Strawberry Banana Peanut Butter Smoothie

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when it comes to your diet, there’s no such thing as a “detox.” Your liver and kidneys serve as your body’s built-in detoxification system, and there’s not much you can do to make them function better.

That being said, on this day after Thanksgiving, we could probably all use a “detox” in the sense of something light and healthy to get back on track after the inevitable holiday indulgence. A smoothie is my snack of choice after mashed potatoes, gravy, pumpkin pie…and pizza. (No, my family Thanksgiving tradition doesn’t involve pizza. It’s just that when you eat dinner at 3:00 PM, you get pretty hungry by about 9:00.) Though I thoroughly enjoyed every bite of all those foods, the key to health is balance, so I’m leaning toward the skinny side of the food spectrum today.

This Strawberry Banana Peanut Butter Smoothie is inspired by the Chunky Strawberry Bowl at Jamba Juice. Strawberries, banana, peanut butter, and oats may sound like an odd combination, but from the first time I tried the Jamba Juice version, I was hooked. There’s something almost comfort food-like about the sweetness of the fruit blended with wholesome oats and stick-to-your-ribs peanut butter. I’ve been recreating it at home for awhile now.

When it comes to making your own smoothie instead of going to Jamba Juice, there are a couple of distinct advantages: 1.) you won’t pay a whopping $7.15 for it, and 2.) it doesn’t have to set you back 570 calories when all you want is a snack. Plus, on Black Friday, you don’t have to leave your house. That’s my kind of detox. 🙂

Wishing you a delightful remainder of your Thanksgiving weekend!

 


Print Recipe
Strawberry Banana Peanut Butter Smoothie
Fruity and filling, this smoothie is a healthy snack choice!
Course Beverage, snack
Servings
smoothies
Course Beverage, snack
Servings
smoothies
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

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Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

When it comes to Christmas, I am big on tradition. Really, when it comes to any holiday. There were beloved holiday experiences that repeated themselves every year when I was growing up–like gingerbread house parties, for example–and now, as a parent, I am strongly committed to instituting and observing traditions for my own family. They certainly don’t have to be the same traditions that I grew up with (I mean, dressing up like clowns for Easter is kind of weird, right?) as long as they are wholesome and relatively easily repeatable.

You may think, “Sure, traditions are fun, but they’re not that big a deal.” I believe, though, that they are a big deal because of two things they create: family unity and family identity. As for unity, when we all enjoy the same activities together year after year, it can only bring us closer to each other. As for identity, having a sense of family personality is crucial. In a world where the family gets less and less respect, we have to try that much harder to instill in our children the conviction that family is fun, positive, and–perhaps most relevant to observing traditions–unique. As my kids go out into the world, I want them to know what it means to be a Garone. I hope they come to believe it means being creative, hospitable, and community-oriented (and also appreciating Dr. Doofenschmirtz from Phineas and Ferb as the most underrated cartoon villain of all time). And when my kids grow up, I want them to recall lovingly the great times we had together and ultimately pay that forward to their own families.

This peppermint hot chocolate has become one of our Christmastime traditions, sipped alongside watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Something about these two activities in conjunction has worked its way into the fabric of our family lore. It’s been years since I switched from packaged mix to homemade hot chocolate, and somewhere along the line started adding peppermint extract to it to give it a special holiday flair. My daughter, middle son, and I think it’s spectacular. Creamy, richly chocolatey, and of course, perfectly pepperminty. The other two members of our household prefer the original version. Now we live in a House Divided: the Peppermints and the Originals. (Maybe one Christmas we should get team jackets with our preferences written on them, a la the T-Birds and the Pink Ladies from Grease.)

peppermints

originals

How’s that for family identity?

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

So whatever your family traditions at Christmastime, may I suggest making this delightful hot drink one of them? I hope it adds to your family’s sense of unity and identity. Grinch viewing optional.

 

Print Recipe
Peppermint Hot Chocolate
Course Beverage
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Course Beverage
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, combine the cocoa powder, sugar, and pinch of salt. Stir in hot water.
  2. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Simmer and stir for 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in milk and heat until very hot, but not boiling. Remove from heat and add vanilla and peppermint extract.
  4. Distribute evenly into 4 mugs and stir 1 Tbsp. half and half into each. Top with whipped cream, if desired.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Allrecipes.

