Purple Smoothie

Purple SmoothieDid you know that foods that are naturally purple (like blueberries or acai berries) are exceptionally high in antioxidants are therefore are super good for you? It’s true. Back in 2010 when I first began my weight loss journey, before I discovered juicing, I would have a purple smoothie every morning with a slice of cinnamon raisin Ezekiel bread. It is such a good breakfast. In fact I may just have to start doing it again.

Blend all of the ingredients below in a magic bullet or whatever blender system you have. I specify the Sambazon variety of acai berry juice because this is the brand they carry at Costco – it’s 2 bottles for $10, whereas one bottle will run you around $7 at Whole Foods. I also get all my frozen berries at Costco. Usually I buy one of their huge bags of frozen strawberries and either frozen blackberries or whatever berry blend they have available. It lasts for weeks and is such a good bang for your buck. As far as bananas go, the more ripe the better. If you like your smoothies extra thick and cold you can freeze the bananas once they’re ripe and add them to  your smoothie that way. At the end of the day, it’s your smoothie, so put in whatever you like – I’d love to hear your variations!

The Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup Sambazon acai berry juice
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 fresh or frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen blackberries or blueberries
  • 1 large frozen strawberry
  • 1 generous squeeze of honey
  • 1 tbsp fresh ground flaxseed
  • pinch of old fashioned rolled oats
  • dash of vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp Greek yogurt (optional)

Now I am not an advocate of protein powders and the like because at the end of the day they are super processed products that your body will have trouble digesting. However, if you must, this smoothie will be a perfect vehicle for that or any kind of powdered or liquid supplement you take.

Blueberries in February…?

Raw Blueberrry JamAm I the only one who has been baffled by the mass quantities of cheap blueberries available in the middle of winter? A little poking around the internet tells me that they are apparently from Chile, which has turned into a mega producer and exporter of the little blue fruit. I suppose I should be suspicious of this new “global market” we’re living in and be cautious of what effect purchasing this product has on our planet… but I really love blueberries…. and they’re so cheap… and sooo goooooddddd……

These days when I am presented with a quantity of cheap blueberries, they wind up in my morning juice. Not only are they sweet and incredibly flavorful, they have more antioxidants than any other food on the planet – what better way to start your day? Still, I can’t help but wonder what other creative applications I can use on these amazing little berries. Being a lover of jam, I was thinking I could make some, but the amount of sugar one has to use to make jam is not really bootcamp-friendly. Besides, it’s so easy to just throw blueberries in a pot with sugar – what about keeping them raw? What about butter??? Ooooo!

So here’s what I did. I took a half-pint of blueberries and a half-pint of blackberries and emptied them into my food processor. I did some digging around my cabinets and found some coconut sugar I got from Whole Foods a month ago – it’s a natural sugar (i.e. not processed), so it’s super good for you. I put a tablespoon in. You can substitute maple sugar or sugar in the raw or just some white sugar if you’re not terribly concerned. I then added in two tablespoons of organic raw agave nectar. Why? Because I had it leftover from when I made fresh ginger ale last week. Honey would be perfectly fine as well. Then, a pinch of salt, a drop of vanilla, and I needed some citrus… hmmm…  oh, I’ll steal one of these fresh oranges from my roommate. I squeezed half of it in. But now we need something to thicken this concoction that is not flour or cornstarch or anything super processed. I did some digging around and came up with the answer: ground chia seed. It’s an incredible natural thickener. And more importantly I had it in my kitchen. 1 tablespoon in the work bowl. Grind it all up in the food processor until smooth, put it in a bowl, and refrigerate for 1 hour. Voila, raw berry jam. Not at thick as a real jam, but the flavor is crazy fresh and intense, and as you can see from the pic, it sits beautifully on toast. Here it is in list form:

  • 1 pint of fresh blueberries (or a mixture of blue and blackberries)
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar (or any raw, unprocessed sugar like maple or stevia)
  • 2 tbsp organic raw agave syrup (or honey)
  • 1 drop vanilla
  • 1 small pinch of salt
  • the juice of 1/2 an orange
  • 2 tbsp ground chia seed

–Process all ingredients until smooth. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Done.

Now you could stop here, but I looove me some compound butter, so I did that too. Take 1/2 stick of room temperature butter and mash in about 2 tablespoons of the jam. Form the mixture either into a ball or a log or whatever you want and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours. Now you have this wonderfully colorful butter to spread on toasts, muffins, croissants, your body – whatever you like! If you want to double or triple the recipe, I would recommend using a hand mixer or kitchen aid to whip it together really well.

If you just can’t get enough blueberry,  check out these other fantastic recipes from my blog:

Blueberry Coffeecake Muffins
Blueberry Pie
Mixed Berry Salsa
Maple Vanilla Fruit Salad
Crust Knots (if you decide to make pie)

Blueberry Pie!

This past Saturday I attended one of my first summer cookouts, hosted by my friends Alexis and Sam. It was a gorgeous day and they had a splendid spread of barbecue favorites: hot dogs, kebabs, baked beans, potato salad, etc. I must say that I was dually impressed with Alexis’ rice krispie treats, which she made with brown butter and rosemary. A truly “adult” spin on such a classic. I ate way more at this party than I care to admit.

I offered to bring dessert, and since it’s blueberry season, what better treat than a homemade blueberry pie. I have to tell you I found an incredible, fool proof, works-every-time recipe that I’ve used over and over again. No, it is not mine, in fact it is Alton Brown’s Frozen Blueberry Pie. I couldn’t recommend it more highly. What makes it so versatile is that the pie filling is prepared with fresh blueberries and then frozen in a disc that can then be used to make fresh, amazing blueberry pie anytime you like. And I’m not at all ashamed to admit that I use a Pillsbury pie crust when it comes time to make the pie. Flakey and delicious every time. I add a little more sugar than what Alton calls for since I like my pie sweet, otherwise the recipe is a total home run. Enjoy!

