Showing posts with label smoothies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label smoothies. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: Review of "The Runaway Wife" by Elizabeth Birkelund, Served with Nigella's "Go Get 'Em" Chocolate & Coffee Smoothie

Today's hot and muggy Tuesday has me conjuring up cold places like the Swiss Alps, the setting for today's TLC Book Tour stop, "The Runaway Wife" by Elizabeth Birkelund. Along with my review, I am pairing this quirky little novel with my version of Nigella Lawson's "Go Get 'Em" Smoothie.

Publisher's Blurb:

Three beautiful French sisters entrust an American hiker with the mission of rescuing their mother high in the Alps. 
But what if she doesn’t want to be found?
Recently fired from his high-power finance job and dumped by his fiancée, Jim Olsen has come to the Swiss Alps to clear his head. At the charming Cabane des Audannes, he meets Clio, Thalia and Helene Castellane, who are on a quest of their own: their mother, Calliope, has fled to these mountains to escape her philandering politician husband’s most recent scandal. As snow threatens to descend upon the Alps, the women have come to bring their mother home.
But the sisters are at the point of surrender; it is time for them to return to Paris. Buoyed by wine and inspired by their beauty, Jim impetuously volunteers to assume their search, but soon realizes that he is in over his head. The Alps are filled with beauty and danger, not the least of which is Calliope’s desire to stay hidden. And all the while Jim finds himself haunted by the memory of her daughters and conflicted in his desire for them.
The Runaway Wife is a story of adventure, survival, and romance—and of a man’s discovery of a world outside his conventional life and a new vision of himself within it.

Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (July 12, 2016)

My Review:

On vacation with a friend in the Swiss Alps, nice-guy and slightly sad-sack Jim Olsen is taking a break before starting a new job he is not thrilled about and trying to get over a broken engagement. (His fiancee delightfully told her parents it was over a month before she told Jim--so that the cake, the reception room at the Plaza, and other wedding preparations could be canceled.) At La Cabane des Audannes, an Alpine hutte (a stopping/sleeping place), they meet three French sisters--Thalia, Clio, and Helene. The sisters are searching for their mother (Calliope) who has vanished into the Alps when her politician husband's latest affair is publicly rubbed in her face. Jim is drawn to the women--especially the alluring Thalia, and because of his thrall and his 'nice-guy-ness,' decides to help them by looking for Calliope and bringing her back. The fact that he is an American, unfamiliar with the mountains and inexperienced in hiking, doesn't seem to phase him, or the sisters who have to get back to their lives and jobs. After getting lost and some missteps along the way, Jim finds Calliope, who has no wish to return and fights to stay hidden from the men in helicopters her husband sends after her. Calliope seems to know or sense a lot about Jim and her intuitiveness causes him to reflect on his own life, while he tries to convince her to return with him before the snows come and the mountains become even more dangerous.  

The Runaway Wife is a charming and unique book. Beyond Heidi as a child and The Sound of Music, I have not read or seen many books or movies with a Swiss Alps setting. The author captures their beauty, danger and mystery well--they are almost a character in the book. Jim is a loyal and likable character and I found myself rooting for him, as well as the free-spirited Calliope-trapped in a bad and loveless marriage. There is a lyrical, almost magical feel to Calliope and the mountains which captured Jim, as well as my imagination and I hated for the story to come to an end. And the end was probably my biggest disappointment with this book--I wanted more--more details and more of a 'big finish.' I know that life is seldom wrapped up in a bow, but it felt a bit unfinished to me, especially for some of the characters. Despite my lack of love for the ending, I definitely enjoyed my time with Jim in the Alps and would recommend this book if you like quirky novels about finding yourself, as well as finding yourself in a unique place and situation. A good summer read when you need to think cooling, snowy thoughts. ;-)

Author Notes: Elizabeth Birkelund is the author of one other French-inspired novel, The Dressmaker. As a freelance magazine journalist, Elizabeth was the personal finance columnist for Cosmopolitan and wrote for more than fifteen years for Working Woman, Self, and Glamour, among other publications. She lives in New York City.
Connect with Elizabeth on Facebook.


