Blood Orange-Strawberry Coconut Smoothie

by Amanda Paa on February 26, 2015

Blood Orange-Strawberry Coconut Smoothie {vegan}

There are TONS of great smoothie recipes out there, but I really wanted to share this Blood Orange-Strawberry Coconut frozen delight with you for a few reasons. First being I’ve gotten some answers regarding the health issues I talked about here, which are quite complicated so I’ll save all the details for another post – but thankfully there is hope for healing through food and functional medicine.

One of the foods that I have to say goodbye to for awhile is bananas….. (sad trombone), which meant my standard smoothie routine was going to need a change. I relied on them for potassium, creaminess, and as a natural sweetener in my frozen blends. Time to go back to the drawing board.

Blood Orange-Strawberry Coconut Smoothie (vegan, refined sugar-free)Experimenting wasn’t a problem because……. I got a new kitchen toy, a Blendtec Blender. Eek! For someone who loves to be in the kitchen, there is nothing better than a shiny new appliance.

And side note – after investing a lot of time researching and money into buying an oven & dishwasher earlier this year, I realized how many of us are looking for real life experiences (I don’t like calling them reviews) on how different brands/products actually bake those cookies, boil that pasta or blend that smoothie. The pros/cons, the things you love but aren’t necessary, what you wish you would have known, and if it’s worth the money. We’ve all bought things that didn’t live up to the hype or its 5-star Amazon rating. And even if a product has 1000’s of reviews, how did you dig through them all?

That being said, you may occasionally see me include my real experiences and thoughts about products to help cut through the clutter. I’ll have purchased them on my own or they may be given to me to try, like this blender, the company knowing that I’m going to share my unbiased thoughts. I’m hoping it will be helpful, and if there are certain things you’re particularly interested in, let me know anytime.

Blood Orange-Strawberry Coconut Smoothie (vegan)Now about this creamy, dreamy smoothie. I settled on a combination of juicy fruit, coconut butter, and coconut milk that reminds me of a summer milkshake.

The pops of color bouncing off the mounds of winter citrus at Lakewinds Coop (my favorite!) drew me in hard last week. Organic tangerines, kumquats, grapefruit, meyer lemons….. cutting into them their colors just screamed happiness in the darkness of winter. I used some of the blood oranges for this recipe which bleed a gorgeous magenta hue, and they’re less tart than some of the other varieties. Paired with strawberries and coconut, it took my mind to a Caribbean island, sipping a creamy frozen drink on the beach.

Except I was standing in my kitchen with two layers on and my stocking hat….. So if you want to escape into the tropics and boost your nutrition for the day, my Vegan Blood Orange-Strawberry Smoothie recipe and details on the health benefits are HERE! And special thanks to Lakewinds for supplying all the good-for-you ingredients to make it, especially those delicious maple roasted coconut chips you see in the picture above, which you can buy in bulk – someone stop me now.

My (Awesome) Experience With The Blendtec Designer 675

Blood Orange-Strawberry Coconut Smooth (vegan)I’ve had a Vitamix for about 3 years after hearing everybody gush about it. There weren’t many options in the name of a high speed blender, so I figured I was buying the best, especially with the price tag. But after using it for quite some time, a few things started to bother me. Like it’s tall size that doesn’t store well, difficulty scraping anything out of it because of its narrow sides and big blades, and the fact that my food processor did a better job of blending nut butters than it. Now that’s not to say it didn’t chop, blitz and puree really well, but I guess I was expecting more. So did Blendtec live up to my expectations? Yes! And here’s how —

PowerHOUSE!: I knew this thing had a lot of vroom after reading about it’s 3.1 horsepower (wow, that sounds geeky) but until I put ice in it for the first time I didn’t know what that would result in. In one word – WHOA.  It demolished the ice, into tiny smithereens without any hesitation super, super fast. After pitting the 2.0 horsepower Vitamix against that, the speed was the biggest difference. 

Texture of Finished Recipes: My smoothies and a sauce recipe (that I’ll share soon) came out uber creamy, no lumps or bits of food to be found. And I absolutely love the buttons that let you choose what you are making. The power ramps up and down as needed, along with an automatic shutoff.

