New Style Caprese Summer Kale Salad with Nectarines and Fresh Mozzarella

Summer Kale Salad with nectarines and fresh mozzarella

Summer Kale Salad with nectarines and fresh mozzarella

This salad is the latest addition to my growing list of kale salads.  Perfect this time of year with sweet summer nectarines and fresh mozzarella with a light and refreshing lemony white balsamic vinaigrette. 

Summer Kale Salad

Summer Kale Salad

You may be saying to yourself when will this trend of kale salads and kale everything ever end, but if you ask me the answer would be NEVER because I really do LOVE kale, I don’t just eat it ’cause it’s good for me, I truly enjoy it.  Kale salads show up weekly at my dinner table and then again for lunch when I have leftovers (and I always hope for leftovers!).  I hope you’ll find as much joy in this simple and delicious salad as we do. small bowl summer kale salad

This version was inspired by a pizza I recently enjoyed on a day trip to Princeton, NJ, where we were touring the university with Skyler (she’s a brilliant and very hard working student with high aspirations, fingers crossed!), honestly I hope she gets accepted just so we can go back for more pizza🙂

Skyler & I with one of the many Princeton tigers on campus

Skyler & I with one of the many Princeton tigers on campus

 

Colin at his namesake Jones Hall

Colin at his namesake Jones Hall

an example of the beautiful Princeton architecture

an example of the beautiful Princeton architecture

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Peanut Butter & Berry Chia Cups

Peanut butter, berries & chia breakfast cups, oh my!

Peanut butter, berries & chia breakfast cups, oh my!

Yum, peanut butter & berries, is there anything better? Well, yeah, maybe, but this combo is still one of my classic favorites.  This recipe is an easy make ahead breakfast or snack, with a little pre-planning, you can have a delicious and satisfying light meal ready to grab and go for those mornings or afternoons when you just have no time to prep. 

 

PB & Berry Chia Cup topped with Berry Jam

PB & Berry Chia Cup topped with Berry Jam

I have been a fan of the mighty chia seed for some time now and enjoy them almost daily.  I love chia seeds stirred into my yogurt, mixed into a bowl of berries and in quick breads and muffins like my Lemon Chia Tea Cake. What I have not been a fan of, not even willing or interested in trying…is one of the many recipes for chia puddings flooding the blogosphere and pinterest.  Why?  I don’t know, just the thought of gelatinized goo just never appealed, even though I know one of chia seeds greatest features is that they DO gel up, but for some reason, I really, really like the little crunchy bite of chia seeds before they get all wet and gooey.  That was, until a few months ago when Dana at the Minimilast Baker posted her Peanut Butter & Blueberry Chia Puddings and oh my, they looked so delicious I just wanted to dive into my computer screen and eat one immediately! 

Chia Cups topped with berries, peanut butter and berry compote

Chia Cups topped with berries, peanut butter and berry compote

So by the next day, I dove right into my kitchen and made up my own version and then I made them 3 more times in the next couple of weeks and then made some more, because they were that good!  Now, of course I did change up Dana’s recipe just a bit to suit my own tastes.  I used both homemade almond and coconut milks, since I’ve been making those for several months now with great delight (see tips for making your own at the end of the recipe!).  I also prefer raspberries and blackberries with peanut butter to Dana’s blueberries and…since I was new to the whole gelling chia world I decided to use a tad less chia seeds in my cups then the original just to get my feet wet, but I think my combo here is just perfect and I hope you agree! 

peanut butter and berry chia cup topped with a blackberry

peanut butter and berry chia cup topped with a blackberry

And one more note of encouragement to any of you out there who have not yet discovered all the wonders of chia seeds…even my daughter Skyler, who has had for a long time a strange “fear” of chia seeds, LOVES these chia cups!  So go ahead, give it a try, they are nutritious and delicious…

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The Best Vanilla Cupcakes with Perfect Cream Cheese Frosting

Happy Birthday Cupcakes

Happy Birthday Celebration Cupcakes

Simple, but definitely not basic, this is my go to cupcake recipe for birthday celebrations, it’s simply the best vanilla cupcake I’ve ever tasted. 
Simply the best vanilla cupcakes with my favorite cream cheese frosting

Simply the best vanilla cupcakes with my favorite cream cheese frosting

Now, this is not my usual health foodie, super food, gluten free, hidden avocado type of recipe.  What this is, is a celebration cake and we all deserve a little celebration every once in a while.  Although, not a health food by any means, you still won’t find in here anything artificial or super processed (save the white flour), I use whole foods and organic ingredients and I promise you that makes a difference!  This is not my recipe, I did not develop it and believe it or not I have not modified the recipe in any way, shape or form. With that said, I’m choosing to share it with you here in the month of May (birthday month for both of my kids, my mom & sister-in-law, phew that’s a lot of celebrating!) because I think it’s the type of basic that every person, and most especially every parent should have in their repertoire.  Yes, making these cupcakes takes slightly more effort than opening up a box mix, but the effort is minimal and the results are worth it. 
Pink frosted cupcakes really are the best!