Food Inspiration:

While there is not a lot of food mentioned in this book, there was one clear winner for a book-inspired dish; Ratatouille--which was mentioned several times as it was a meal Calliope made for Jim from her garden. Why isn't it my pairing for this book? I just made it a few weeks ago for Food 'N Flix (an awesome grilled one in fact!) and after getting through all of the rain of Tropical Storm Darby, we are left with 82 degrees F. with 74% humidity and 'feels like 90 degrees F.' weather so far this week. It is just too darn hot for me to stand over the stove or even chop and grill.

I read this book during the storm and consumed a couple of cups of hot cocoa (mentioned in the book) while reading, so I had hot cocoa in my mind, but I needed something cold. I thought about granita or an iced mocha but then I found a Nigella Lawson recipe for a Go Get 'Em Smoothie, featuring coffee and malted chocolate drink powder. I thought the title totally fit the book with Jim sent to go get Calliope, so it became my dish.

I made a couple of small changes to the recipe--using coconut milk, reducing the honey, and needing a kick this afternoon, increasing the espresso powder. My changes are noted in red below.

Nigella says, "This is truly a weekday special: a breakfast that combines food and drink for people who don't feel they've even got time to sit down in the morning. If the person-in-a-hurry is miniature in stature, and not progressed to caffeine intake, then replace the camp coffee with a tablespoonful of peanut butter. Extra protein and ultra delicious. I keep overripe bananas, peeled and cut into four, in bags in the freezer, which helps give ice-creamy bulk to the smoothie and dispense with the need for ice."

"Go Get 'Em" Smoothie
Slightly adapted from Nigella Lawson, Nigella Expres via The Food Network
(Makes 1 Serving)

1 peeled banana, cut into 4, from the freezer
2/3 cup milk (I used coconut milk)
1 Tbsp honey (I used 1 Tsp honey)
4 tsp malted chocolate drink powder (recommended: Ovaltine)
1 tsp strong coffee or 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder (I used 2 tsp espresso powder)

Put all ingredients into a blender and whiz to mix.

Pour into a tall glass and drink before dashing out of the door

Notes/Results: This smoothie was quick and simple to make and completely hit the spot on a humid afternoon. I liked the flavor (and the buzz) I got by increasing the espresso powder and found that since I used coconut milk, which is naturally sweet, that the reduced 1 tsp honey was plenty for me. This was rich, thick and delightfully iced mocha-ish without being cloyingly sweet. I will happily make it again. 

I'm linking this post up to I Heart Cooking Clubs where this week is Potluck--our chance to make any recipe by our current featured chef Curtis Stone, or any previous chef like Nigella Lawson. 

I'm also linking up this review and recipe to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "The Runaway Wife" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Curtis Stone's (Blender) Apple-Ginger Green Juice

I have a confession. I have a juicer. It sits on my counter, in the corner. It does get used. It has been used a lot in the close-to-10-years I have owned it--personal use, for events and cooking/juicing demos, when I have an abundance of ginger and want to put up a stash of ginger juice, cleansing weekends... But it doesn't get used on a daily basis. Basically because I am lazy. 

To use the juicer, I have to pull it out, carefully positioning it to get it out from under the cupboards (tiny kitchen hazard) and set it up. Produce needs to be washed and at least slightly chopped before juicing depending on the fruit or veg. About half the time, even as many times I have juiced, something isn't lined up just right and juice drips on the counter a bit and it needs to be carefully wiped up as spring is prime ant season in these parts. Finally, once everything is juiced, it needs to be dissembled, everything washed, and the screen scrubbed within an inch of its life, then all parts thoroughly dried, or left to air-dry before it can be put away. Pooh! How often do I want to do that?!

My Vita-Mix (aka my best friend in the kitchen) on the other hand, lives next door to the juicer on the counter, but juicing with it simply requires me pulling off the blender jar from the base, washing and chopping the produce (although in smaller and admittedly more detailed pieces for optimal blending), tossing it all into the blender jar--often with a little cold coconut water to get it going, then letting it rip. After everything has been juiced, a quick washing of the jar and top happens and it goes back on the base. See the difference?! 