Review of the Blendtec 675 Series from a Food BloggerSpace Saver & Weight: Living in a small space, I’m always looking to save on real estate with any product I add to my kitchen. Exactly why I still don’t own a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer. The Blendtec is shorter and stout compared to the Vitamix so it actually fits in my pantry cabinet. And it weighs 4 pounds vs. Vitamix’s 11 pounds – which lessens the chance I will drop it on my foot. :)

Noise: It’s really loud. No way around that when you have that powerful of a motor. But with the results it produces, I don’t mind.

Easy to Clean and Get Every Inch of Deliciousness out of It: Because it has 2 prongs instead of 4 like the Vitamix and has a more square shape instead of rectangle, I find it to be much easier to scrape soups, smoothies, or pestos out of. Your spatula slides against the walls much easier. Nothing irritates me more than when I’ve used expensive ingredients and know that I have to wash 1/4 of them away.

In a Nutshell – Both the Vitamix and Blendtec are high quality, high power blenders. They’ll both make great smoothies, soups and sauces. However, the numberous benefits and effectiveness of the Blendtec beat the Vitamix hands down in my kitchen, and you might just see a listing for mine on Craigslist.

Blood Orange-Strawberry Smoothie : made with coconut milk

12 comments   • • •   as featured in:   Breakfast, Recipe Box, Seasonal, Spring, Summer, Sweets, Winter

Gluten-Free Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

by Amanda Paa on February 10, 2015

Gluten-Free Cut-Out Sugar Cookies for any occasion, light and soft, just sweet enough. 

Gluten-Free Cut-Out Sugar Cookies | recipe
With Valentine’s Day on a Saturday this year, there’s a whole lotta love floating around the entire week. Hugs, kisses, chocolate, roses, sweet notes and homemade treats for the ones you hold near and dear to your heart. I can’t help but embrace occasions like this with baking, it’s a natural way for me to bring a smile to other’s faces and my own.

Gluten-Free Cut-Out Sugar Cookies | recipeI learned at a young age that heart shaped cut-out cookies could were a must during the month of February. My mom and I would make them every year (and she still does). Her job was rolling the dough to thin perfection, mine frosting them with reds, pinks and white, then showering them with sanding sugar and dotting a few with red hots.

I loved the simplicity, hints of vanilla and the powdered sugar glaze that would slightly crack when you bit into one.

Last week I was out thrifting (my latest obsession) and I stumbled upon a set of five heart shaped cookie cutters, still in their original 1980’s William Sonoma tin and a vintage sifter. Immediately memories came flooding back, my mission set on creating gluten-free cut-out sugar cookies so that I could have them once again.

Gluten-Free Cut-Out Sugar Cookies for Valentine’s Day
How to Make Perfect Gluten-Free Cut-Out CookiesThe weekend quickly became filled with flour, butter and happy eggs. Several variations cycled through the oven, until I settled on this recipe. The one that my love said, “why doesn’t everybody eat gluten-free if it tastes like this?”

Gluten-Free Cut-Out Sugar Cookies | with simple white chocolate glazeMade with a combination of all purpose gluten-free flour + almond flour, they rolled out with ease and baked up softly, their edges crisping just a bit.

These aren’t the puffy “lofthouse” style sugar cookies, they’re the kind that are thin and have a soft chew, just like your mom or grandmother probably made. Or if you grew up in a small town like I did, just like the local bakery’s, frosted by hand, one by one.

After testing different flour combinations, the right proportion of almond flour (not almond meal) was key in creating the light texture, balancing the sturdier rice flours & starch in the gf blend.

Gluten-Free Cut-Out Sugar Cookies | with simple white chocolate glazeThe other secret that makes these cookies quite irresistible? The addition of sour cream – not a lot, just 2 tablespoons to keep them from drying out.

To get these to turn out like you see in the pictures, there’s value in the technique. And it’s not hard, you just need to follow it. So here are the important details:

1. Yes, you really should cream the butter and sugar for four minutes. It seems like a lot, but you really need to get the sugar worked into the butter, nearly dissolving it. It will be pale and fluffy.

2. Chill the dough for at least 2 hours, but you don’t have to go any longer than that. There was no difference between chilling them for 2 hours versus overnight in taste, texture or workability.

3. After you roll out your dough and create the shapes, don’t peel the scraps away. First put them in the freezer for 5 minutes, then peel. The dough gets soft while you’re rolling it out so if you try and move the hearts to the baking sheet to soon they won’t hold their shape. The scraps will pull away super easy if the dough is a little frozen.