Pink frosted cupcakes really are the best!

I’m also including my all time favorite frosting recipe.  For anyone who’s a fan of red velvet, you will love this cream cheese based frosting, so delicious! Even though I cook all the time and bake a lot of muffins and cookies, I really don’t consider myself a baker.  A baker follows the rules, I like to improvise, modify, change on a whim pretty much every recipe I encounter.  I have been working on a variation of this cream cheese frosting for years and my results have mostly been less than outstanding and sometimes even colossal failures. As a lover of healthy food and a conscious eater, the amount of sugar and butter called for in most frosting recipes makes me cringe and let’s not even mention shortening, no, don’t even talk about it.  So I have tried and failed over and over again to make a frosting that’s a little bit healthier than the norm, my results are usually pretty tasty (I mean we are still talking butter, cream cheese and sugar here and sometimes a little mascarpone and/or heavy cream!), but also pretty disastrous. My frostings are usually too runny and my most recent effort for Evan’s 7th birthday was just a horrific lumpy mess (luckily it was just the celebration for our family of four!).  I have to say the lumpy frosting was my worst yet, it started out great, but than Colin said it was a little too buttery tasting than I made a colossal error and I knew it as it was happening and I just couldn’t stop myself…note to all never, ever, ever add cold cream cheese to your frosting mix, never! Enough said.  
Red Velvet Cream Cheese Frosting, yum!

Red Velvet Cream Cheese Frosting, yum!

So, for Evan’s classroom birthday celebration today, I made my perfect go to vanilla cupcakes and I used my dad’s perfect frosting recipe, no modifications whatsoever.  Evan was really concerned about the frosting and told me “please, mommy do not use the lumpy frosting for my class, I’m afraid everyone will hate it and stop going to your blog”.  He is always honest and will always tell you how he feels, just ask Colin’s sister Megan what happens when you buy the wrong color Angry Bird’s blanket for the kid who loved nothing but blue for two years, until he suddenly switched to now favorite color red and no one informed the aunt, it was a priceless moment of honesty no one in our family will forget! I got the point, so I let Evan do a taste test of the frosting this morning before school, he gave me the thumbs up with a big smile on his face, told me it was perfect and that he was so proud of me for making the best cupcakes ever and now finally the best frosting!  This was a happy mom moment to say the least.
Happy 7th Birthday Evan!

Happy 7th Birthday Evan!

I would be remiss if I didn’t state here and now, that my dad is an amazing baker who treats us to some of the tastiest, most beautiful, whimsical and creative desserts ever, if he gives you a recipe for frosting or any other dessert, you do not change a thing and you and everyone around you will be doing a happy dance. Enough said, now on to the recipe…
The Best Vanilla Cupcakes
 with Poppy’s Perfect Cream Cheese Frosting
Author: Jen Jones of SweetGreenKitchen.com
Recipe credits –
Cupcake recipe from Cook’s County Magazine “Easy Birthday Cupcakes” – very slightly modified
My dad’s frosting recipe
Makes 24 cupcakes
Ingredients:
Cupcakes: *
3 cups unbleached all purpose Organic flour
1 teaspoon Baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 extra large organic eggs – at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups organic cane sugar
12 tablespoons ( 1 ½ sticks ) unsalted organic butter – melted and cooled slightly or very, very soft left on the counter on a hot summer day
1 ¼ cups organic buttermilk
Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 pound ( 2 8 ounce packages ) organic cream cheese – NOT low fat or Neufchatel
1 ½ sticks unsalted organic butter
2 ½ – 3 cups powdered sugar – adjust to taste
A good splash of pure vanilla extract
Optional:
food coloring or 1 – 2 Tablespoons of jam (not too much or the frosting will be too runny)
**** NOTE – cream cheese and butter MUST be softened at room temperature – do NOT use cold ingredients or melted butter.
  