Now, there are various camps of juicers versus blenders about which is better for you. Answer: It depends on what you want. Juicing extracts the juice and all of the nutrients and leaves behind the pulp. Blending pulverizes the whole fruit--leaving pulp and fiber. The theory is that unlike juicing, not all of the nutrients are extracted when blending and stay in the pulp along with all the fiber, but when you blend your juice, you do get that big dose of healthy fiber and while you may not get every bit of the nutrients extracted, your juice will satiate you and "stay with you" longer during the day. Some people also just don't like pulp and don't want to drink it. Of course you can strain the pulp from the juice after blending but, if you go back to the last sentence of paragraph one, you'll see my thoughts on that. Yep... too lazy. Plus I happen to like a pulpy juice as long as it is cold or served over ice. 

Extracted juice or blended "smoothie"--either way, you end up with something delicious and brimming with goodness and healthy nutrients. Curtis Stone's recipe for Ginger-Apple Green Juice is a great way to start the day, or often, I like to make a green juice for an afternoon break when I want to transition off of the caffeine and am feeling a bit peckish. I did adjust the recipe below (you can find the original here), making a half-quantity (about what fits easily in the blender) but keeping in the full amount of lime and ginger, adding 1/4 cup extra mint leaves + 1/2 cup extra spinach and finally, adding 1/2 cup very cold coconut water to get things blending smoothly. 

Ginger-Apple Green Juice (Blended)
Adapted from Curtis Stone via
(Makes about 2 cups Juice or 4 cups blended juice)

2 large tart green apples, such as Granny Smith, cored 
1 pear, such as Anjou or Bartlett, cored
2 celery stalks
1 lime, peel and pith removed
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled (I used 2 Tbsp ginger juice, previously juiced and frozen)
1 1/2 cups (loosely packed) spinach
3/4 cup (loosely packed) fresh mint leaves

(I added 1/2 cup plain coconut water--very cold)
ice, for serving

Cut apples, pears, celery, lime, and ginger in small pieces for blending or to fit juicer feed tube. If using a blender, place produce in blender jar with coconut water and blend on high until smooth. Strain if desired or add more coconut water if juice is too thick. If using a juicer, with motor running, pass all ingredients except ice through juicer. Serve over ice if desired.

Notes/Results: A yummy green juice blend, sweet, cool and minty, slightly tangy from the Granny Smith apples and lime, and with a warm bite of ginger. The cold coconut water that I added adds a little sweetness which is nice and also serves to start cooling the juice. I chose this online green juice variation over Hudson's Morning Juice from Good Food, Good Life because of the pear and lime (two favorite green juice ingredients of mine) and I like the just slightly tropical vibe it has. I will happily make it again in the blender, or maybe I'll even be more ambitious and pull out my juicer next time. ;-)  

And, please excuse, the not-so-great photos--I was taking a quick afternoon work break and just popped in a straw (I love a larger 'smoothie' straw for pulpy juice and smoothies), grabbed a couple of cocktail napkins, and snapped a few shots before drinking my green juice on my (not swept lately) lanai! The laziness is a daily battle!  

I am linking this post to I Heart Cooking Clubs where the theme is "Wet Your Whistle"--you can see all of the yummy beverage recipes from Curtis Stone that everyone made by checking out the picture links on the post.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Ellie Krieger's Tropical Fruit and Nut Smoothie Bowl with Chia Seeds

Time for a weekend smoothie bowl--satisfying, pretty to look at and full of tropical fruit and flavors. This is Ellie Krieger's Tropical Fruit and Nut Smoothie Bowl

Toppings are my favorite part of a smoothie bowl and this one is piled high with apple banana, mango, kiwi, coconut chips, toasted macadamia nuts, and chia seeds. Speaking of chia seeds, they date back to early Aztec and Mayan cultures and were thought to increase energy and stamina. Ellie says that nutritionally, "They are the highest plant source of omega-3s and fiber and they are rich in protein and antioxidants. Almost all of the fiber in chia seeds is the soluble type, like that found in oatmeal, which is why they gel when mixed with liquid. Besides making them useful in recipes, that gel-able fiber is credited for chia’s ability to help control hunger, manage blood sugar levels and prevent heart disease. While further research still needs to be done to fully support these claims, there are plenty of healthy reasons to enjoy chia. With only 55 calories in each tablespoon plus 2g of protein and 6g of fiber, they are certainly worth a try."