4. The first batch you stick in the oven will be your time gauge. Since every oven is different and a minute or two with sugar cookies can mean a golden cookie or a “shoot, the cookies!” way too brown cookie, you’ll need to watch them to figure out the timing for your oven, as temperatures can vary even if you set it to 350 degrees.

Gluten-Free Cut-Out Sugar Cookies | with simple white chocolate glazeHappy Valentine’s Day to each of you, sending hugs, happiness and cookies made with love.

Gluten-Free Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

roughly adapted from Martha Stewart
makes about 30 cookies
can make dough up to two days ahead of time and refrigerate until you’re ready to use

235 grams gluten-free flour (with xanthan gum in it, I used Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten-Free Flour)
60 grams almond flour (from blanched almonds, I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup organic cane sugar
½ cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 teaspoon coconut oil

Sift flours, baking soda, and salt into large bowl. Set aside.

In bowl of electric mixer or with a hand mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add egg and vanilla, mix on low to combine. Continuing on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to mixer bowl, alternating with sour cream, until combined. Pack dough together, wrap in plastic; chill until firm, 2 hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Tape a piece of parchment paper on the counter and dust the top of it with flour. Take a large chunk of dough, place it in the middle, cover with a large piece of saran wrap and roll until 1/8 to 1/4 inch. Use cookie cutters to make your shapes, BUT DO NOT PULL AWAY SCRAPS. Move the piece of parchment to your baking sheet with cookies on it, without tearing away the scraps and put in freezer for five minutes.

Remove from freezer and tear away the scraps, then place evenly on the other baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake until just golden but not too brown, about 7-8 minutes. Transfer cookies to rack and let fully cool. Continue with dough; reroll scraps and repeat the process with each batch.

Melt white chocolate chips and coconut oil on medium power, stopping to stir every 30 seconds. Decorate cookies with the glaze and whatever embellishments you’d like.

Gluten-Free Cut-Out Sugar Cookies | heartbeet kitchen

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DIY: Berry Special Valentine's Day Cards with @annieshomegrown organic fruit snacks!Organic Valentine’s Day treats from Annie’s Homegrown and these cute chalk art cards are a fun and healthy option for spreading the love! I appreciate them sponsoring this post and you for stopping by.

I can vividly remember making a Valentine’s Day box throughout grade school, crafting the afternoon away with glue stuck all over my hands, a sea of red and pink construction paper scattered across the floor, funky buttons, and hopeful thoughts that my crush Jamie would address a special little note to me. Always a slight romantic at heart, February 14th was much more important than any Halloween.

DIY: Berry Special Valentine's Day Cards with @annieshomegrown organic fruit snacks!Even now I enjoy creating cards for the special people in my life, usually homemade with love like these Chalk Art cards. When Annie’s Homegrown asked me to partner with them & spread the Valentine’s Day cheer, I spent an afternoon resting my brain and escaping with a little creativity. And I’ll admit, more than one pack of their adorable & organic Berry Patch fruit snacks disappeared while I made these cards….

Organic Fruits Snacks + a Berry Special Valentine's Day Card for kids!Many of my friends are moms and I’ve listened to them talk about the struggle to find gluten-free, nut-free options for their little ones to bring to school. And unlike when we were growing up, homemade treats aren’t allowed. These organic fruit snacks fit the bill, plus they have no high-fructose corn syrup and are Non-GMO certified.

And how cute are the little bunnies? I also added some Burt’s Bee lip balm, a fun non-candy idea for kids (and girlfriends!).

Spread the love with Annie's Organic Fruit SnacksSince doing some chalk art a few weeks ago at the Be Crafty Workshop (so much fun), I thought it would be fun to make cards that utilized the same type of feel. I found everything at Target, including the Annie’s Valentine’s Day Fruit Snacks (the regular berry pouches are available year-round in case you wanted to use them for a birthday party), a one-stop shopping win.

Have fun and Happy Valentine’s Day! xo

What You’ll Need for the Cards

Cut out a medium sized square from your pink card stock that will fit inside your white card stock, leaving about an inch of room on the sides. Write the name of who you are giving the Valentine’s Day Card too on the chalk art stickers, then place at the top of the card. Using tape, affix the fruit snacks and chapstick to the card in the places shown above. Write a berry special message in the blank space and decorate with stickers.

Valentines Day with Annies Homegrown and DIY Chalk Art Cards

#spon: Thanks to Annie’s for sponsoring this post. I’m required to disclose a relationship between my blog and Annie’s Homegrown. This could include them providing me with content, product, access or other forms of payment. All opinions are my own, and I love supporting company’s that I believe in.

