A Quick Pumpkin Smoothie

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My breakfasts are pretty routine, but certainly driven by the season.  Summer=cold breakfast, winter=hot breakfast.  Fall and spring get a little muddled. While eggs of some kind are always an option (I think I ordered eggs and fries 90% of the times that we visited the after-9pm eatery on campus during my college years–no meal is better at 1am), but eggs do take a little bit more cook time.  This is mostly due to the fact that we do not own a toaster.  Since we freeze our GF bread, thawing and toasting is pretty much a requirement.  Also, the last thing I want to do is start off my morning with multiple dirty pans.  So eggs require shifts: toast, then bacon or sausage if we want, then eggs in the same pan; and these shifts take just a minute or two more than I can spare on most days.  Oatmeal can easily be changed up with different add-ins, keeping breakfast interesting.  I don’t often have cold cereal in the house, but if we have it, it works on the fly.  Though I almost always prefer a hot breakfast, I can sometimes manage a cold one if it is served alongside hot coffee.  I need something hot to eat/drink in the mornings, even in the blazing summer.  When I can manage a cold breakfast, yogurt and smoothies are my favorite.  I can occasionally pack some spinach into my smoothies, but my poor, little 5-year-old magic bullet blender has certainly seen better days.  Of late, I’m usually left with diced spinach in some fruit goop.  Not especially appetizing.  I have had great success with avocado and cucumber smoothies, but I haven’t taken the time to snap a photo.  Lately though, if I am looking for some vegetable matter blended into breakfast, it is coming in squash and sweet potato form.  I’ve already baked both into muffins.  When I can put the same with some milk, spices, grains, nuts, and seeds, and have it taste eerily like a dessert: game on.  This smoothie, just like every other pumpkin smoothie on the web, taste like pumpkin pie.  But, this has the award for being one of the only smoothies containing oats or nuts that I have found palatable.  I’m not big on graininess that usually accompanies these ingredients as they enter the smoothie realm.  Here, both ingredients contribute the “crust” flavor, and, when well-blended, boost the thick, creamy texture of this drink.

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Pumpkin Pie Smoothie 

Serves: 1 | Prep: 2-3 minutes | Cook: —

  • 1/2 c. pureed pumpkin, frozen*
  • 3/4 c. milk or yogurt (non-dairy is fine)**
  • 1 Tbsp. ground flax seed
  • 1-2 tsp. chia seeds
  • 1-3 tsp honey, agave, sugar, maple syrup or molasses (my favorites here), to taste
  • 1-2 Tbsp. chopped pecans, optional
  • 2-4 Tbsp. GF rolled or instant oats, uncooked
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. ginger, ground
  • dash turmeric***
  • dash salt
  • ice cubes*

*A frozen element creates that frothy delicious texture I’m looking for in smoothie.  If the pumpkin is frozen, you will not need the ice cubes.  Vice versa, add the ice if you pumpkin is refrigerated or at room temperature.

**Using yogurt will create a much thicker smoothie.  You may have to add some liquid (water or milk) to thin to your desired consistency.

***I am working on sneaking more turmeric into my diet in every possible way–so whenever a recipe calls for ginger, I add a dash or two of turmeric as well.

Add ingredients to blender in order listed.  Blend well, pulsing several times then blending for 1-3 minutes until smooth.  If intolerant to oats, replace with additional half Tablespoon of flax seed and additional teaspoon chia seed.   Blend well, then allow smoothie to rest for 5 minutes, then blend again for 30 seconds.  The flax seed and chia seeds will help to thicken the smoothie without oats.


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The Best Asian Pan Sauce

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I thought about calling this post “The Little Asian Pan Sauce That Could…Be Put on Everything”.  But ultimately, I thought simple was better, because this sauce is exactly that: simple.  And, yet, it is extraordinarily delicious on everything I have brushed it onto: chicken, shrimp, pork, pineapple, roasted vegetables.  These photos are from the beginning of the summer, before the camp craziness, but I have made this sauce several more times throughout the past weeks.  Even after an 11-hour work day, the fifteen minutes spent to create this sauce were well worth it.  Though I rarely remembered to take photographs over the last seven hectic weeks, I still have a respectable list of recipes (and even a craft or two) waiting to be posted.  But this sauce tops the list.