This is my second Ellie Krieger smoothie bowl recipe--the first being her Cherry Berry Smoothie Bowl

Besides having a tropical feel, this one is a little different as it has cashews in the smoothie along with the coconut milk, which give it added protein and healthy fats.

Tropical Fruit and Nut Smoothie Bowl with Chia Seeds
Adapted from Ellie Krieger via TodayFood
(Serves 2-4)

1/2 cup raw cashews
1 heaping Tbsp peeled, fresh chopped ginger root (one 1-inch piece) (I used about 1 1/2 Tbsps)
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk, plus more as needed
2 cups frozen cubed mango
1 frozen very ripe banana

pinch ground nutmeg (I used cinnamon)
Toppings I Used:
apple banana 
coconut flakes
chopped toasted macadamia nuts
chia seeds

Place the cashews, ginger and coconut milk into a blender and blend until as smooth as possible. Add the mango, banana and nutmeg and blend until smooth. Add additional coconut milk by the tablespoonful as needed. You may need to stop the blender to stir with a spatula a couple of times, depending on the power of your blender. 

Divide the smoothie mixture among serving bowls, then top with various toppings. 

Ellie's Suggested Toppings: shredded coconut, chopped cashews, granola, chia seeds, chopped dates, sliced fresh banana, cubed mango, papaya, pineapple or kiwi.

Notes/Results: The mango flavor comes through with a nice pop of ginger--I added extra because I love ginger. With the healthy fats, this is a filling bowl, even divided into fourths as Ellie suggests. I like to put a layer of fruit in the bottom of my smoothie bowl, layer the smoothie on top, then sprinkle the toppings on. That way you get a little topping in every bite--which makes for a happy breakfast bowl. ;-) The Cherry Berry Smoothie Bowl is probably still my favorite--I love the cherry flavor, but this one was still really good. I would make it again

It's Ancient Grains week at I Heart Cooking Clubs where we are making Ellie Krieger dishes with any ancient grains like quinoa, kamut, farro, barley, spelt, chia seeds, etc. You can see what grains everyone used and what they made by following the picture links on the post.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Cherry Berry Smoothie Bowl and A Review of Lizzy and Jane {#foodiesread}

Happy Aloha Friday!  Today I am presenting my first book for the Foodies Read 2016 Challenge, Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay. (See my post about the Foodies Read challenge here.) And, since it's a food blog and a foodie book event, I had to make something inspired by my reading--in this case a Cherry Berry Smoothie Bowl--healthy, nourishing, and down right delectable.

Publishers Blurb:

Lizzy and Jane couldn’t be further from Jane Austen’s famous sisters for whom they are named.

Elizabeth left her family’s home in Seattle fifteen years ago to pursue her lifelong dream—chefing her own restaurant in New York City. Jane stayed behind to raise a family. Estranged since their mother’s death many years ago, the circumstances of their lives are about to bring them together once again.
Known for her absolute command of her culinary domain, Elizabeth’s gifts in the kitchen have begun to elude her. And patrons and reviewers are noticing. In need of some rest and an opportunity to recover her passion for cooking, Elizabeth jumps at the excuse to rush to her sister’s bedside when Jane is diagnosed with cancer. After all, Elizabeth did the same for their mother. Perhaps this time, it will make a difference.