14 comments   • • •   as featured in:   Favorite Things, Recipe Box, Seasonal, Winter

Peanut Butter Compost Cookies

by Amanda Paa on February 1, 2015

Chewy peanut butter cookies made with chocolate chips, coconut, crushed Chex cereal & pecans. Use up those bits & pieces hiding in your pantry!

Peanut Butter Compost Cookies | with chopped nuts, cacao nibs, coconut & chocolate chips
Being held captive indoors on super cold days does it have its benefits, like knowing there’s nothing else to do besides the chores you’ve been putting off. For me that includes cleaning out the pantry, rustling up the shrunken vegetables in the refrigerator and tossing the half-used bottles of condiments that “just weren’t that good”.

As I was digging through the baking drawer I found little bits of this and that. Coconut flakes, a handful of chopped pecans, crushed corn Chex in a mason jar (that I had used for gluten-free breadcrumbs), a near empty bag of chocolate chips and some cacao nibs. And then there were three different jars of peanut butter, all opened. Seriously Amanda.

Peanut Butter Compost Cookies | made with chopped pecans, coconut, chocolate chips, cacao nibs & corn chex
Peanut Butter Compost Cookies | gluten-freeLots of sweet components…. I couldn’t let them go to waste, so I convinced myself that making treats from them was being resourceful. I’m calling it “Green” baking.

Certainly all good on their own but completely irresistible when put together in the form of these chewy Peanut Butter Compost Cookies.

They resemble a “grown-up” version of my mom’s monster cookies that she’d make for an after-school snack – hers super peanut buttery and packed with oats, chocolate chips, and M &M’s.

Peanut Butter Compost Cookies | gluten-freePeanut Butter Compost Cookies | heartbeet kitchen [click to continue…]

30 comments   • • •   as featured in:   Fall, Spring, Summer, Sweets, Winter

Winter Curry Grain Salad with Butternut Squash

by Amanda Paa on January 23, 2015

Winter Curry Grain Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash, a bright burst of color and naturally gluten-free.

Winter Curry Pilaf with Butternut Squash & Pomegranates | heartbeet kitchen
I debated whether or not I should post this recipe. Why would anybody want or need another squash recipe – with all the other great ones floating around the internet, and oh I don’t know….. the fact that I have a cookbook full of them?

But after savoring the leftovers for a few days and each time the salad just getting more flavorful, I realized it was a keeper. I owe all of my inspiration to Laurie’s fabulous Wild Rice, Roasted Squash & Kale Salad. Using what I had on hand, this Winter Curry Grain salad is a combination of rice and millet, kale, roasted vegetables and pomegranate seeds dressed in a citrus curry dressing.

It’s nourishing and colorful, hearty yet fresh, and celebrates in-season eating.

Winter Curry Pilaf with Butternut Squash & Pomegranates | heartbeet kitchenAlthough I prefer kabocha and buttercup squash for baking and sturdy red kuri for braising, butternut is a great choice for roasting. Since it has more moisture (and less starch) than other varieties, the high heat dries it out, resulting in more concentrated flavor and helps to sweeten this relatively vegetal tasting squash.

I know pomegranate seeds have been all the rage the past few years, but I’m just starting to use them more. I particularly love adding them to salads and side dishes for their contrasting tartness and crunch. Their garnet color and pretty shape reminds me of jewels.

And this Citrus Curry Dressing…. As I mentioned, the recipe is based on my talented friend Laurie’s. She’s brilliant in the kitchen, and one of my best girlfriends. The only things I changed were to take out the minced red onion because I roasted some for the salad, and I reduced the amount of fresh orange juice because I only had one on hand. I also added cilantro because it brightens the curry even more.

Jeweled Butternut Squash & Curry Grains Salad {gf, vegan}Now that you have a gorgeous salad to put on your menu for next week, whether that be a healthy main dish or leftovers for breakfast with a poached egg, there’s something I feel like I need to talk about.

