Strawberry plum smoothie

The darker variety of plums have been especially sweet this year, and I’ve been eating them as fast as I can get my hands on them.  I found a dozen, in a clamshell container, at Costco this week, for an excellent price, and they were ripe when I bought them.  It made perfect sense to add one of them to my smoothie this morning, and it was delicious!

A few days ago, I bought an ice tray — the first one I had owned in years! — for the purpose of freezing cubes of curry paste and, sometimes, fresh fruit to add to my cups of water during the day.  I had some large strawberry halves in four ice cubes this morning when I went to the freezer to take out some ice for my smoothie, so I added these as well.

plumsmoothie2Here is the list of ingredients:

1 large, ripe purple plum, sectioned with pit removed
2 large strawberries
1/2 cup of butternut squash chunks (see this post.)
1/2 cup of frozen mango chunks
1 handful of bean sprouts (I used my mung sprouts that were fresh and ready to be harvested.)
1 tbsp of ground nut blend
unsweetened coconut milk as needed for blending

The best season for plums is nearing an end for this year, so I’ll have a few more of these before this scorching hot summer in Texas is over.  You can take that to the bank!

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Cardamom tea

CardamomI am learning more about spices I’ve never before incorporated into my cooking, and I am finding that many, like cardamom, have extraordinary health benefits as well as exotic flavors that I have never experienced.

Having recently begun exploration into the complex world of curries, and spices used in them, I had some freshly ground cardamom that needed to be used while it was still bursting with its sweet aroma and in its most healthful state.  It smells so good that I can sit for several minutes just inhaling it from the little plastic bag where I keep it.  The thought came to mind, “just like the old days when I enjoyed several minutes of sniffing my bourbon before drinking it.”

This fine article on cardamom came up in my Google search, and I discovered its many uses.  One of the commenters on the article mentioned his using it as a tea.  Perfect!

Adding a few cloves, another of my new favorite spices, I used about 1/4 tsp of freshly ground cardamom to one large coffee mug of hot water, enjoying the fine aromatic blend while it cooled.  Stirring it a few times to keep all the spice from settling, sipping it slowly, it was one of the most enjoyable morning teas I’ve ever had, clearing my mind as well as refreshing my palate.  This could become a morning ritual, a healthful one!

Sprouts taco dinner

I was in the mood for something quick after fighting 108º F weather and commuter traffic today in the blast furnace summertime of Dallas, so I went for something that looks great, tastes great, and is sure to boost my spirits to face another day just like this one tomorrow.

I harvested my lentil sprouts this morning, so they had been in the fridge all day, just chillin’.  Summertime is a great time for good-tasting tomatoes, when the taste hasn’t been compromised by refrigeration, and I can never turn away from a just-ripe avocado!

sprout tacosThere it was, simple, tasty, and inspiring with its color and fresh taste!

I had some organic corn tortillas that were very low in sodium and no oils, and I had some spicy tomato sauce left over from last week that was just enough to mix in with my sprouts.  I pulled three tortillas out of the storage bag, heated them for 20 seconds, covered with a paper plate, in the microwave oven.

To get my quota of cruciferous veggies for the day, I steamed some brussels sprouts and diced butternut squash I had prepared for steaming over the weekend.  This couldn’t have been any easier!  Faster than waiting in a drive-thru line at a greasy hamburger joint where I used to spend my money.

The result was a full stomach, nutritious perfection, and I was done with it all by 7 p.m.  Time to kick up my feet and watch some baseball!

Pinto beans

Our family loves pinto beans!  My wife and I both learned to eat them at a very young age with cornbread.  We both had fathers who used the leftover cornbread to mix with buttermilk as a nightly treat until it was gone.  It may just be a Southern thing, but I’ve heard of lots of old-timers who did this.

The beans DO need to be soaked overnight for the best results.  Using the method printed on most labels of dry beans, to use the unsoaked beans and boil them rapidly for five minutes before leaving them to simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, does not usually have great results.  They are edible, but you don’t get the benefits of the spices blending well, and you certainly don’t get the darker, soupier liquid that makes these so tasty.

It’s a tradition to put the beans on to soak and announce to my wife, “Hey, we are having pinto beans tomorrow!”  This is met with, “Yippee!” (her favorite expression of delight when it comes to food).