As Elizabeth pours her renewed energy into her sister’s care and into her burgeoning interest in Nick, Jane’s handsome coworker, her life begins to evolve from the singular pursuit of her own dream into the beautiful world of family, food, literature, and love that was shattered when she and Jane lost their mother. Will she stay and become Lizzy to her sister’s Jane—and Elizabeth to Nick’s Mr. Darcy—or will she return to the life she has worked so hard to create

Some excerpts from my Goodreads review: here:

Lizzy and Jane is one of those curl-up-and-get-lost-in books, especially if you are a Jane Austen geek or a foodie (I am both). I was impressed with the number of food references that the author pulled from Austen's work (I think I need to go back and reread Emma from a foodie perspective) and she also manages to insert food references from Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, and even Wind in the Willows into the mix. Having lived in Seattle for several years, I also loved how the food scene there was portrayed--from the restaurants to the varied markets and quirky neighborhoods--it made me want to book a visit back to the city and its marvelous food. 

Elizabeth (she hates 'Lizzy') thinks that if she can feed Jane--who has lost her taste and appetite with the chemotherapy and cancer treatment--she will reconnect with both her sister and her love of cooking. During chemo, Jane asks to be read from the books of Jane Austen (their mother's favorites--hence their names) and although Lizzy is reluctant (she put Austen away with her mother's illness and death) she begins to discover how the food in Austen and her talent for coming up with ingredients and tastes that will comfort and appeal to Jane open up her cooking. As someone who loves to cook and to experiment with different spices and flavors, reading some of Lizzy's thought process as she was making food to appeal to Jane, and another cancer patient Tyler was fascinating. It is when she is cooking and feeding others, rather than cooking for herself that Elizabeth finds her spark. I love this quote from Lizzy and Jane: "Great writers and my mom never used food as an object. Instead it was a medium, a catalyst to mend hearts, to break down barriers, to build relationships."
There were some triggers for me in the book. Although I didn't lose my mom at the age or in the way that Lizzy and Jane did, it's a recent loss and I think there is a connection between any women who have lost their mothers. Their grief and some of the scenes in the chemo center and hospital weren't always easy to read. The book is labeled as religious/inspirational fiction which is not a genre I normally gravitate too, and although messages of faith are certainly in there, it doesn't beat you over the head with it. The romance is on the lighter side, slow-building and definitely Austen-like.

I grabbed Lizzy & Jane as an e-book (it's on sale at Amazon for $1.99 as a Kindle Monthly Deal right now) but I am tempted to buy a print copy to put with my Austen/Austen-ish books. It's a sweet, poignant, and often funny family drama and a keeper for me.

There was plenty of food in Lizzy and Jane from the dishes at Lizzy's restaurant to the many restaurant meals enjoyed in Seattle. Lizzy made her own garam masala mix and also made a spice mix of cumin, coriander, sweet paprika, salt and black pepper, fresh thyme, cilantro and a bit of mint oil to show Nick what he smelled like to her--something she did when trying to figure someone out--which I thought was fun and unique. Lizzy's cooking for Jane and her family included things like applesauce, oatmeal "gruel,"  soups, beef stew, Shepard's pie, chicken pot pie, cake, chocolate chip cookies, eggs and toast, and bacon ice cream with maple syrup for breakfast. 

A smoothie bowl may not seem like the obvious choice for a book where the Lizzy looks to the works of Jane Austen to create dishes nourish her sister. Lizzy's first dishes for Jane 'crashed and burned' because she failed to partner the Austen-style dishes and childhood comfort food favorites with what Jane liked and how she was currently feeling. Once she began to ask Jane questions and listen, she had success with getting her to eat and gain weight. Smoothies played a role when Lizzy attempted to cook for Tyler, another cancer patient. At first, she tries to feed Tyler what she thinks he will eat and what will help him gain weight, making a variety of smoothies as part of his meals. Unfortunately, most of what she made Tyler on the first go-round didn't work, including those smoothies she made with citrus, which stung his mouth due to sores from the chemo. Once she questions Tyler about what he can eat and learns more about his likes and dislikes, she is able to nourish him and learns a valuable lesson. "'s never about the food--it's about what the food becomes, in the hands of the giver and the recipient." 

I often make a smoothie and run out the door with it. I think there is a great pleasure in sitting down with a smoothie in a bowl, topped with healthy and tasty toppings. In addition to tasting delicious, it is pretty to look at--important when tempting the appetite. With its cherry and banana combination, Ellie Krieger's Cherry Berry Smoothie Bowl has no citrus so it would work for Tyler too, and Jane would appreciate the berry toppings--blueberries were one of the foods that appealed to her. I used coconut milk, making it non-dairy and extra creamy. 