Directions:
Cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 325 F. Line two standard cupcake/muffin tins with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and vanilla. Next pour sugar into whisked eggs, continuing to whisk the mixture as you pour the sugar.  Slowly, whisk in the melted or very soft butter into the sugar and eggs.  Once the butter is incorporated, whisk in the buttermilk.
Next, add the flour mix to the wet ingredients, by first whisking in 1/3 of the flour until it’s mostly incorporated, then do the same with the next 1/3.  Lastly, add in the remaining flour and mix to fully combine without over mixing.  This will be a nice thick batter.
Using a spring loaded ice cream scoop (or a small measuring cup), fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full.
Bake in a 325 F oven with the two tins side by side on the center rack for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 5 minutes on a wire rack.  After 5 minutes, turn out the cupcakes onto the wire rack to cool completely, about an hour, before frosting.
Frosting:
In a large glass bowl add the softened cream cheese and butter and mix together with a hand held electric mixer. Mix in the vanilla.  Then slowly mix in powdered sugar about a cup at a time.  With the powdered sugar, start the mixer on the lowest setting and then gradually increase the speed until it is incorporated.  Taste as you go and stop adding sugar once the frosting is sweet enough for you.  IF you wish to color your frosting, add in the food coloring now. Continue to mix the frosting until it’s lighter and fluffy.
If you plan to make the frosting ahead of time, cover and store in the fridge until ready to use, taking it out of the fridge about 10-15 minutes before frosting the cupcakes and remix to lighten it up again.
Frosting can be applied directly to the cooled cupcakes with a palette or for more flourish, piped on.
 * Recipe Notes:
True confessions, even though I said I didn’t modify the cupcake recipe at all, I did make some very minor, slight changes –
Original recipe calls for cake flour, I just use unbleached all purpose. 
Original recipe calls for large eggs, I always buy extra-large so that’s what I use, no problems detected.
The original recipe also does not call for organic ingredients, but that’s what I use and I really think it makes a difference, especially the sugar, organic cane sugar just tastes better to me than bleached white sugar. 
Another note on sugar, as I made this recent batch of cupcakes I discovered at nearly midnight that I did not have enough sugar (this almost never ever happens to me, since I’m a little crazy and always have an extra bag or box of pretty much everything in my pantry at all times!).  So what to do…I subbed in organic brown sugar for about 1/3 of the sugar and the cupcakes came out just as perfect as they always do. 
Enjoy!

 

Buckwheat and Millet gluten free Crepes

Buckwheat & Millet Gluten Free Crepes

Buckwheat & Millet Gluten Free Crepes

Crepes are the perfect breakfast, brunch or anytime of time day treat to make on a leisurely weekend morning.  They are not difficult at all, once you get the hang of it, but it does take some time to get through cooking up all the batter unless you want to line your cook top with multiple pans and start a juggling act.

A stack of buckwheat and millet crepes

A stack of buckwheat and millet crepes

My whole family loves crepes and the kids know it’s a special day when I take the time to whip up a batch.  When I’m thinking ahead, I like to mix up my batter the night before and let it rest overnight, covered in the fridge.  Most crepe batters will benefit from a bit of rest and this one is no different, but hey if you don’t have the time or forethought just let your batter rest for as long as you can and go ahead and cook some up, it’s just cooking it’ll be fine🙂. 

I make these crepes gluten free using buckwheat and millet flours.  I find the combination of the two flours works beautifully together.  Buckwheat has a more assertive flavor and the millet helps to mellow that out a bit.  I also love how the buckwheat gives these crepes a beautiful speckled appearance.  If you can’t find millet flour, you could sub in rice flour (I always use brown rice flour and even some brown rice baby food cereal will do in a pinch). 

Crepes filled with fresh berries and cream

Crepes filled with fresh berries and cream

The wonderful thing about crepes is that they can be filled quite happily with either sweet or savory ingredients and they’re light enough that you could start out eating a savory crepe and finish off your meal with a sweet filled crepe, meal and dessert all in one. 

Savory ricotta and herb filling, fresh berries and raspberry whipped cream

Savory ricotta and herb filling, fresh berries and raspberry whipped cream

For your crepe fillings, you can go as simple as a squeeze of lemon and a little powdered sugar, a smear of jam or Nutella or on the savory side a grating of your favorite cheese (Gruyere is delicious) or even a bit of scrambled eggs.  Or… if you’re feeling a little fancy, whip up some heavy cream with a pinch of sugar and some fresh raspberries or jam for a tasty raspberry whipped cream, so yummy.  On the savory side, I like to mix up a bit of ricotta cheese with a little nutmeg, lemon zest, a grating of Romano cheese and a bit of chopped parsley or fresh thyme, so, so yummy. 

