Beet Berry Smoothie

Beets in my smoothie? Well, why not since I’ve been blending up spinach, kale, and swiss chard for over a year with my fruits. Only now I’d be moving into another realm of the color spectrum: a rich, jewel-toned magenta. A friend shared a link to this smoothie from the New York Times (thanks Beckie!), and the color of the drink wowed me.

With the weekend farmer’s market only a handful of days away, I decided to attempt this. Come weekend, I scored me a beet–a good-sized one–for only 50 cents. I hope that’s a good deal since I’ve never bought a beet before, never cooked with any before, and never eaten beet in any form before.

My goodness, the jewel-toned magenta color dazzled me as I cut the skin away. Never mind that the root veggie stained my fingers and stained the cutting board. It sure blended into a prettier drink than the dark, dull green of some of my smoothies loaded with leafy greens.

And the addition of orange juice and raspberries? Well, the tartness upped the pucker factor to a tangy level that pleased my taste buds yet had balance from the spoonful of honey. The original recipe calls for yogurt, but I left that out since I had none in the fridge (I subbed one cup of crushed ice instead). Still yummy, but I bet the yogurt would have added a smoothness whereas my smoothie was a bit grainy. Nonetheless, it provided the perfect drink to cool me down on the unusually hot, summer-like day in early March that we experienced over the weekend here in Southern California. Very refreshing (the drink and the sunshine). And healthy, too! Can’t beat that.

Since I only used half the beet, I made another smoothie for breakfast the following day. This time, I added half a lime that I had leftover from dinner the night before plus a banana that was getting a bit too mushy. Love the addition of banana–adds a depth of sweetness that peeks through the tartness of the citrus and berries. Yummilicous!

Beet Berry Smoothie

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NY Times Version

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup mixed frozen berries
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tbsp. granola
  • 1/3 cup diced beet
  • 1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt or low-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tsp. honey or agave syrup
  • 2 or 3 ice cubes

DIRECTIONS

  • Place all ingredients in blender; blend for one full minute. Serve immediately.

My twist on the recipe

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup mixed frozen berries
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 (or whole) freshly squeezed lime
  • 1/3 cup diced beet
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • a large handful of greens: swiss chard, kale, or spinach
  • enough water to thin the smoothie to your liking

DIRECTIONS

  • Place all ingredients in blender; blend for one full minute. Serve immediately.

SOURCE: New York Times

Yogurt Panna Cotta

Quite a few years ago–like maybe a couple decades ago–I dined at Macaroni Grill with a couple friends. We ordered a dessert called panna cotta, which I had never encountered before. It arrived as a perfectly-shaped, smooth white dome drizzled with raspberry sauce. My spoon slid into the custard-like dessert, picking up some of the tart raspberry sauce on the journey back toward my mouth.

H-e-a-v-e-n.

It was love at first bite.

I had never tasted anything so light and so creamy and so dreamy and so elegant. Why had our paths never crossed before?

Not long after, my friend from that evening shared a panna cotta recipe with me when I raved about the dessert from that dinner. I made the recipe once only. I don’t recall how it tasted, but I guess that means it wasn’t scrumptious enough to leave an impression on me. I also had minimal kitchen skills back then, so maybe that had something to do with it. Okay, maybe it had a lot to do with it.

When I chanced upon this particular panna cotta recipe on a food blog, my memories flooded back to that night at Macaroni Grill and my short-lived love affair with the dessert. It was time to reignite the flame.

Plus, I had some Greek yogurt in the fridge in need of use.

And I had exactly one packet of gelatin leftover from a refreshingly fizzy fruit gelatin recipe.

And I had some mixed frozen berries in the freezer to add pizzazz to this treat. I kept it simple and just defrosted the berries, which released enough juice to dress up the dessert.

This all came together easily. And I got to use my cute trifle dessert cups for these.

So, if you are looking for simplicity, elegance, and a dreamy taste, this just might be the dessert for you.

By the way, I only used four trifle cups, but they were big portions. This can definitely be spread amongst more dessert cups. I can envision small juice glasses working well to house the panna cotta if you happen to have some of those in your kitchen cabinets.

Yogurt Panna Cotta

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/4 cups milk (any kind or combo of types should work…I used 3/4 cup whole milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream)
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 — 1/3 cup honey (or sugar)
  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt (hint: strain regular plain yogurt for a few hours to eliminate some water and you’ll have the consistency of Greek yogurt for a lot less money)

DIRECTIONS

Panna Cotta

  1. Place 1/4 cup of milk in a small bowl and sprinkle the packet of gelatin on top. Set it aside while the gelatin becomes moist.
  2. In a saucepan, warm the remaining milk until simmering but not at a full boil.
  3. Add vanilla and 1/4 cup honey; stir and taste. Add more honey if you want a sweeter taste.
  4. Add the gelatin and whisk until it has fully dissolved into the hot milk mixture.
  5. Remove pan from heat and add the Greek yogurt; stir until fully combined.
  6. If using fruit sauce, spoon some into the bottom of the containers you plan to use; set aside the remaining sauce for topping the panna cotta when you are ready to serve it.
  7. Pour panna cotta mix into small glasses, bowls, or ramekins (do this carefully if you have fruit on the bottom to not displace the sauce too much). Cover with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator for 3-4 hours (I found overnight allowed the panna cotta to set more firmly than just a few hours in the refrigerator). The panna cotta will keep well for 2 days.

Fruit Sauce (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries…fresh or frozen)

  • Easy version: defrost frozen berries, which will create some tart juice.
  • Slightly-more-work version: In a small saucepan, warm 1/2 cup of good-quality jam with 3/4 cup fresh or frozen berries. Mix until fully combined and hot. Allow to cool slightly before using.
  • And a bit-more-work version: In a small saucepan, mix 1/4 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch until blended; stir in 1 1/2 cups berries. Bring to boil over medium-high heat; boil 2 minutes or until thickened. If you want some fruit chunks, add 1/2 cup more of berries when mixture cools. (from a very old Family Circle magazine…so old I don’t know the year!)

SOURCE: adapted from Glorious Treats

Burned Chocolate Bundt Cake Revamped into Chocolate Berry Trifle

For once, I decided on simplicity for Christmas dessert, especially since we were journeying about 1 1/2 hours to my sister-in-law’s home for Christmas dinner and the dessert had to sustain travel. A simple chocolate bundt cake dressed up with dark chocolate cinnamon glaze would suffice.

Alas, it wasn’t one of my successful baking days.

When I finally released the cake from the bundt pan, I found the outside had BURNED! Argh!!!

Imagine my frustration even more when I realized the clock read 8:00 pm and it was Christmas Eve.

After I calmed down from several minutes of stress and my mind spinning with thoughts of what I could quickly pull together for dessert, I decided to taste the cake with the hope that it wasn’t too disastrous and the glaze could cover the burn.

Although only a thin layer of the outside was burned and the inside was still moist, the charred taste dominated. Why throw it all away, though–which in my disgust at burning it I sorely wanted to do–when a majority of it was still edible?

I decided to cut off the burned edges and slice it up to make trifles.

Ironically, the first dessert I had contemplated making for the holiday was a Red Berry Trifle made with pound cake and cognac cream (from Ina Garten). So, back to my original plan, then, only now I had to make it work with chocolate cake.

I had to scramble to figure out how to put together a chocolate trifle. I decided to use my triple frozen berries from Costco–choosing the raspberries and blackberries but omitting the blueberries –for the fruit layer. Awhile back I had made blackberry jam (from Giada De Laurentis), so that was ready to spread onto the cake layers. Next was figuring out how to make a chocolate custard, for that seemed like it would coordinate well. Custard required more ingredients and time than pudding, so I opted for a pudding recipe instead. (By the way, custard is the “egg cousin” of pudding because it includes eggs in the recipe; otherwise, the consistency is similar). And finally, I quickly whipped up some sweetened cream to top it all off.

Whew! From disaster comes success.

Chocolate Berry  Trifle

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INGREDIENTS

  • chocolate cake (Bundt cake recipe below)
  • berry jam of choice
  • berries (fresh is best but frozen works, too–just thaw them first)
  • chocolate custard or pudding (recipe below)
  • sweetened whipped cream (recipe below)
  • chocolate shavings for garnish

DIRECTIONS

  1. Cut cake into 1/2-inch thick slices. Spread each slice with jam. Layer in bottom of large trifle dish or individual trifle cups.
  2. Spread a layer of berries on top of cake slice.
  3. Spread a layer of pudding over berries.
  4. Repeat as needed.
  5. Finally, add a dollop of whipped cream. Garnish with sprinkles of chocolate.