Cherry Berry Smoothie Bowl 
Adapted from
(Serves 4)

1 very ripe banana, frozen
2 cups frozen pitted cherries
1 1/4 cups low-fat milk (1%) (I used coconut milk)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1/4 cup shredded dried unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted (see Ellie's Note below)
1 Tbsp chia seeds
Combine the banana, cherries, milk and vanilla extract in a blender; puree until smooth. You might need to stop the blender to stir with a spatula a couple of times, depending on the appliance's power.
Divide among individual bowls, then arrange the blueberries, raspberries, coconut, almonds and chia seeds on top of each portion. Serve right away.
Ellie's Note: Toast the almonds in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat for several minutes, until lightly browned and fragrant, shaking the pan as needed to prevent scorching. Cool completely before using.

Notes/Results: Yum! Served in a bowl, a smoothie is like eating ice cream for breakfast without any guilt or added sugar! ;-) I sometimes forget how much I love frozen cherries until I make something with them (or eat them straight from the bag) and rediscover how good they are. This bowl is nice and satisfying with the coconut milk and the toppings. If you wanted, you could stick a little protein powder or add more chia seeds to the smoothie itself. I also like to put a thin layer of fruit in the bottom of my smoothie bowls before scooping the smoothie on top. Having those extra little 'treasures' as you spoon up the smoothie is nice and the extra berries help build the fiber. I will happily make this again.

Head over to the January Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.

This post is also linking up to I Heart Cooking Clubs for this week's Fresh Starts theme--Ellie Krieger recipes that are healthy ways to start the new year, or start your day. You can see what everyone made by following the picture links on the post.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Book Tour Stops Here: "Don't Try to Find Me" by Holly Brown with a Berry, Peach & Greens Chia Smoothie

Imagine the very worst happening--your teenage daughter has disappeared and it looks as though she has run away. You are tormenting yourself for every decision you made, every action taken or not taken that could have provoked her leaving, and what you could have done to have prevented it. Then the social media campaign designed to bring her home takes over--your dirty laundry is aired and the secrets you keep carefully hidden are slowly exposed. You are judged and presumed guilty of being a bad mother and maybe even being a suspect in the disappearance. Don't Try to Find Me a novel by Holly Brown weaves an interesting back story around an event that could be pulled from the headlines or an episode of Dateline. 

Publisher's Blurb:

"Don’t try to find me.

Though the message on the kitchen whiteboard is in fourteen-year-old Marley’s handwriting, her mother, Rachel, knows there has to be some other explanation. Marley would never run away. 

I’ll be okay.

Marley’s quiet. Innocent. Sheltered. Growing up in Northern California with all the privilege Rachel never had, what does Marley know about taking care of herself? About being okay? Rachel might not know her daughter at all. But she does know that she needs to find Marley before someone else does. Someone dangerous. 

I’ll be better.

The police have limited resources devoted to runaways. If Rachel and her husband, Paul, want their daughter back, they’ll have to find her themselves. Paul turns to Facebook and Twitter and launches But Marley isn’t the only one with something to hide. Paul’s social media campaign generates national attention, and the public scrutiny could expose Rachel’s darkest secrets. When she blows a television interview, the dirty speculation begins. 

I love you.

The blogosphere is convinced Rachel is hiding something. It’s not what they think; Rachel would never hurt Marley. Not intentionally, anyway. But when it’s discovered that Rachel lied to the police, the devoted mother becomes the prime suspect in Marley’s disappearance.

Is Marley out there, somewhere, watching it all happen . . . or is the truth something far worse?"