Buckwheat and millet crepes with a savory ricotta and herb filling

Buckwheat and millet crepes with a savory ricotta and herb filling

Crepes with fresh raspberries

Crepes with fresh raspberries

 

Buckwheat and Millet Gluten Free Crepes
Author: Sweet Green Kitchen’s Jen Jones
gluten free, dairy free optional
Makes about 15 crepes
Ingredients:
½ cup buckwheat flour
½ cup millet flour
1 ½ cups soy milk/almond milk or cow milk
3 extra large eggs
2 Tablespoons cane sugar (or less for savory crepes)
Pinch of sea salt
Splash of vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons melted butter plus a little more for brushing the pan
 
Directions:
In a medium mixing bowl add all ingredients except butter. Whisk well to combine.  Cover and allow to rest for 1 hour or overnight (*note I like to make my batter the night before and rest it covered in the fridge).
Once the batter has rested.  Melt the butter, allow to cool a bit and then whisk into batter.  Melt about 1 or 2 teaspoons more butter for brushing the pan.
Heat up a crepe pan or small non stick skillet over a medium-low flame.  Brush the heated pan with melted butter.  Ladle in a small amount of batter, just enough to thinly coat the pan. *Note I pour the batter into the center and then swirl the pan off the heat, to spread and even out the batter.  Allow to cook until the edges start to dry up and curl slightly about a minute or two.  Carefully flip the crepe and cook for about another 30 seconds and then remove to a plate. My first crepe of the day usually breaks, so don’t get discouraged if yours does too, besides torn crepes just make a great sample for the chef🙂
Lightly brush the pan with more butter every crepe or two to prevent sticking and continue making crepes until the batter is gone. *Note, I successfully stack my crepes on top of one another without the need for any paper in between, they do not stick together.  Crepes can be made ahead and re-warmed as needed and will keep in the fridge in an airtight container or zip top bag for several days. Enjoy! 
Buckwheat and millet crepes

Roasted Red Pepper Cashew Cream

Roasted Red Pepper Cashew Cream

Roasted Red Pepper Cashew Cream

I’m a little obsessed with cashew creams, delicious and versatile, sweet or savory, creamy and decadent tasting and oh yeah, did I say, delicious, well it’s worth saying again. 

It’s certainly not low fat, but compared to dairy cream, you’re getting healthy mono unsaturated fat + protein + a bit of fiber, iron & magnesium, not bad. 

Roasted Peppers and Cashew Cream

Roasted Peppers and Cashew Cream

Raw cashews soaked in water for a few hours and then drained and blended with fresh water and whatever flavorings suit your needs results in a silky smooth emulsion and perfect replacement for cream in so many different recipes. 

Cashews blended with roasted peppers, lemon zest and more

Cashews blended with roasted peppers, lemon zest and more

I’ve used it for sweets in this chocolate ganache and raspberry tart and as a savory dressing for this kale salad.  Here I’ve blended my cashews with roasted red peppers for a delicious savory sauce. 

Quinoa Fritters with Roasted Pepper Cashew Cream

Quinoa Fritters with Roasted Pepper Cashew Cream

I love this Roasted Pepper Cashew Cream sauce and find so many delicious ways to use it.  This sauce is perfect for topping a black bean burger, these quinoa fritters, dipping falafel into for a savory snack, or even dolloped on top of a fried egg with rice and greens (my favorite!). 

Eggs and Greens dolloped with Roasted Pepper Cashew Cream

Eggs and Greens dolloped with Roasted Pepper Cashew Cream

This Roasted Pepper Cashew Cream will keep well in the refrigerator for about a week, which is perfect since you’ll find new ways to use it all week long!

 

Roasted Pepper Cashew Cream

Author: Sweet Green Kitchen’s Jen Jones

Vegan, gluten free, dairy free

Ingredients:

½ cup Raw Cashews – soak in water 2-3 hours

1-2 Roasted Peppers – jarred or fresh roasted – chopped

¼ cup Water, a little more if needed

Zest & Juice of ½ Lemon

1 small clove Garlic – peeled and roughly chopped

1 teaspoon Red Pepper flakes

Salt & Black Pepper to taste

Directions:

Start by soaking the cashews for 2-3 hours in water, then drain and rinse.  Add your drained and rinsed cashews to a blender or food processor, then add in the rest of the ingredients.  Blend until you have a smooth and creamy consistency, adding a tablespoon or two more water if needed to get the consistency you like.  Taste and add more seasoning if needed. Enjoy!  

Roasted Red Pepper Cashew Cream

Roasted Red Pepper Cashew Cream

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