with quinoa, stir in radishes, corn, cilantro, green onions, orange peel, and 1/8 teaspoon salt.
  4. Arrange salmon on prepared pan. Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt, then brush generously on all sides with chile mixture. Broil 5 to 7 minutes or until just opaque throughout. Serve salmon on quinoa pilaf.

I juiced my lonely orange and came up with 1/4 cup of juice, so I began to thaw only 2 salmon filets and cut this recipe in half (I was generous with the chipotle chile and adobo sauce). Once the quinoa was at a simmer, I put my dehydrated orange peel (lazy) in the pot and let it do its thing.  We have this great miniature food processor, so I put all the glaze ingredients in there and gave it a spin.

I’ve told you before how my broiler and I don’t get along, plus, it’s still hovering close to 90 degrees here.  I put my thawed salmon filets in a tiny (foil-lined, sprayed with non-stick spray) baking pan that fits perfectly in our toaster oven.  It has a broil setting, but I decided to bake the fish instead (I have trust issues with all broilers).  I salted and peppered the filets, poured the glaze over the fish, and set the temp at 400 and the time at 30 minutes.  While the salmon cooked, I swapped out the corn for seedless cucumber (corn is on the no-no detox list). Our radishes were a little limp so I opted to skip those as well.  Husband walked in the door just as I was ready to check the temp of the fish– which was ready to go (it probably would have been fine after 20 minutes, but it was juicy and delicious despite the extra cooking time).


Verdict:  the radish would have been nice for color and crunch, but the cucumber was crisp and a decent substitution.  The garlic in the fish glaze was subtle and the orange peel in the quinoa was barely detectable.  I think a squeeze of orange juice over the finished mix would have been a nice touch (if I had any oranges left).  The spice level on the fish was pleasant and the quinoa was a perfect accompaniment–it could have used a little more salt, but the vegetables and cilantro were very fresh and light.  We will definitely be making this again, and Client will likely be seeing it as well.


5 Spice Summer in the City

Yesterday was one of the hottest days of the year here in lovely Chicago.  I walked out of the house at 5:15 a.m. to meet my bestie for our morning walk, and the humidity hit me like a brick wall.  It was already 81 degrees and felt like the jungle.  Despite a huge list of things to do in the kitchen (handle farmer’s market rhubarb, CSA corn, carrots, eggplant, zucchini, and fennel), I realized at that moment there was NO. WAY. I was turning on the oven.  But I had already defrosted a pork roast for today’s recipe, and even using a skillet (as the recipe directs) sounded like a bad idea.  So I resolved to wheel out the grill and handle the pork and the pile of produce at the same time.

Five-Spice Pork with Gingered Vegetables
TOTAL TIME: 0:25          PREP: 0:15          LEVEL: Moderate          SERVES: 4

  • 1½ c. bulgur
  • 1 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 tsp. canola oil
  • ¾ tsp. five-spice powder
  • salt
  • 1 whole pork tenderloin, cut into 1 inch medallions
  • 5 medium carrots
  • 8 oz. stringless snap peas
  • 1 tbsp. peeled, grated fresh ginger
  • ¼ c. water


  1. Prepare bulgur as label directs.
  2. Meanwhile, in 12-inch skillet, heat oil on medium-high. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt on pork medallions to season all sides. Add to hot oil in single layer. Cook 6 to 7 minutes, turning over once, until instant-read thermometer registers 145 degrees F when inserted horizontally into pork. Transfer to plate.
  3. To same skillet, add carrots, snap peas, ginger, 1/4 cup water, remaining 1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cook 2 minutes or until carrots are just tender, stirring, adding another tablespoon water if pan seems too dry. Serve over bulgur with pork.

I skipped the bulgur because we are eschewing wheat right now.  I offered Husband quinoa, but he opted for salad, so we eliminated step one.  I seasoned the pork medallions and put them on the grill.  This recipe says cook to an internal temp of 145°, but I prefer 155° for pork, so I let them go a little longer. (Our grill was being temperamental and we had to switch propane tanks in the middle of the cooking, so I can’t give you an actual time here.)  I even tried to do the fancy cross-hatch marks like I learned in school, but they didn’t really show up because of the whole low-propane issue.

I peeled the carrots, salted and peppered them, and put the larger ones on the grill (opposite the pork) with the smaller ones on the rack, because they were skinny enough to fall into the flames.  The skinnier and smaller ones softened up beautifully and got some lovely char on the tips (they were on the heat for 20 minutes).  I cut them all up into 1-2 inch pieces after they came off the grill and tossed them into the pot with the pea pods as directed in step three. I cooked the vegetables for at least 5 minutes so the thicker carrots could soften a bit more.