Hardcover: 368 pages  
Publisher: William Morrow (July 8, 2014)

I went into this book thinking it was going to be a mystery but from the start we find out from Marley what happened to her. So the story becomes more about uncovering the secrets and reasons that led to her leaving her family for B., the 'boyfriend' she meets online. I would classify it as a family drama/psychological thriller, high on the drama.  The story, told in daily increments, alternates between Marley's perspective--written in her journal pages, and Rachel's thoughts. There are glimpses to the past from both Marley and Rachel that help build the story. I liked the back and forth narrative and felt that both voices rang true but I did find it hard to completely attach to the characters--both frustrated me--especially Rachel, being the adult, and her significant lack of backbone and maturity. The impact of social media on the family was interesting. We are a quick-to-judge society, our lives becoming more transparent with every Facebook post or Tweet, something Rachel especially becomes painfully aware of as the campaign her husband initiates to bring their daughter home quickly spins out of control. Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist and it shows in her writing and her digging deeply into the 'whys' behind her character's actions--although I am not sure this book ends up being a plug for therapy--maybe more a cautionary tale. Brown doles out these pieces of information in a way that kept me interested and the suspense building. Although not quite what I was expecting, Don't Try to Find Me kept me awake and turning pages on a very long flight returning from a business trip despite being exhausted--a mark of a successfully-written drama in my book.

Author Notes: Holly Brown lives with her husband and toddler daughter in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she’s a practicing marriage and family therapist. Her blog, Bonding Time, is featured on

Food is mentioned in the book but more as sustenance than in a foodie way--appropriate for the story. The food was pretty basic--fried chicken, yogurt, sandwiches, dishes that Marley cooks for B. before the 'honeymoon' stage of their relationship wanes like lasagna, chicken Marsala and meatloaf. In the end for my usual dish inspired by my reading, I went for a simple and healthy smoothie. In a happier moment, Rachel and her husband Paul are making the family breakfast with Rachel cooking the French toast and Paul manning the blender--whirling like a propeller. I chose to omit the French toast for my breakfast and make a drinkable breakfast. 

I am a big fan of peach and berry smoothies for their sweetness, but I also like to give my fruit smoothies a boost of nutrition so baby spinach leaves and chia seeds join the party. Sure the color isn't as pretty but it tastes great and gets another serving of greens into my day. ;-)

Berry, Peach & Greens Chia Smoothie
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 2 Servings)

1 cup peach slices, fresh or frozen*
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen*
1 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen*
1 cups (packed) baby spinach leaves
2 Tbsp chia seeds
2-3 drops of vanilla stevia or sweetener of choice
1 cup fruit juice, coconut water or milk alternative of choice (+ extra if needed)

Blend all ingredients in a high-speed blender until smooth and creamy. Add extra water or juice if needed to make it to your desired consistency. Pour into glasses and enjoy! 

*Make a least one of the fruits listed is frozen to make it cold and creamy.

Notes/Results: A quick and easy smoothie perfect for sipping on the go or while checking email. I like the little bit of vanilla sweetness from the vanilla stevia drops I use but you can use whatever sweetener you have on hand or omit it. When I am not taking photos of it I sometimes omit the blueberries and add mango or pineapple instead (and put it in an opaque cup and ignore the murky brown color.) ;-) 

Note: A review copy of "Don't Try to Find Me" was provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own. 
You can see the stops for the rest of the TLC Book Tours and Reviews here.  


Friday, June 10, 2011

Jamie Oliver's Frozen Fruit Smoothies: Cool, Creamy Strawberry Goodness

I make my fair share of smoothies as I like them for a quick breakfast on the go so I have been wanting to try Jamie Oliver's version of Frozen Fruit Smoothies. Although lots of different ingredients such as flax seed, spinach, peanut butter, chia seeds, maca, kale, etc., end up in my smoothies depending on my mood, Jamie's use quick cook oats and nuts neither of which I have tried in smoothies before. These are an easy pantry item to whip up on a busy day.

I made my version vegan by using unsweetened coconut milk and coconut yogurt.

This recipe can be found in "Jamie's Food Revolution" on pages 306-307

Jamie says, "Smoothies are not only deliciously tasty but they’re also perfect to have for breakfast, as they’re full of goodness. Adding quick cook oats to them is great, because it adds fiber which moves slowly through your body to helps give you more energy for longer. The great thing about frozen fruit is that it’s been picked at its best, at the right time, and hasn’t been forced to grow out of season, like so much of the ‘fresh’ fruit on offer to us these days. It’s also cheaper and far more convenient – it will keep happily in your freezer for months on end, so any time you fancy a smoothie, you can have one!

