Girlbert's Shamrock Shake


Everybody's talking about that funky, neon green shake that McDonald's blesses us with every St. Patrick's Day.  Apparently, people like my Little Brother are even trying to make their version at home, to keep with the 43-year-old, Irish-American tradition of green-shake eating whilst sparing themselves a trip to the supersized burger-and-fries mega-chain.  While there are already plenty of recipes out there, most of them requiring a lot of emerald food coloring, so I've got a solution that will get you the green naturally (unlike the crazy leprechaun wig that I'm currently wearing!) and deliciously!  I even surprised myself!

Tools needed: 
15 minutes
Shamrock Shake a la Girlbert
1/2 cup coconut cream, really cold, but not frozen
1/4 cup mint leaves, washed
1 1/2 cups raw baby spinach leaves, washed
1/2 cup raw parsley leaves, washed
1/2 cup dandelion leaves, washed
1 frozen banana
1 large, ripe pear, washed and cored
1/2 cup ice
  1. Put all the ingredients in the blender, blend on high until delicious! 
  2. Add more ice if necessary and blend again.
  3. Drink with a straw wearing a green wig!

Coconut Curry Pumpkin Soup


The first time I had this lovely winter soup was many years ago, and I haven't had it since.  That is until we were looking for something to do with our autumn decor a few weeks ago -  after freezing 48 cups of pureed pumpkin, we needed to find some pumpkin recipes! 

The sweetness of the pumpkin and coconut milk balances nicely with the curry spices and red pepper flakes.

Those of you averse to coconut milk (which I find hard to imagine, but there are some!) can leave it out completely for a thicker soup, or use a milk or cream substitute instead.  The original calls for a dollop of sour cream, but it's not necessary if you're trying to stay away from dairy.

Don't forget the pumpkin seeds!

Tools needed: 
large saucepan or pot
40 minutes
Pumpkin Soup
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4-5 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 stick butter or 1/4 cup butter substitute
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups vegetable broth
1 15 oz can pumpkin (or 2 cups pureed pumpkin
1 cup coconut milk or even better, (coconut cream!)
Sour cream
Chipped fresh chives or cilantro
Toasted pumkin seeds
  1. Saute the onion and garlic in the butter in a large saucepan or pot until the onion is tender.
  2. Stir in the curry powder, salt, coriander and red pepper flakes. Cook for one minute, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the broth and mix well. Bring to a gentle boil.
  4. Boil for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Stir in the pumpkin and coconut milk.  Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Process the soup in batches in a blender until creamy.  Ladle the warm soup into bowls.
  7. Top each serving with a dollop of sour cream (if desired - skip if dairy free) and sprinkle with chives, cilantro and/or toasted pumpkin seeds.

Orange-Pumpkin Spice Bread


Okay, so it's really just cake, but it's the pumpkin holiday time of year, so let's have some dessert!  I made this recipe many years ago, but recently needed something to bring to a luncheon, and this was the perfect complement to our after-lunch tea.  I  switched it up a a bit by changing some of the sugar in for some applesauce and it was just perfectly moist, and not too sweet.

Tools needed: 
1 9-in loaf pan
1.5 hours
Orange Pumpkin Spice Cake
1/2 15oz can pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 cup water
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pureed apple (or store-bought applesauce)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs lightly beaten
1 3/4 cup flour (original recipe calls for bleached all-purpose, but I used whole wheat)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbs orange zest, plus 1 tsp orange zest
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Heat pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in a small saucepan over medium heat until steamy.
  3. Stirring continuously, cook until pumpkin is stiff and starts to stick to the pan bottom, about 3 minutes.
  4. Transfer to a medium bowl; whisk in 3/4 cup water, then brown sugar, then applesauce, then oil, then eggs, until smooth.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining dry ingredients, then fold into the pumpkin mixture until just combined.
  6. Mix in 1 tbs orange zest.
  7. Scrape batter into well-greased pan.  Top with remaining 1 tsp orange zest.
  8. Bake until firm and golden brown, about 45 minutes. (or until toothpick comes clean)
  9. Turn onto a wire rack and cool to room temperature before slicing and serving.

Recipe doubles easily (what else are you going to do with that half can of pumpkin?) and freezes well.

12 slices

Tabbouleh Salad


I was hooked on this refreshing Mediterranean  delight at first taste, courtesy of Boyfriend's Aunt Tia.  I don't think there's anything as fresh and delicious as this tabbouleh salad recipe on a hot day.  It's a snap to make, especially if you're feeding a crowd, which Aunt Tia often is!