That’s a big shred of ginger on the left in the vegetable pile

Verdict: Success! The pork was flavorful and juicy.  The 5 spice was very subtle, and I think could be increased without becoming overwhelming.  Rice or a similar component would bring the dish together well, but I can’t say it is necessary– we didn’t really miss the bulgur.  The 5 spice flavor was more evident in the veggies, and the pops of grated ginger were hot and bold (Husband immediately moved the larger shreds to my plate). I was happy with the smaller grilled carrots, but the thicker ones were still a bit raw in the center. Going forward, I would cut those in half lengthwise before grilling. I would definitely use the grill for this dish again.  It was a great way to get everything going at the same time, and allowed me off moments to check on the garden and supply a pan of water to our wild rabbit family.  The pork rested while I finished up the vegetables, and despite the grill blip, the meal was on the table in about 30 minutes.

Swiss Chard Substitution

Here’s a variation on a recipe I found in Food & Wine, January 2015.  It didn’t make it out of the pile until after CSA spinach was done (which I still prefer to use raw in smoothies and salads).  There was a  lovely giant bunch of Chard in the box this week, so instead of another round of the green meatlessballs with which I am absolutely obsessed, I tried this:

Sautéed Spinach with Lemon-and-Garlic Olive Oil


  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 10 garlic cloves, thickly sliced lengthwise
  • 2 dried chiles de árbol, broken in half
  • Kosher salt
  • Thick strips of zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 1/2 pounds spinach, cleaned, thick stems discarded
  • Freshly ground pepper
  1. In a small saucepan, stir together the olive oil, garlic, chiles and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir in the lemon zest. Bring the oil to a gentle simmer over low heat and cook until the garlic begins to brown slightly, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the oil infuse for 1 hour. Discard the chiles and lemon zest and reserve the garlic.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the spinach until bright green, 15 seconds. Using tongs, transfer the spinach to a bowl of ice water and let cool for 10 seconds. Drain the spinach in a colander, pressing down to remove all the water. Pat dry with paper towels.
  3. Heat a large skillet. Add the spinach and cook over moderately high heat until beginning to sizzle. Add the garlic oil and toss until the spinach is hot, about 2 minutes. Transfer the spinach and reserved garlic to a colander set over a bowl to drain. Mound the spinach on a platter, season with salt and pepper and serve.

I didn’t have any dried chiles in the house, but I do have a hot chili-infused oil from one of those oil-and-vinegar specialty shops. I used 1/4 cup of chili oil and 1/2 cup of olive oil.  I infused the garlic and lemon in a skillet instead of a saucepan– I pushed everything to one side of the skillet so the pieces were submerged.  Why a skillet?  I wasn’t going to dirty another pot– I used the same skillet to sauté the chard in step 3.  (A head of garlic is approximately 12 cloves, in case you were wondering.)  It took a little longer than 15 minutes for my garlic to brown, and I set about taking care of the chard blanching and shocking.  I weighed my chard bunch after I set up the oil, and it was just over a pound.  So I planned to only use half of the oil infusion from step one and reserve the other half for another time.

Blanching and shocking is such a pain to me, but I was extremely pleased with the tough ends of the chard going from light green to a eggplanty purple and the dark green leaves holding fast.


Verdict: possible keeper with modifications.  The stems of the chard remained a little too stringy, so I would blanch those for a longer time to get them more tender.  The chili oil gave a pleasant heat, and red pepper flake could make a nice additional seasoning with the salt and pepper. The lemon flavor was non-existent, so I would probably double the amount of lemon peel and use 2 lemon’s worth. I thought the texture was too oily– I only used 1/4 cup of the oil in step 3 (I was going to use 3/8, half of the recipe amount, bur it seemed really excessive so I cut back).  Even after draining the oil as directed, I thought the mouthfeel was still oily.  Part of my issue is that I like a crispy sauté, and the blanching left these leaves a bit soggy. I think I was missing the browned edges.  I’m not sure I’d feel differently if I’d used spinach.  Personally, I might rather just sauté everything in the oil from the outset (skipping the blanch/shock), but I’d be willing to give this one another try. Eat your veggies!

Chocolate Dinner

A few months ago, my foodie friends and I got together for a chocolate dinner.  Every course contained chocolate as an ingredient.  This was no small challenge for my friend in charge of appetizers (white chocolate baba ganoush, a success). There were cocoa rubbed ribs, enchiladas with mole, chocolate barbecue sauce, and whoopie pies and boozy chocolate milkshakes for dessert.  I had pulled this chocolate recipe as a backup, but left it aside until just recently.

Husband has been having terrible issues with tinnitus– not just ringing, but a sudden morph into constant pain and distortion of sound.  He recently read that acupuncture can relieve it, so he made an appointment with our chiropractor, who is a mad genius with acupuncture and very into nutrition.  Imagine my shock when Husband came home completely on the bandwagon to jump into a 3-6 week dairy, gluten, and relatively sugar-free detox (which I did about 15 months ago).  The attempt is to get the histamine levels in his body to a baseline, so if he is reacting to common histamines in his diet, the symptoms are much less pronounced. He refers to the list of anti-inflamatory foods daily, we’ve stocked our fridge full of all kinds of fruit, and we’re eating fish 2-3 times a week.  I immediately made a giant pot of spicy lentils, started scouring the cookbook for fun fish recipes, and even made a tofu ricotta “cheese” for a veggie lasagna last night (it honestly wasn’t bad!).