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Camp is an interesting time in my life.  I keep hoping that I will be better adjusted each time that summer rolls around, but even after three years, camp is the sprint of my occupational race.  This year, with our move, we were up by 5:30am to walk the dog, pack breakfast, dress and get out the door to beat traffic.  M’s schedule had him outside for five hours of the day, and running around in between.  My schedule had me warming-up, stretching, dancing, writing, filming, improvising, acting, blocking, and directing 30 teenagers for seven hours straight, before joining M for the final hours outside.  Besides the physical energy needed to keep up with our campers, the mental energy needed also surprises me.  We are monitoring allergies and health issues, and students’ preferences, behavior, and participation.  We are leaders, mediators, teachers, and examples, whether we are behaving correctly or not.  Especially with teenagers, the moment that their teachers disengage in an activity, their interest is lost, as well.  We eat with the students and take breaks with them; every moment between when they step out of their car, until they climb back in, is under our eyes.

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So I suppose it isn’t so surprising that camp, while exhilarating, entertaining, and uplifting; is also entirely draining.  Though I jumped at the chance to participate in any opportunities for stretching during the camp day, I come out of camp craving long walks and yoga.  I find myself needing a nap by midday, and still climbing into bed early each night.  I yearn for the contemplative time spent kneading gnocchi dough, simmering soups, and slow-roasting vegetables.  I need to savor the meditative smells of rising yeast bread, caramelizing onions, and fresh-chopped herbs.  The end of camp sends me running to the kitchen and also induces cravings for the heartier, slower autumn dishes, in spite of the August heat.  Luckily, butternut squash is already starting to appear in our farmer’s markets, and the summery tomatoes and peppers lend themselves towards these fall flavors as well.  I’m alternating between long, involved dishes and quick sautés and stir-fries as I settle into this self-imposed time of renewal.  I’m looking forward to my mornings of walking and yoga, with more slow-paced stretches of work before I come to evenings of cooking, writing, and learning.  I finally have time to truly delve into my Lynda.com subscription, and I am very excited at the variety of program tutorials waiting for me.

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I suspect that this Asian sauce will be showing up in my kitchen again, very soon.  The full flavor, so simply made, is too perfect to ignore.  I hope you will make some, too!  Let me know what you try it on–I’ve yet to be disappointed.  Shrimp may be my favorite meat to glaze with this sauce, but it was absolute divine on the peppers and pineapple in these skewers.

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Asian Pan & Glazing Sauce

Adapted from Bonefish Grill

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 minutes | Cook time: 10 minutes

  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. finely minced ginger
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 3 Tbsp. gluten-free tamari*
  • 1/4 c. + 1 Tbsp. ketchup
  • 1/2 c. gluten-free oyster sauce**
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 2 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 2-3 Tbsp. honey or agave nectar (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp.-1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1-2 tsp. sriracha sauce (optional)

*Please always check labels.  The vast majority of tamari used to be gluten-free, but I am finding more and more that contain gluten.  San-J is a reliable gluten-free brand.

**Wok-Mei makes a gluten-free oyster sauce.  For vegetarians/vegan readers: several veg. brand are available.  Lee Kum Kee’s Vegetarian Oyster Sauce is, in fact, vegan, but contains wheat.  Please let me know if you find a reliable Gluten-free AND Vegan Oyster sauce.

Saute ginger and garlic in the olive oil in a small saucepan.  In a separate bowl, whisk together tamari, ketchup, oyster sauce, lime juice, vinegar, and honey/agave.  Once ginger and garlic is fragrant (1-2 minutes) and just barely beginning to brown, add sauce mixture.  Bring to a boil, turn down heat, and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Stir in red pepper flakes and sriracha sauce.  Remove from heat.  Sauce will thicken as it cools.  If too thick, add up to 1 Tbsp. of warm water.

Brush sauce onto grilling or frying meats and vegetables, basting with every turn.  Or, use as a marinade.  Sauce will keep in tightly-sealed container in the fridge for up to one week.


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Skillet Shrimp Scampi

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I feel like its been ages since I’ve posted.  I’m not sure what it is about the last ten days that seem to be double…maybe because I have so many dishes to share!  I’vr been on a bit of a creative kick lately, trying all sorts of new dishes for dinner.  A few are old familiar favorites that I haven’t gotten around to sharing on here yet, while others are some new, “scary” recipes. In fact, I have a quick and simple fajita recipe and a risotto recipe in the line-up, but last night I made this shrimp scampi and it was just too good to wait.  We’ve had a bag of raw shrimp in the freezer for a couple of weeks and I’ve been waffling about how I was going to use them.  Mostly due to the pictures I’ve seen on Pinterest, I had narrowed it down to a sweet-and-tangy skewered option or a more classic butter-based sauce.  Since skewers = grill in my mind and it has been absurdly cold the past few weeks: the grill was out.  Plus, I have some lemons to use up.  I thought that I would combine the inspiration from a few different recipes:  again and again things like white wine, butter, lemon, and garlic were added to shrimp, though (purely happenstance) never all of them together.  I figured if they all were paired with shrimp one way or another, they would all be good together.