These smoothies are best made in a blender, as opposed to a food processor, as this will give your smoothies a lovely silky texture. Feel free to use any fruit you like, either one type or a mixture. Raspberries are really tasty and you can use them here, but I tend to stay away from them because of the seeds.

Frozen Fruit Smoothies
Adapted from "Jamie's Food Revolution"
(Serves 2)

1 ripe banana
1 glass of frozen fruit of your choice (I used strawberries)
2 heaped tablespoons plain yogurt (I used coconut yogurt)
1 small handful of quick cook oats (not instant)
1 small handful of mixed nuts (I used slivered almonds)
1 glass of soy milk, fat-free milk or apple juice (I used unsweetened coconut milk)
honey to taste (optional)

Peel and slice your banana and put it into a blender with your frozen fruit and the yogurt. Whiz it up and add the oats and nuts. Add the soy milk, fat-free milk, or apple juice and whiz again, until nice and smooth.

If it’s a bit too thick for you, just add a splash more milk or juice and whiz around again. Give it a good stir, then have a taste. Rarely with a frozen fruit smoothie should you need to sweeten it, but if you think it needs a bit of extra sweetness you can add a little honey to taste – you won’t need much.

Notes/Results: Thick, cool and creamy with strawberries and bananas--what's not to like? The oats and nuts were not very noticeable except in texture--the smoothies were not quite as smooth as my normal version but they were still very good. They also had good "staying power"--my breakfast smoothie kept me satisfied well into lunchtime. I may have to add oats and nuts to my smoothie ingredient repertoire. ;-)

These smoothies are my entry for potluck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs. You can see what the other IHCC participants cooked up by going to the Potluck post and following the links.

Happy Friday!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tanzanian Banana and Coconut Milk: A Stress-Relieving "Simple Saturday Sipper"

Despite measures taken to remain calm and relaxed, such as not doing any shopping during Black Friday and hiding from all the crowds by hanging out and studying at home, I still woke up feeling tense and slightly worried and the feeling didn't go away all day. Whether it was the fact Christmas is fast approaching, or a few incomplete school assignments, or just stuff around the house that I wasn't getting done, I was stressed. 

I decided to pull out my "Drink to Your Health Book", all about "Delicious Juices, Teas, Soups, and Smoothies That Help You Look and Feel Great" to see if I could find something other than alcohol to take the edge off. The book notes that "Foods such as bananas, dates, figs, almonds, cashew nuts, coconut, avocado, mango and papaya all have a calming and strengthening effect on the nerves. Spices, including cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, coriander, and cloves, are great relievers of stress." There were several different recipes for drinks to relieve stress and anxiety, but the one that sounded the best was the Tanzanian Banana and Coconut Milk.

"Drink to Your Health" says, "Many recipes in Tanzania, including soups, stews, and desserts, are based on bananas and plantain and often combined with coconut. The mixture of the two sweet tastes in this recipe is wonderful. Both bananas and coconut are highly nutritious, rich in B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium. They are strengthening, even rejuvenating and with the grounding and calming effect are ideal foods for relieving stress."

Tanzanian Banana and Coconut Milk
"Drink to Your Health", Anne McIntyre
(Makes 1-2 Servings)

3 ripe bananas
1 cup coconut milk
a little ground cinnamon

Place the bananas and coconut milk in a blender and blend until smooth. Sprinkle cinnamon on the top when serving. (I mixed mine in)

Notes/Results: Really good--creamy and comforting. The simple pairing of the banana and coconut with a touch of cinnamon is perfect. I used half water / half coconut milk to make it lighter, and it was still thick and delicious. Did it relieve all stress? Maybe not, but it was very relaxing to sip on (especially in one of my favorite "fishy glasses"), and with a Blueberry-Cranberry Granola Bar Muffin (more on that next week), it made a great lunch. I would make this one again.

What is your favorite stress reliever?