Look out for my next blog entry, which will be all about my attendance at yet another glorious Tender Greens Beer Garden. Hope everyone had a spectacular summer weekend!

Magic Muffins

Ok, they’re not really magic, they’re just blueberry. But the way people scarf them down, you’d think they were magic. When I lived in NYC back in 2005-9 I had an office job at a fantastic music publishing company. Usually once per week I would bake these muffins and share them with my coworkers. It’s amazing how fresh baked goods really brighten someone’s day, particularly in an office setting. I hadn’t made this recipe in almost two years, mostly because when it comes to self control, I have zero, and having an entire batch of muffins laying around is never a good idea for me… in fact it can get downright ugly.

Right now it is blueberry season in SoCal, so everywhere you go you find vast quantities of the berries for little money. I had a giant bucket of blueberries sitting on my counter over the weekend that I got from Trader Joe’s for only $5.99 – a serious bargain. As you read in yesterday’s post, I decided baking muffins for my friends would be the perfect way to start off our Sunday.

Truth be told, the recipe is not of my own creation. It is actually a recipe from Ina Garten called “Blueberry Coffee Cake Muffins.” And she is right to call them that – the muffins are just like coffee cake except without the crumbly topping… and blueberries… fluffy, eggy, and not too sweet. It’s a fool-proof recipe that is always a crowd pleaser. Definitely worth sharing, even if it isn’t mine. Thanks, Ina!

Blueberry Muffins (Recipe PDF)

Rock the Hawk

Mohawk Bend, Ramona Room

This weekend was quite a busy one: a concert on Friday night, two films I worked played in a festival on Saturday, social outings on Sunday, and all while battling yet another throat infection. Blech. But, as my mother can attest to, I’m not very good at being sick, so on I went, though I did make sure to get quite a bit of sleep on Saturday evening. Of course business and social outings mean culinary outings to go with them. Yum.

Friday night included a quick dinner before the concert at one of the hippest and most unique venues in East LA called Mohawk Bend. Converted from an old one-screen movie theatre, the restaurant has transformed the space into a retro modern eatery that retains the original cathedral-like shape of the theatre as well as brick walls and an outdoor patio where the ticket booth used to be. The food is just as hip as the décor with a new, date-stamped menu printed daily that changes with the whim of the chef and the local markets. It is also entirely vegan unless noted otherwise, but don’t let that intimidate you – nearly half the menu is labeled “NV” and they certainly know how to NV. There are just as many menu staples as there are rotating items, including the Flash Gordon salad, which I had on this visit. Flash grilled baby gem lettuce with dill dressing, avocado, pine nuts, pickled red onion, and citrus.

Flash Gordon Salad

My roommate goes here for the brussels sprouts, roasted with almonds and apples. I am perpetually mesmerized by their spicy and refreshing house-made ginger beer and have shamelessly assisted in devouring their vegan skillet chocolate chip cookie on more than one occasion. My friends also enjoy the pizza and flatbreads, though for me if I’m going to get pizza it’s going to be at a pizza joint. The starving artist raises his eyebrow at the $3.50 per glass of ginger beer with no refills… really? How expensive can that fresh ginger be? Still, despite one thinking there may be an air of pretension to contend with, all of my experience with the wait staff has been warm, friendly, and helpful. As for one’s wallet, it is clearly a place designed to nibble and share, so if you’re looking to get out for there for less than $15, that’s the way to go. The proverbial icing on this trendy cake is definitely the massive beer and wine selection, which ultimately makes Mohawk Bend a perfect weekend hang fit for being cool and feeling so totally LA.

Saturday night was another visit to my local tavern, Franklin and Company, where I dined on a brussels sprouts salad with nuts, bacon, and a light lemon vinaigrette. Perfect feel good food that is affordable at only $10. Though I can’t seem to get out of there without ordering their scotch egg… damn you and your lustful deep fried egg sorcery. The friend I was with ordered something I had never noticed before, The English Burger, which must be new since it’s not even on their online menu. Served on a grilled english muffin and topped with blue cheese, it was ridiculously juicy and delicious – and I don’t even like grilled cheese. Like Mohawk, this place has a tremendously huge beer list and is great for a hangout… but you already knew that from the blog post I wrote several weeks ago.

Yesterday (Sunday) was the monthly date of the Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena, which transforms the Rose Bowl into a gigantic flea market filled with untold treasure (and crap). I went several months ago and this time around three of my friends decided they wanted to make a day of it. Me being me and having a huge tub of blueberries on my counter that I bought from Trader Joe’s for $5, I invited everyone over for blueberry muffins before we departed for the flea market. It’s a killer recipe that I used to make all the time for my co workers at my job in NYC, but hadn’t seen the light of day in well over a year. So, shockingly, I arose at 730 to get them ready for my friends’ 830 arrival. I daresay I would never get up that early for work…. Alongside I threw together a fruit salad with the leftover blueberries and some strawberries I had in the fridge. Tossed it with a little sugar and let it sit on the counter for a bit before serving it with a side of greek yogurt that I mixed with vanilla and honey as a topping. A splendid (though not entirely healthy) Sunday morning breakfast if I do say so myself. In the end I never made it to the flea market. As the morning went on my head began to reel from my infection, so I decided to bail. I got back into bed, slept until 2pm, and then rejoined my friends for an early dinner at Fred 62 in Los Feliz, which I posted about yesterday.

Now as the week begins I will be contemplating more uses of blueberries as well as peaches as I work on the remaining music for a feature film I’ve been scoring.  Hope everything is enjoying their first glorious weekends of summer.

Mohawk Bend
2141 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles