Kale Salad with Creamy Avocado & Herb Dressing

Avocado and Fresh Herb Dressing
Avocado and Fresh Herb Dressing
Kale Salad with Avocado Dressing
Kale Salad topped with a fried egg, yum!

Kale Salad topped with a fried egg, yum!

We recently spent a fantastic week in beautiful Vermont for a much needed family vacation.  We spent the first few days at the Smuggler’s Notch resort where we enjoyed an exhilarating/slightly terrifying day at the Arbor Trek Treetops Obstacle Course, swimming in the numerous pools, Evan’s first BIG waterslide, Evan bouncing and Skyler flipping on the Euro Bungy, Skyler flying through trees on the giant swing, and some time finally learning to paddle board on a thankfully smooth and calm lake – I don’t think I’m ready for the ocean waves yet, although I did try a few brief seconds in tree pose while barely balancing on the board!
tree climbing Skyler
tree climbing Skyler
Skyler challenging the treetops obstacle course
Skyler challenging the treetops obstacle course
Survived the treetops obstacle course!
Survived the treetops obstacle course!
We didn’t even let the way too many rainy moments get us down…we watched family movies and ate our way through the offerings at Ben & Jerry’s, and ate decent meals.  While our bellies never went empty and we were nourished well enough, we were left more than a little uninspired by the menu options at the fun family resort…Why is it that so many restaurants think if kids will be there the food needs to be ordinary and, dare I say it..boring?

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Blueberry Tea Cake (gluten free)

Blueberry Lemon Tea Cake  - gluten free
Blueberry Lemon Tea Cake – gluten free with oats and a bit of crunchy cornmeal

What are you going to do with all those gorgeous blueberries you found at the farmer’s market today… why not bake up a loaf of this Blueberry Tea Cake?  It’s as gorgeous as it is delicious and just the perfect treat for an afternoon tea or served up with a side of yogurt or fresh whipped cream and even more berries for a lightly sweet breakfast or brunch treat.  Blueberry Lemon Tea Cake with whipped cream and berries

I have been experimenting a lot with gluten free baking lately and not because I’m allergic to wheat, but more because I think I have a sensitivity to it, and also because I think it’s simply better for my own body at least, to just eat less processed grains.  My problem with a lot of gluten free baking recipes and packaged gluten free flour mixes is the addition of starches like potato or tapioca.  I simply don’t like the slightly paste like texture that these starches seem to add to muffins, scones, etc, plus they are pretty low on fiber content and other nutrients.  So, to that I’ve been using a lot of oatmeal and oats ground into a flour right in my bullet blender, just before using. 

oat flour, corn flour and corn meal, plus whole oats
oat flour, corn flour and corn meal, plus whole oats

I do love oats, add oats to a recipe and I’m a happy girl.  Not only do I love the taste, texture and nutritional value oats bring, I find they work well in my system and that is always a good thing!  

lemon zest, natural cane sugar and coconut oil
lemon zest, natural cane sugar and coconut oil

I actually adapted this recipe for blueberry tea cake from my own (not gluten free), lemon chia tea cake.  In this case, I made it gluten free and dressed it up with some beautiful juicy blueberries, when you flip the cake out of the loaf pan the bottom looks as if it’s been tie dyed by the sweet berries, so gorgeous!

Blueberry Lemon (Tie Dyed) Tea Cake - gluten free
Blueberry (Tie Dyed) Tea Cake – gluten free

With the addition of buttermilk, this cake bakes up perfectly moist and tender.  I also soak some rolled oats into the buttermilk (a trick I use in my oatmeal pancakes too), which adds to the lovely texture of the cake.  If you want to make this dairy free, use your plant milk of choice, such as soy or almond and add the lemon juice right in with the oats, works perfectly.  Continue reading

Fettucine Carbonara with Crispy Roasted Shitakes

Fettucine Carbonara with crisp roasted shitakes and chives
Fettucine carbonara, sounds so rich and decadent and tastes just the same, but it’s much lighter than you would think from the taste of it.  The no cook sauce is super simple and super delicious, with just egg yolks, nutmeg, fresh herbs and cheese, yum! If you want to make it extra special and a little more decadent, you can add in just a little cream, half & half or even mascarpone cheese, but even without the extra creaminess the finished dish is delicious and elegant enough for company.  
egg yolks for carbonara

 

egg yolks with optional cream for carbonara
carbonara sauce
Most carbonara recipes you will find have the addition of pancetta, but since I don’t eat meat, I replace the pancetta with crispy oven roasted shitake mushrooms and chives, which I think is even better!
Shitakes and chives, ready to roast
Shitakes and chives, ready to roast
Fettucine Carbonara with Crispy Roasted Shitakes
Author: Sweet Green Kitchen’s Jen Jones
Ingredients:
1 pound fettucine pasta (make it gluten free with your favorite GF pasta)
3 egg yolks
About ½ cup or a little more grated Romano cheese
Grated nutmeg – just a little
Olive oil
Salt
Chopped parsley and chives plus about 10 whole chives
6-10 shitake mushrooms – cleaned & sliced
Optional: about 2 Tablespoons cream or half & half or mascarpone – if you’re feeling decadent!
 