Chocolate Espresso Bundt Cake with Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Glaze

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INGREDIENTS

Cake

  • 8 oz. butter (2 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup high quality Dutch Process Cocoa
  • 1 tbsp. instant espresso powder dissolved into 3/4 cup water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (I used Kosher)
  • optional: 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Glaze

  • 4 oz. high-quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 tsp. light corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

DIRECTIONS

Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place oven rack in the middle position.
  2. Grease and flour a 10-12 cup bundt pan.
  3. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-heat; add cocoa, stirring until smooth (I sifted cocoa first; this makes blending it with butter easier).
  4. Whisk in espresso and water mixture and remove from heat.
  5. Add the sugar, whisking until dissolved, about one minute.
  6. Add sour cream, vanilla, and eggs; whisk until smooth.
  7. Add baking soda and salt; whisk.
  8. Add flour (sift it first); whisk until well blended (batter will be thin and bubbly).
  9. Fold in chocolate chips.
  10. Pour batter into prepared pan. Tap pan a few times on counter to eliminate bubbles. Bake for 40-45 minutes–until it feels firm to the touch and has slightly pulled away from sides of pan…or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Carefully loosen the cake with a knife and invert onto a large plate. Cool completely before glazing.

Glaze

  1. Place chocolate, butter, corn syrup, and cinnamon in a medium heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water.
  2. Stir the mixture using a rubber spatula until melted and smooth.
  3. Pour warm glaze over bundt cake.
  4. Keep covered in a cake-keeper at room temperature for up to 4 days.

SOURCES: adapted from Sweetapolita (awesome cakes on her site!) and Merry Gourmet

Chocolate Pudding

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INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • whipped cream, for garnish when serving

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a medium bowl, stir together sugar, cornstarch, and salt; set aside.
  2. Combine milk and vanilla in medium saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat until small bubbles form around the edges.
  3. Add chopped chocolate to saucepan and stir with spatula until chocolate is melted, 1-2 minutes. (The chocolate may appear slightly specked and not completely melted. It will smooth out later.)
  4. Ladle about a quarter of the warm milk mixture into the bowl with the sugar mixture; whisk until smooth. Whisk in the remaining milk mixture. Return entire mixture to saucepan over medium heat. Continue to cook, stirring with spatula, until mixture bubbles and thickens. Be sure to scrape bottom and sides of pan so mixture does not burn.
  5. Continue to cook until mixture is very thick, about 2 minutes. (To test, run a finger through the mixture on the back of a spatula–it should leave a distinct trail.)
  6. Divide the pudding between 6-8 serving dishes. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Let cool 30 minutes, then transfer to the refrigerator to chill and set completely, at least 2 hours. Remove plastic wrap, top with whipped cream as desired, and serve.

SOURCE: Annie’s Eats

Sweetened Whipped Cream

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place the cream, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
  2. Whip on medium speed until mixture begins to thicken, then switch to high speed until the cream just forms still peaks.
  3. Chill and serve cold.

SOURCE: Food Network (Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa)

Baked Oatmeal

How about a change of pace from the dessert recipes? Let me share an easy and healthy breakfast dish: Baked Oatmeal. Yes, it takes awhile to bake in the oven, but it results in thick, creamy oatmeal balanced with the sweetness of bananas and the tartness of berries…oh, and the crunch of nuts, too. Overall delish dish.

I buy bags of frozen mixed berries from Costco and use those in the recipe. I love the variety of blueberries and raspberries and blackberries–lots of tart tastes poppin’ in the mouth. If you don’t have maple syrup, use regular instead. And I buy oats from the bins at Sprouts or Whole Foods.

This would make a fun holiday breakfast in case you want something different. Best part: it’s on the healthier side!

Baked Oatmeal

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, lightly toasted, divided (I use 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (I have used regular syrup, too)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2-3 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen), divided (I use up to two cups and I used mixed berries)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine oats, half of the nuts, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt; stir to combine.
  3. In a liquid measuring cup, combine the syrup, milk, egg, butter, and vanilla.
  4. Spread the sliced bananas in a single layer over the bottom of the baking dish, followed by half of the berries. (I’ve also made this in individual ramekins instead of one big dish.)
  5. Sprinkle the dry oat mixture over the fruit in an even layer.
  6. Pour the liquid ingredients evenly over the oats.
  7. Sprinkle with remaining nuts and berries.
  8. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top is browned and the oats have set.
  9. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

SOURCE: Annie’s Eats via The Curvy Carrot who got recipe from the cookbook Super Natural Every Day