Here is the way I do them.

pinto beansIngredients:

1 lb of pinto beans (I use Bob’s Red Mill pinto beans.)
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 cup fresh carrots, chopped
1/2 cup fresh celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tbsp black pepper
1 tsp cumin powder

Directions:

Wash beans thoroughly and then soak them overnight in water.  Empty beans into a colander, rinse them, and place them into a large pan.  Cover the beans with water to twice the depth of the beans.  Add all other ingredients and bring to a boil.  After boiling for a couple of minutes, lower the heat, cover, and simmer until beans are soft.  Usually, they are soft enough to eat within 45 minutes to an hour, but if you have the time, and enjoy the awesome aroma emanating from the kitchen, simmer them for a couple of hours without letting them become dry and sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Seeds and nuts blend

Because seeds and nuts are an important source of oils, and because they are easy to binge-eat for me, they are a part of my daily eating habit, but only in limited portions.  I limit them, not because they are unhealthy, but because the binge-eating is just an awful calorie increasing habit.

In order to be successful in staying away from the binge, I make a blend that is very tasty, has a variety of healthful seeds and nuts, and can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator for a few days.

The mix I use most of the time consists of raw cashews, golden roasted flax seeds, chia seeds, and avocado seeds (see my post on avocado seed preparation.).

seedmixIngredients:

2 tbsp raw cashew pieces
1 tbsp golden roasted flax seeds
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 avocado seed, prepped and chopped
1/2 tsp cumin powder (optional, but wow, is it good!)

Directions:

Prep the avocado seeds as shown in this post.  Add avocado seed pieces and all other ingredients to a food processor or grinder.  Grind all ingredients to a fine texture.  The mix retains its great flavor for several days, refrigerated in an airtight container.

Since you might use this seed mixture in a variety of dishes, including breakfast smoothies, you might forego the cumin, but I find it to be very mild, and it adds a rich taste to the smoothies.

A sweet veggie addition to smoothies

butternut2I stumbled upon a perfect raw veggie to add to my breakfast smoothies, the butternut squash.

This winter squash has a tough, thick skin, and a mild sweet taste.  I was in the peeling and chopping mode last night, so I decided to peel a butternut squash that I had bought a couple of weeks ago that had been taking up much-needed space on my counter top.  I thought I would use it, most likely, in a purée, later in the week.  After peeling it, I diced it, and put half of it in the fridge and half in the freezer to be used later.

This morning, when I was putting my smoothie together, I noticed I didn’t have any leafy greens or other veggies that hadn’t already been turned into my salad mix or jarred with garlic, onions, or spices to be incorporated into other dishes later in the week.  But, I DID have the chunks of butternut squash available.  What the heck, throw them in, and try it.

Here it is:

1 cup frozen mango chunks
1 cup butternut squash chunks (frozen or fresh)
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1 banana, broken or sliced into chunks
1/4 cup raw cashews
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (or other non-diary type)

Put all ingredients into a blender, and then serve yourself about a 20 oz smoothie to get you off to a great start for the day!

Fast-cook beans and mixed quinoa

This is a wonderful blend of mixed fast-cook beans and a quinoa blend of black, red, and white grains.  It was perfect for a late supper with a fresh tomato and romaine salad and tomato vinaigrette I made this afternoon.

I saved about half of it for tomorrow’s lunch at my mother’s house where I like to bring my own food so no one has to worry about what to fix for “Todd’s diet.”  Just makes it easier, a non-issue.

Fast-cook bean mix and quinoaIngredients

1/2 cup fast-cook bean mix*, washed and ready to cook
1/3 cup organic mixed quinoa, washed and ready to cook
1 stalk of fresh celery, cut in small bite-size pieces
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 tbsp of fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cumin powder
red pepper sauce to add when serving (optional)

Directions

Place all ingredients, except the red pepper sauce, in a pot and cover with water.  My rule of thumb is to double the volume in the pot when cooking fast-cook beans.  In other words, if the ingredients are 1″ deep in the pot, add water to 1″ above the ingredients.  This is enough to cook without becoming a soup, or to let the ingredients boil dry.  Bring the ingredients to a boil, and then lower the heat to medium-low and cover.  Cook for about twenty minutes, or until the water line is no longer visible.  Test the beans to see if they are soft enough for you.  Then, serve hot.

Makes about 3 entrée-size servings

I served mine with some assorted raw veggies and slightly blanched white-cap mushrooms.

*This can be done with any fast-cook bean.  I prefer a bean blend that usually consists of green lentils, mung beans, and split-peas.