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Heart Healthy Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread (vegan optional)

Banana Bread flecked with chocolate chunks and walnuts
Banana Bread flecked with chocolate chunks and walnuts
I often find myself with extra bananas past their eating prime, over ripe and brown, which is why I have so many different recipes for baking with super ripe bananas, like these muffins and these cookies or I’ll add them into the daily smoothie that 5 year old Evan often asks for/demands.  But, one of my favorite ways to use extra ripe bananas is, in what else, but banana bread. A slice of banana bread There are a million banana bread recipes out there, but of all I’ve tried, this one is my family’s favorite.  Aside from being super moist, flecked with chocolate chunks and often walnuts, it is lower in fat than many recipes and filled with so many heart healthy ingredients.  I love using bittersweet dark chocolate and even if I use chips I like to chop up the chocolate so you get different size bits with a few chunks.  Honestly, I think even without the chocolate this banana bread would be delicious, but why not indulge a little with chunks of dark chocolate, after all chocolate is a super food too.

Chopped Dark Chocolate

Adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Lemony Olive Oil Banana Bread. Heidi’s recipe calls for a lemony glaze poured over the top of the finished banana bread and while I love the addition of lemon in so many recipes I am not a huge fan of sweet glazes, and I think in this case the banana bread with the addition of great chunks of chocolate and chopped walnuts really stands on its own with no need for an added glaze.  Dry mix for Heart Healthy Banana Bread
Avocado and Olive Oil

The base recipe is fantastic with olive oil and aside from eliminating the glaze I’ve amped up the heart health with the addition of oat bran, avocado and flax.  And if you add in the optional walnuts, you get even more heart healthy benefits since walnuts are a great source of Omega 3’s, aside from adding in a little yummy crunch.  I like the mix of avocado and olive oil, just be sure to really mash the avocado well, but if a few tiny flecks of green remain it’s no big deal. I also like using a combo of one egg plus one “flax egg”.  Egg substitutes are easy to make using 1 Tablespoon of ground flax with about 2 ½ Tablespoons of water per egg.  Mix up the flax and water at the start of putting together the recipe, to allow time for the water to be fully absorbed and gel up a bit.   Again if you prefer, you can always use 2 eggs or go full out doubling the flax and skip the egg altogether. Either way, the banana bread turns out moist and delicious.  Super healthy, Super yummy, what more could you ask for! 
Slices of Heart Healthy Banana Bread with chocolate chunks and walnuts, yum!
Slices of Heart Healthy Banana Bread with chocolate chunks and walnuts, yum!

 

Heart Healthy Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread 

Author: Sweet Green Kitchen’s Jen Jones
Adapted from: Heidi Swanson’s Lemony Olive Oil Banana Bread
Ingredients:
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour – I use whole wheat pastry flour
¼ cup oat bran
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate – from about 2, 3-4 ounce bars or use chips
½ avocado – well mashed
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 X-large egg (or make it vegan, by doubling the flax and water)
1 Tablespoon ground flax with 2 ½ Tablespoons water (double, if leaving out the egg)
3 very ripe mashed bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional (but really good!) ½ cup chopped walnuts
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a standard loaf pan, I use olive oil spray or coconut oil.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flax meal and water, set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, oat bran, sugar, baking soda, salt.  Mix in the chocolate chunks.
Once the flax has absorbed the water, add in mashed avocado, olive oil, egg.  Add in mashed banana, and vanilla.  Mix well.
Add the banana mixture into the flour mix, stir until just combined.  If using, mix in walnuts. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.  Place in the center of your oven and bake for about 50 minutes.  Let cool at least 10 minutes before removing from loaf pan.  Slice up, serve and Enjoy!   
Heart Healthy Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread

Beans & Greens Soup – White & Pinto with Kale & Wheat Berries

white beans, pinto beans with veggies in soup
We were hoodwinked, tricked, fooled!  For a few days, the sun was shining, the temp warmed up, the crocuses were in bloom…I even convinced Evan, who’s 5 and very attached to things staying the same, that it was time to switch from the winter jacket to a nice springy fleece (not an easy task!). Then everything changed. Overnight it became damp, dreary, dark and SO cold again, and to top it all off, Skyler had her first track meet of the Spring season, outside, sitting on metal bleachers for hours! What else could I do, but make soup.  Of course, it’s warmed up a bit in the last day or two, but this soup is yummy no matter what the weather outside is. 
 Beans and Greens Soup with white and pinto beans, wheat berries and kale
Here’s another version of one of our family favorites…beans and greens soup, warming and delicious.  In this version, I’ve used a combination of white beans and pinto beans and a big pile of fresh chopped kale.  I also add in some wheat berries, which I adore in soups like this. The wheat berries cook up nice and al dente, holding up well as leftovers, unlike pasta which continues to absorb broth and turn to mush after a day or two in the fridge. The wheat berries do take a bit of time to cook though. When I have the time or for thought, I like to soak the wheat berries in a bowl of water for a few hours before draining and adding to the soup.  Soaking the wheat berries, will speed up the cooking time and is said to aid in digestibility.  

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