Tools needed: 
Big salad bowl
45 minutes
Tabbouleh Plate with Hummus, Pita, and Pea Shoots
1 cup burghul (cracked wheat), cooked according to package instructions, drain and allow to cool to room temperature
2 large tomatoes, diced (or you can 1/4 2 cups of cherry tomatoes, too)
1 bunch green onions
1 big bunch of parsley (or two, the more green, the better!)
1/2 bunch mint, chopped
1 large cucumber, diced
1/2 cup olive oil
juice of three lemons
1 tbs salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 clove garlic (more if you love garlic!)
  1.  Place burghul in a large bowl.  Add all chopped vegetables and mix well.
  2. Add oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and mix again.
  3. Allow burghul to soak and absorb the juice for about an hour.
  4. Serve chilled over lettuce, or with hummus and pita, as shown.  Top with feta cheese if desired.



Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins (GF)


I usually don't bake, but I found this recipe on an old friend's blog, and the moment I saw it, I've been itching to make it!  My friend's version is gluten-free, but I didn't have all the right ingredients, so I altered the recipe a bit  to make them for myself, but I'm including the gluten-free exchanges in the ingredients.

I loved the idea of combining chocolate and one of the most underated, but prolific vegetables together, in one, delicious muffin!  I made them this morning, and I was not disappointed - not too sweet, but not too 'veggie', either!  If you like chocolate, and like me, know that you can never eat too many veggies, this is the treat for you!  And your kids, too, a la Jessica Seinfeld, huh?

Read about Erika's amazing life and family here.

Tools needed: 
hand mixer, muffin tin(s), muffin cups, whisk, rubber spatula, 2 mixing bowls
1.5 - 2 hours
Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins
2 cups flour (for gluten free, use GF flour and 1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar (I left out, used a little extra regular sugar)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup applesauce
3 cups shredded, unpeeled zucchini
3/4 cup chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place paper cups in muffin tins, or spray two 8in. loaf pans.
  3. Place flour (and xantham gum, if GF version), salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder in medium bowl.  Use wire whisk to combine.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, place oil, sugars, eggs and vanilla.  Mix with hand mixer until fluffy.  Stir in applesauce and shredded zucchini.  Stir in flour mixture until just combines.  Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Divide batter and bake for 50 minutes for loaves or 25-30 minutes for muffins or until a toothpick comes out clean.

TIP: Don't have any applesauce, but have an apple? Cut up 1 large apple into chunks, remove core/seeds, blend with some water until consistency you like, simmer on the stove for a few minutes...voila!  1/2 cup applesauce!  Or make more and save some for later - I like to put mine on pancakes or waffles in lieu of syrup. (Got that from Boyfriend's sister-in-law - thanks, Isabel!)

Many! Makes 18 muffins

Sundried Tomato Artichoke Salad


This summer's salad of choice!  I sampled  this at Trader Joe's recently, and we've been making it several times a week ever since.  As much as I love my arugula, spinach, and mixed greens, this Romaine-lettuce based salad is a refreshing break from my standard salad choices!  The artichoke antipasto and sundried tomatoes make it no-dressing-required simple, too!

Tools needed: 
Big salad bowl
10 minutes
Artichoke Salad
4 Romaine hearts, leaves washed and chopped
1/2 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
1 cup Artichoke Spread (I used Trader Joe's Artichoke Antipasto)
3 large red bell peppers, sliced into strips
3 cups pea shoots or microgreens
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  1. Mix lettuce and artichoke spread in a bowl, coating lettuce.
  2. Toss in remaining ingredients and combine.
  3. Salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Serve chilled.
Trader Joe's

Spicy Radish and Chickpea Salad


Boyfriend and I have been working on this one for a while - he likes to spice lots of foods this way, and I like making use of all the parts of of a veggie in my recipes.  Here we use the radishes and the tops together for a variety of textures and flavors.  Chickpeas add umami, as well as protein and further texture to this vegetarian dish.  The dollop of creamy yogurt tones down the spiciness a little while adding another layer of flavor, texture, and a multitude of other health benefits. Turmeric offers tons cancer-fighting properties and lots of anti-oxidants, and spicy foods are full of antioxidants, too.

Enjoy the healthy, ethnic spicy-liciousness!

Tools needed: 
large saute pan
30 minutes
Warm Radish and Chickpea Salad
2-3 bunches washed radishes, greens cut off (save!), bulbs sliced into bite-size pieces
2 cans cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed, drained, and patted dry
1 cup chopped green onions, white and green parts
4 tbs plain yogurt (dairy alternative to make vegan and dairy free)
2-3 tbs olive oil
1 tbs turmeric
1 tbs paprika, plus some for garnish
tsp chili powder (or to taste)
1 tsp cayenne (or to taste)
salt to taste
  1. Mix turmeric, paprika, chili powder, and cayenne together with a fork in a small bowl.
  2. Heat oil in large non-stick pan over medium heat.
  3. Add chickpeas, moving them around to coat with oil.  Spoon spice mixture over beans, coating as evenly as possible.
  4. Mix in radishes and white parts of green onions, coating with remaining spice mixture.
  5. When the radishes and onions begin to soften, add greens, mixing together until greens are tender. Salt to taste, do not overcook.
  6. Scoop portions into four serving bowls, and top with tablespoon of yogurt.  Sprinkle with green onions and paprika.