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And they were.  Because white wine+butter+lemon+garlic+shrimp=shrimp scampi in it’s most basic sense.  Yes, I made a classic recipe without quite knowing it.  Laugh away.  I did!  I thought I was riffing on scampi–some new dish that was close but just different enough.  Instead, I recreated the basic idea perfectly.  I’m sure I’ve come across recipes for shrimp scampi before, and that was part of the reason those ingredient rang as “right” in my brain.  I may have even tasted it, but, truth be told, my preference for shrimp (beyond cold and covered in cocktail sauce) only started to grow shortly before I stopped eating gluten.  I’m not sure if I have ever had scampi tossed with pasta.  I hardly thought of that option when I was prepping for dinner.  I was bright lemon, zesty garlic, and glorious butter in a sauce that would coat the shrimp, pooling at the bottom of the bowl to be sopped up with french bread.  And that is exactly what I did.

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I think the sauce would have been delicious on my own Gluten-Free French Bread, but I didn’t have the time after work to commit to the hour-long bake time.  I wanted shrimp and I wanted it fast.  I grabbed Against the Grain baguettes, my favorite store-bought gluten-free baked good.  I knew that the decadent baguettes, made from tapioca starch, cheese, and eggs would be a perfect pairing with the butter sauce.  The insides of these baguettes remind me of popovers–soft, springy, and rich.  They were perfect!  I made a quick salad from a lettuce mix (spinach, radicchio, chard, and romaine) with a hefty portion of kale, topped with red onion, tomato, cucumber, carrots, and red pepper and mixed together a quick pepper-parmesan dressing to top the hearty greens.  I’ll post the salad dressing soon, it was delicious and quick and very easy to halve or double depending on how many you are serving.

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But onto the main event!  I thawed the shrimp completely while I prepped the salad and the dressing.  Then I tossed the baguette in the oven to warm up as I turned on the stove to medium-high under a large saucepan.  I added about a teaspoon of olive oil, just enough to coat the pan and let that heat before I added the shrimp in a single layer.  Be careful not to crowd the pan too much.  I had a very large pan and just managed to fit my shrimp in with a sliver of space between them.  Cook the shrimp for 2-3 minutes, until the downward side turns pink and the color begins to creep around the tail onto the raw side facing up.  Flip the shrimp and cook for another 2 minutes, until the shrimp are firm and completely pink.  A bit of color off the pan is fine, but keep the cooking time short, so they don’t get rubbery.

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Remove the cooked shrimp from the pan and add the lemon slices.  The juice will begin to sizzle.  Let the lemons cook for about 30 seconds, until they are fragrant.  Add the white wine to the pan and scrape the bottom with your spatula to help deglaze and get all of the tasty bits off the pan and into your sauce.  Be gentle with the lemons as you scrape the pan.  Once the wine has settled (it should bubble pretty furiously when you first add it to the pan), add your butter, olive oil, and garlic, stirring gently until the butter melts.  Cook for one minute more, then add your shrimp back in.  Stir the shrimp to coat completely, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then remove the pan from the heat.  I pour all of the shrimp into one large bowl, or you can portion them onto plates.  Just make sure that each individual gets a healthy dollop of the remaining scampi sauce.  Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and serve immediately, with lots of bread!

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Skillet Shrimp Scampi

Serves 4.  Prep time: 5 minutes / Cook time: 10 minutes

  • 1 1/2 lb jumbo uncooked shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • 1 lg lemon, sliced into 1/4 in slices
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced into a fine paste
  • 1/4 c. white wine
  • 1/4 c. butter
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • chopped parsley

Coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat.  Add shrimp and cook about 2-3 minutes, until the pan side turns pink.  Flip shrimp and cook for another two minutes, until firm and completely pink all the way through.  Remove shrimp from pan.  Add lemon slices and cook for about 1 minute, until fragrant.  Add white wine to deglaze, stirring and scraping the pan.  Add butter, garlic, and olive oil, mixing thoroughly.  Cook the sauce for one minute more, then add shrimp back into pan.  Toss to coat in sauce.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and parsley.  Serve immediately.