I haven’t mentioned it to many people, but the last few months have been trying in terms of my health. I’ve been gluten-free for 4 years, after a long time coming. My past includes several autoimmune issues that show in my nervous system and skin issues. Things like severe chicken pox, shingles for the first time when I was in 8th grade and subsequent times thereafter, solar dermatitis, hives if I exercise outside, rashes on my legs & inflammation. I finally figured out the gluten issue when I began to have severe occipital nerve pain (the two large nerves that run on top of your brain) & painful sores all over my scalp. Yuck, I know. And ouch ouch ouch. It was horrible and no one could figure out what was going on. I saw 7 doctors over the course of a year and finally one of them suggested the correlation between gluten/autoimmunity/inflammation.

Cutting out gluten made me feel a lot better, but in the last six months, worsening heartburn, intense headaches and a “I just celebrated my 21st birthday hangover” are what I wake up to nearly every day. It comes with a dull throbbing in my right ear along with inflammation around my forehead and eyes happens frequently. It intensifies immediately after drinking even a sip of alcohol, eating any type of soy, beans or cured meats. Little did I know they have something in common – high levels of histamine.

I was always curious why the hives and solar dermatitis didn’t stop when I cut out gluten, but the occurrences were less. Not fun, but I’ve felt like I could just live with it. However with all of the other symptoms, signs now point to a leaky gut + a histamine intolerance. I’m doing lots of testing with a doctor who specializes in auto-immunity and thyroid issues, hoping to come up with the answer so I can try to start healing.

Jeweled Butternut Squash & Curry Pilaf | heartbeet kitchen Low-histamine and mast cell disorders have not been studied as much here as in the UK. Chris Kesser explains it best by saying,  “Histamine is a biogenic amine that triggers the immune response. A primary cause of histamine intolerance is an overgrowth of certain types of bacteria that make histamine from undigested food, leading to a buildup of histamine in the gut and overwhelming the body’s ability to catabolize the excess histamine. This causes a heightened sensitivity to histamine-containing foods and an increase in symptoms that are commonly associated with allergies.”

So why am I just feeling the effects now? Well, basically our gut & its lining keeps degrading over time if there is an underlying issue. We keep filling “the bucket” and at some point it will overflow, which is what I imagine is happening now. Because there is so little information on it and some of the symptoms can mask themselves as other things, I’m waiting for the test results and doctor’s recommendation.

If it happens to be this, healing of my gut will have to be done through food, because truly food is the best medicine. The low-histamine protocol is similar to AIP, but different because of the high levels of histamine in such things like fermented foods. And in the end, everyone’s triggers are different so it will be a matter of experimenting.

Winter Curry Grain Salad with Butternut Squash & Pomegranate

serves 8, adapted from Relishing It

1 (2 pound, medium size) butternut squash, peeled and cubed into 1/2 inch pieces
½ of a medium red onion, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1 cup long-grain white rice, thoroughly rinsed
1 1/2 cups cooked millet, (about 3/4 cup dry) using this method (about 2/3 cup dry millet)
1 medium bunch of lacinato kale, leaves removed from stems and cut into very fine, thin strips
½ cup of pomegranate seeds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss the squash with 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt, then spread onto a large baking sheet. Toss the red onion with remaining olive oil and salt, then spread onto another baking sheet. Place both in oven, and check on onions after about 8 minutes. Take them out when they are browned and have shrunk. Stir the squash at this time and roasting squash for another 25 minutes, until it can easily be pierced with a fork, but not mushy.

While vegetables are roasting, add the rice to a medium saucepan and cover with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. And cook for about 35 minutes, or until rice is tender, but not mushy. Taste to be sure. Drain rice and return to empty pot. Set on stove and cover, letting steam for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and keep warm.

Add roasted vegetables, kale and cooked millet to a large bowl. Pour hot rice over the top of it and mix all together. Cover with a cloth so that the warmth stays inside and the kale will wilt slightly from the heat. After 5 minutes, stir again and add dressing along with 1/2 of the pomegranate seeds, stirring to combine. Pour onto a platter or nice salad bowl for serving and top with remaining pomegranate seeds. Can be made one day ahead of time, will last for 4 days in refrigerator.

Citrus Curry Dressing (barely adapted from Relishing It)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 teaspoons sweet curry powder
1/4 cup hazelnut or olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a small saucepan, simmer the orange juice until slightly reduced, you should have about 1/3 cup juice. Let cool, then add all ingredients to a tall glass jar and use an immersion blender to puree. It should be creamy and completely uniform. You could do the same with a regular blender too. Will keep in refrigerator for one week.

35 comments   • • •   as featured in:   Fall, Featured Recipes, Main Dish, Recipe Box, Salad, Seasonal, Vegetarian, Winter