He immediately dropped the dairy and processed sugar (losing 3 pounds the first week, despite a small amount of cheating), and has been really trying to avoid gluten (pretty difficult for a man who has eaten cereal for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch for about the last 20 years).  We picked up soy milk over the weekend, and I made this pudding yesterday to try to help alleviate the treat withdrawal.  He clipped it himself from Parade Magazine, January 3, 2016.  I think it was a recipe featured on The Biggest Loser.

Cheryl’s Craveable Chocolate Pudding





  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk, almond milk, cashew milk or regular milk
  • ⅓ cup agave nectar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp finely chopped toasted pistachios (optional)


  1. Combine cocoa, cornstarch and salt in a small saucepan. Stir in a little milk to make a smooth paste.
  2. Gradually stir in remaining milk and agave nectar. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook 1 minute or until thickened.
  3. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Pour into 4 (½-cup) ramekins; cool. Garnish with nuts, if desired.
CALORIES 150; FAT 3 g (2 g sat); PROTEIN 1 g; CARB 33 g; FIBER 3 g; CHOL 0 mg; SODIUM 330 mg

Since I know corn is a common allergen and is sugary despite its whole-grain status, I swapped the cornstarch for tapioca flour (I looked up appropriate swaps, and because they are about the same weight/lightness in texture, it was deemed acceptable).

I used our soy milk, which is vanilla flavored.  Everything else was the same.  I ran the powders through a food mill so I didn’t have to deal with lumps– I wasn’t about to serve clumpy pudding.  I whisked and whisked, and my mixture became delightfully thick, but it never boiled, so I just kept waiting and whisking.  Unfortunately, the pudding took on the texture of homemade silly putty– gorgeously glossy, but a little rubbery.  It had a deep chocolatey flavor and was decently sweet, but it was oddly gelatinized.


Verdict:  I will try making this again and take it off the heat when it is thickened but still pourable.  If I have the same problem, I may try the cornstarch instead of the tapioca flour and see if the substitution was the problem  instead of the cooking time.  Even though the pudding was a little weird, it still tasted good, so it’s worth another attempt.  Since we bought the soy milk at Costco, there’s plenty more to use in the test kitchen!



DIY Disasters

My Book Club had a discussion once about products not worth making from scratch.  One member’s biggest was hummus.  She and a bunch of her co-workers tasted many store-bought and homemade versions; her take was that store-bought was just as good, if not better, than homemade. I love to make hummus from scratch, but my issue is that I never get it exactly the same each time (I add extra garlic, or lemon, or red pepper flake; I could go on).

I love kitchen hacks.  When my culinary school chefs teach us little shortcuts I get really excited and love to share the information with other foodie friends.  When I saw this 20-second mayonnaise in an issue of Saveur (possibly December of 2015), I tore it out.  I finally decided to try it because I was making potato salad and needed mayo.  Not that I didn’t have mayo in the house, but this looked like fun.

Matthew Rudofker, executive chef of Momofuku Ssäm Bar, has a fun way of making mayonnaise in a jiffy. This recipe first appeared in our 2015 SAVEUR 100.



1 12 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
12 tsp. salt
1 egg
2 cups canola oil


Place white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt, egg, and canola oil in a tall, slender container. Lower an immersion blender into the container so that it sits at the bottom. Purée 3 seconds and slowly pull blender up, swirling and incorporating the oil, until emulsified, 17 seconds. Chill up to 1 month.
I started with a mason jar big enough to hold all of the oil.  Then, I brilliantly realized my immersion blender was too big to go into the narrow mouth of the jar.  Seriously?  So I poured everything into a tall cup left from our 7-11 soda drinking days.  I followed the directions exactly, and the ingredients at the bottom immediately began to look like mayonnaise.  But the large quantity of oil just wouldn’t incorporate. I was devastated.
Before additional egg yolks
I went searching online for DIY mayo recipes and videos, finding one that made me fall in love with Jacques Pépin. The common denominator– everyone was using egg yolks, not whole eggs (as well as hand whisking), and the amount of oil was maaaaaaybe a 1/2 cup to three egg yolks.
Okay, don’t panic.  I went back to the liquidy mess and added another yolk (we happened to have one left from the egg white wash from our latest pie).  The mayo became creamier and more mayo-like in color, so I added another.  And another.  With each additional egg yolk the substance became closer to mayo– it smells like mayo, and even tastes like mayo. But it never came to a firm consistency, and I kind of want to stop throwing eggs in it, because what if it never does?  I can’t waste a dozen eggs trying to fix this thing.
3 extra egg yolks
I can still use it as a salad dressing base (the recipe says it will keep up to a month), and I may toss some in the potato salad anyway (the base for the salad also includes sour cream and Greek yogurt, blog coming soon).  So here’s to a product that may not be worth trying to make yourself.  Verdict: likely never again, until I’m in some class at school where I’m forced to make it classically.  Moral of the story: Maybe shortcuts aren’t always the answer.