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Blackberry Lime Mezcal Refresher

Blackberry Lime Mezcal

Last month my husband, my three kids, and I took what I am tempted to call our First-Ever Family Vacation. See, we’ve been on numerous trips all together in the past–Disneyland, Legoland, Catalina Island, Chicago–but they were just that: “family trips.” As a wise friend once told me, “When your kids are young, you don’t go on family vacations. You go on family trips.” “Family trip” meaning “you’ll need a vacation from your vacation.” But, to my delight, my children have now reached an age where we can all go on a trip and come home feeling relaxed and satisfied. This was the case with our wonderful time in Rocky Point, Mexico.

Over the four days we spent south of the border, we enjoyed a gorgeous view from our condo’s terrace,

terrace view

lounged on Sandy Beach,

beach

and, since we were there over our anniversary, celebrated by drinking copious amounts of Mexican alcohol–my husband I, that is, not the kids.

wine on the terrace

Wine on the terrace

Pina coladas

Pina coladas!

People had of course told us that food and drinks in Mexico are insanely inexpensive, but I was not prepared for the extreme dirt-cheapness of Mexican alcohol. It was like if Wal-Mart rolled back their prices and just kept on rolling. And that’s how I ended up with a $4 bottle of mezcal. Actually, backstory: I ended up with a $4 bottle of mezcal because it looked fancy and I thought it might be tequila but was afraid to ask. (I can say several things in Spanish, but “what is this liquor and why is it so cheap?” is not one of them.) So I just dropped it in the basket along with my mini flan cups and lime-flavored mayo and headed to the register.

Blackberry Lime Mezcal

Once a Google search revealed that this mysterious bottle with the agave plant picture on it was actually a variety of mezcal, I was stumped. What’s mezcal, and what do you do with it, especially when you are now the proud owner of a rather large bottle of it? Fortunately, I came across the idea for this cocktail: the refreshing flavor mix of blackberries, lime, and agave mixed with the smoky taste of the mezcal.

If Starbucks ever wants to add alcohol to any of their “refresher” drinks, I’m sending them this recipe. It’s light, sweet, and a little different. For me, it brings up happy memories of a Mexican family vacation…and cheap Mexican liquor. I’d be happy to return to Rocky Point for more of both.

Blackberry Lime Mezcal

Blackberry Lime Mezcal Refresher
(Inspired by The Drink Blog)

Ingredients:

4 blackberries, plus more for garnish, if desired
3/4 oz. lime juice
1/2 oz. honey or agave nectar
2 oz. mezcal
ice

Directions: 

  1. In the bottom of a 1-cup measuring cup, mash blackberries until no large pieces remain. Add lime juice, honey or agave nectar, and mezcal and stir well.
  2. Pour mixture over a fine-mesh strainer into an old-fashioned glass filled with ice, pressing down on blackberry pulp to extract as much juice as possible. Discard blackberry pulp. Garnish with additional blackberries, if desired.

Serves 1.

Pumpkin Pie Smoothies

SONY DSC

With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming before we know it, we’re rounding the corner on the season of excesses. Some excesses delicious and worth it (PIE PIE PIE), others less so (canned-soup-soggy green bean casserole, perhaps?). And as we as a society chow down on a parade of turkey and casseroles and pies, we can also be sure another type of food will be paraded before us: so-called “detox” foods. You’ve seen them featured on Pinterest and the pages of magazines. Detox smoothies! Detox teas! Detox watermelon-broccoli salad! Having taken several classes on nutrition and biology, the idea of detoxing kind of drives me nuts. “Why, Sarah?” you may ask. “Shouldn’t we cleanse our bodies of unhealthy toxins? Shouldn’t we have squeaky clean colons that flap in the breeze?” Well, yes and no. (Yes to being healthy; no to flapping colons.)

SONY DSC

Today I came across an excellent article that explains why the idea of detoxifying our bodies is essentially a myth. In it, Edzard Ernst, professor emeritus of complementary medicine at Exeter University, says there are two definition of “detox”: one, the medically respected term that refers to when people are treated for life-threatening addictions. The second: “the word being highjacked by entrepreneurs, quacks, and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated.” (Could I love that quote more? No, I could not.) In essence, say Ernst and other experts, our bodies already possess their own detoxification process—also known as your kidneys, liver, and lungs. These organs work constantly to filter and excrete the things we don’t need, can’t use, or are harmful. There is nothing you can do, eat, or drink to make already healthy organs function better. So the idea of a kale smoothie or cucumber water atoning for the epic helping of roast beast you ate is pretty silly. The smoothie might be good choice, containing some great fiber and nutrients, but it won’t wash anything away that your body’s organs aren’t already working their hardest to process—(and it won’t change the fact that you ate 38 gingerbread cookies on Christmas Eve). The best—dare I say only?—way to have a healthy body is to maintain healthy habits like eating well and staying active.