Kale and White Bean Soup


I couldn't be happier to get back into the swing of green since the sugar-laden holidays with a warm bowl of savory soup!  This is my go-to soup this winter - I saw a version of it in Sunset magazine, then had a bowl of something similar at one of my favorite restaurants, the fabulous Full of Life Flatbread, a couple of weekends ago.  Seems like wintery greens are on everyone's menu!

Keep in mind that you can mix it up by using different kinds of kale - I don't have a favorite, I'm still trying them all.  You can also add some cooked veggies like carrots, squash or potatoes, depending on your taste.  I occasionally usually have mine with a thick piece of toast to dunk in the broth. Mmmm...

Despite the fact that kale is packed with enough vitamin C, A, K and B6 to make it a nutritional powerhouse, not to mention cancer-fighting properities, magnesium, copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus (that's a mouthful!); people still can't get past the bitter taste of raw kale.  Not to worry - sauteing for just a few minutes with garlic and onions subdues the flavor, and before you know it,  you'll be be a fan of this queen of greens!


Tools needed: 
large saute pan, large pot
45 minutes
Kale and Cannellini Bean Soup
2 bunches kale (any kind), washed and sliced thinly, crosswise
1 large (or two medium) yellow or sweet onion, peeled and cut into thin strips
~4 tbs olive oil
2 - 2.5 quarts vegetable broth
3 cups cooked white cannelini (white or Great Northern) beans, or 2 15oz cans (rinsed)
6-8 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tbs sage leaves (dried sage is fine, too)
  1. Heat broth in large pot over low heat.
  2. Heat 1-2 tbs olive oil in saute pan to medium heat, add onion and cook until they start to brown, add oil as needed.
  3. Add a bit more olive oil and garlic.  Cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes over medium heat.  Be careful not to burn or brown the garlic.
  4. Add a bit more olive oil and kale and move around the pan until it starts to soften, about 3-5 minutes.  Cover and turn off heat.
  5. When broth is simmering, add beans and other ingredients.  Stir to incorporate ingredients together in broth.  Add more broth (or water) if needed to cover all ingredients. Bring to a simmer again, test greens for tenderness before serving.
  6. Season more to your desired taste.

NOTE: One recipe I came across suggested to remove the ribs and stems of the kale, I usually keep them.  Some varieties might be a little tough for some tastes, so use your discretion.


Amaranth-Chocolate Chip Cookies


We made, enjoyed, and gifted these unusual cookies as our Official Christmas Cookie this year.  Protein-packed, popped amaranth not only provides a hearty crunch and tantalizing texture, but a healthy excuse to make cookies, too!  But you're not losing any sweetness in the flavor department with the addition of chocolate chips.  Go ahead, you need your protein!

More about all the nutrition benefits of amaranth.

Tools needed: 
cookie sheet, non-stick frying pan with corresponding lid
1.5 hours
Popped Amaranth Chocolate Chip Cookies
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter or butter substitute
2 eggs
2 tbs vanilla
2 cups plus 2 tbs white flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 cups popped amaranth (directions below)
1 generous cup chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries (optional)
  1. Cream together butter and sugars.
  2. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until smooth.
  3. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together.  Add dry mixture to the above ingredients.
  4. Once beaten smooth, add popped amaranth, chocolate chips, and cranberries (if desired).
  5. Beat the mixture well.  Drop cookies 2 inches apart on a well-greased cookie sheet and bake to 7-9 minutes.  (If cookies spread out too much, add 2 tbs of flour.)

Directions for popping amaranth: (General rule is 1/4 cup unpopped produces about 1 cup popped.)  Heat frying pan.  Once hot, test 2-4 amaranth seeds to see if they pop quickly.  If so proceed by adding 1-2 tbs of amaranth to the pan.  It should pop quickly.  Cover and keep the pan moving, checking every 15 seconds or so.  Don't leave unattended, or it will burn.  Like popcorn, not every kernel will pop, but it'll will be just fine in the cookies!Enjoy!

Makes 60 medium-size cookies!

Persimmon & Pomegranate Fruit Salad


Keeping my theme of making your holiday meals healthy and unique, this recipe is delightful new take on fruit salad.  The colors are magnificent and the flavor is fantastic!  The sweetness of the persimmons are well balanced with the oil in the pecans and the tart pomegranate seeds making this dish a tempting treat for your tastebuds!

Bonus: Nuts contain good-for-you fats, and the pomegranate seeds are packed with more antioxidants and anti-inflamatory agents than most fruit!  Read more about the health benefits of pomegranates.

10 minutes
Persimmon & Pomegranate Salad
3 ripe Fuyu persimmons, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
3/4 cup pomegranate seeds
8 - 10 fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced crosswise
1 Granny Smith, Fuji or Gala apple, peeled, cored, chopped (1/2 inch pieces)
1/4 cup chopped pecans, (or other favorite nut like walnuts or pine nuts)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tbs grapeseed oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin

Gently toss all ingredients together.

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