All that being said, I have a smoothie recipe to share with you. I could call it “detox.” I could call it “skinny.” I could call it “clean eating.” But for the sake of honesty, I’m just going to call it a really yummy (and pretty healthy) pumpkin pie-flavored smoothie. Made with wholesome ingredients like pumpkin, banana, and Greek yogurt, it’s a great way to enjoy the flavors of pumpkin pie on the lighter side. It might make a delicious healthy breakfast Thanksgiving morning, when you’re trying to save your calories for later in the day. I’ve even had it as part of a light lunch. It won’t flush your body of mysterious toxins or scrub out your intestines, but it will make for a cold, creamy, cinnamon-y snack or treat in the midst of seasonal excess.

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Pumpkin Pie Smoothies
(Adapted from Gimme Some Oven)

Ingredients:

1/2 c. canned pumpkin
1/2 c. plain Greek yogurt
1 c. low-fat milk (or almond milk)
2 Tbsp. maple syrup or honey
1 frozen banana
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 c. ice cubes
whipped cream, if desired for topping

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. Garnish with whipped cream, if desired.

Caramel Apple Sangria

Caramel Apple Sangria

This is a momentous post: it’s A Love Letter to Food’s first alcoholic beverage! And my first alcoholic beverage–today! (Just kidding.) It’s actually sort of odd that I’ve never featured any cocktails or other alcoholic drinks on the blog, as I’m not opposed to them and enjoy creative combinations of alcohol and mixers. It’s just that, because of my cheapness discerning palate I tend to stick with my favorite wine: Chardonnay. (As in, whatever Chardonnay is not over 5 bucks at the grocery store.) But fortunately for me, this three-ingredient, couldn’t-be-easier Caramel Apple Sangria can be made with Chardonnay–or really any white wine, depending on your sweetness preference.

Caramel Apple Sangria

There’s a reason I *had* to make this sangria. For Halloween, we’ve invited some of our neighbors to join us on our front porch to pass out candy together. (We’re basically trying to be the most desirable trick-or-treating house on the block. A one-stop candy shop, if you will.) Apparently, before we moved to this neighborhood, the former owners of our home used to do this every year…and from what I hear, lots of wine was involved. When we arrived on the street, I think there was some disappointment that we didn’t continue the tradition! So now, almost five years later, we decided it would be fun (and really, a pretty easy entertaining event) to resurrect it. Invitations have been sent, and neighbors will arrive for drinks, dessert, and candy passing at 6:30.

The dessert menu will include brain cupcakes,

Brain cupcakes

You can’t see it, but there’s a blood clot (i.e. pie cherry) inside each one.

chocolate-orange pinwheel cookies,

Chocolate Orange Pinwheel Cookies

and a pumpkin streusel pie. As for the drinks, there will certainly be wine, but I thought I’d jazz up the occasion by adding this sangria….meaning, of course, that I had to test it out before I could serve it to guests. (Right?)

Caramel Apple Sangria

I love the idea that sangria is a cocktail that can be modified to suit any season. It’s seasonal drinking to go along with seasonal eating! It might be an insurmountable challenge to make a sangria with everyone’s favorite fall flavor of pumpkin, but it’s pretty easy to make one with apples. So easy, in fact, that this recipe only calls for three ingredients: apples, white wine, and something I didn’t know existed until last week–caramel apple sparkling cider.

Caramel Apple Cider

It’s almost like it’s crying out to be put into sangria.

Caramel Apple Sangria

Dump all three things in a pitcher, stir, and you’re good to go. I shared my trial run with my friend across the street, and we both approved. So if you’re spending Halloween night with (grown-up) friends, try something a little different and give this delicious, super-simple cocktail a shot Or, you know, a glass.

Caramel Apple Sangria
(Inspired by A Night Owl Blog)

Ingredients:

2 large apples, any variety (one red and one Granny Smith makes for a nice color combo)
1 750-ml bottle white wine
1 bottle Caramel Apple sparkling cider

Directions:

  1. Chop apples into 1/2-inch chunks and place in a large pitcher.
  2. Pour white wine and sparkling cider over apples and stir to mix. Keep refrigerated or serve immediately.