Eternally-Fresh Berries and Greek Yogurt.

This is definitely not a “recipe” in my usual sense. It’s more of a favorite technique, and I’m sharing it with you because ever since I started doing it, I’ve saved money by not letting fruit go to waste and I’ve made my breakfasts a lot healthier and better-tasting. I used to eat those single-serve yogurts that come with a layer of sugary fruit to stir in, which is of course delicious and convenient, but not such a great way to start the morning. Then I started doing fruit and yogurt this way instead, and man is it ever good! Here’s the basics of why this method rocks:

  • the berries last longer because I wash and dry them before they go in the fridge/freezer, which helps fend off mold/mushiness
  • my berries are washed and ready to go whenever I need them, so I never have to eat wet and drippy berries
  • I freeze half, so I have gorgeous berries on hand all the time
  • The fresh berries are (obviously) delicious, and the frozen berries break up easily when stirred into yogurt (just like the sugary stuff, only healthier!)

Convinced? Because I love this stuff berry much. Now orange you laughing at my fruit jokes?

INGREDIENTS

2 packets of fresh berries – raspberries are my favorite, and blackberries are great too, but any berry you like should work
Greek yogurt (let me HEARTILY suggest Fage brand yogurt. I’ve reached the point where if it isn’t Fage, I don’t even want it. Seriously unbeatable stuff)

DIRECTIONS

As soon as you get home with your berries, rinse them under cold water. Then turn them out onto a towel and flip each one upside-down; if you’re using raspberries, for example, turn them so that they’re standing up on their hollow end. This helps them dry completely, which is what we’re going for. Leave the berries for an hour or two, until dry.

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When the berries are dry, put them back in their little plastic basket or other similar container (which should also be dry).

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Put one of the containers in the fridge and use within 2-3 days. Not only can you eat these on the go, without stopping to rinse them and then have them wet and drippy, but they also last a lot longer when they’ve gotten a chance to dry before they get piled on top of each other in the fridge.

Put the other container of berries in the freezer. Because they are dry, the berries will freeze individually, without sticking to one another, and they’ll keep their perfect picturesque berry shape.

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Here’s how I use the frozen berries: before I leave for work, I spoon a portion of Fage Greek yogurt into a tupperware and toss in 8 or so of these frozen gems. By the time I get to work and dig into the yogurt, the berries have defrosted and gone a little bit soft. They’re the perfect consistency to crush up with my spoon and stir into the creamy yogurt. I LOVE this because it’s just as delicious as one of those yogurt-and-fruit single serving cups, but it’s so pure and healthy!

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Here’s what it looks like once I get it to the office and stir everything up. Best easy workday breakfast ever!

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Champagne, Blackberry, and Pomegranate Yogurt Popsicles.

There are so many star ingredients in these things that I had a hard time coming up with a name for them. I almost gave up and called them “Tom Petty pops.” Can you guess why? I’m not going to tell you. But I will show you through song (click here).

Okay fine, I’ll tell you. It’s because these popsicles are so pretty to mix, and smell so delicious, and are in general so easy to make….and then you have 4-6 hours of freezing time on the back end. Therefore, “the waiting is the hardest part.” Thanks, Tom Petty. QED.

My roommate and I made the long trek out to the northwest suburbs of Chicago on Saturday. We went allllll the way out there in order to ransack the gigantic and heavenly Ikea where all our budget-driven twenty-something decorating dreams come true. I just love that place! We managed to exercise some admirable self-control; one of the essential life necessities I made it out of there with was a cute little popsicle mold. As we drove back into the city (through awful I-90 traffic), I started to plan out all our popsicle adventures. These first ones are born of convenience – I had all this stuff at home already, and we just so happened to have a half-finished bottle of  champagne from last weekend in the fridge. It was a bit flat, but perfect for popsicle-making! This recipe is incredibly flexible, so if you make it, try switching out the fruits, the booze, whatever – just make sure, if you try hard liquor instead of champagne, to use a little less booze, and to let them freeze a little longer. De-lish.

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PS As someone who typically cooks/bakes, it was both frustrating and liberating to freeze something for once. I was impatient for the popsicles to be ready, but loved how I could just forget about them in the freezer!

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup blackberries, chopped
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
heaping 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 tsp maple syrup
1/3 cup champagne

Just the Recipe link: Champagne, Blackberry, and Pomegranate Yogurt Popsicles 

DIRECTIONS

Stir the blackberries, pomegranate seeds, and maple syrup into the yogurt until combined. NOTE: The pomegranate seeds will turn into little juicy-seedy ice cubes when frozen. If you want the juice, but not the crunch of the seeds, just pop them in a blender for a few pulses or work them over with a mortar and pestle, and then strain the juice into the champagne, leaving the seeds out.

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Add the champagne and stir gently.

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Now fill your popsicle molds. Be careful not to jostle them too much once you’ve filled them; the berries are heavier than the liquid and will tend toward the bottom of the mold, so don’t give them any reason to sink further down than they already will.

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Pop in their sticks.

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And freeze for 4-6 hours, depending on the size of the mold and the type/amount of booze you use. I left mine overnight. Then slide them out of their molds and enjoy!

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See? Fruity goodness, all the way through.

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Spinach and Green Garlic Soup.

Green garlic is everywhere right now. It’s just young garlic, with a softer, edible skin and a milder flavor. It’s delicious in scrambled eggs, soups, and sauces (especially pesto). Since I haven’t been feeling well lately, from a combination of allergies and a sore throat from screaming my head off when the Blackhawks beat the Red Wings in a Game 7 of the NHL playoffs, I figured a nice spring soup might perk me up a bit. It’s also a great way to get a good healthy helping of spinach! Adapted from Orangette, this light and easy green garlic and spinach soup is a breeze to make and delicious to boot. Dig in.

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INGREDIENTS

butter and olive oil
3 stalks green garlic, sliced (use the white and the light green parts)
pinch of salt
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 cup chicken stock
2 1/2 cups water
5 oz baby spinach
a spoonful of Greek yogurt
pepper

Just the Recipe link: Spinach and Green Garlic Soup

DIRECTIONS

In a Dutch oven or other large pot, heat a bit of butter and olive oil over medium low. The butter is for flavor, and the olive oil will keep the butter from burning. Once it’s hot, add the green garlic, salt, and cayenne.

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Cook gently, careful to avoid burning or browning, until the garlic is soft and smells sweet, and has lost its raw smell. Add the chicken stock and turn up the heat. Bring to a boil, and then turn down to simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the spinach and turn off the heat. Stir it in and let stand just 5 min, so it cooks but keeps its bright green color.

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Now puree the soup in batches, until it’s smooth. Add it back to the pot to reheat. I wanted to reduce my soup and get it to a little bit thicker consistency, so I simmered it a few minutes more.

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Once it’s where you want it, turn off the heat and stir in a scoop of greek yogurt. Serve immediately, with lots of pepper on top. Delish!

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Steamed Artichoke with Harissa Butter.

Let’s use our imaginations for a second. It’s something like 100,000 years ago and you’re a primitive human, walking around and looking for food. You spot a green, tough, pointy-leafed, stringy-stemmed, hairy-hearted and bitter-tasting vegetable. Naturally, you do not eat it. And none of your fellow humans eat it either. It’s clearly a bad food option. You move on and continue your search. Are the berries on that bush non-poisonous? Only one way to find out!

Are you enjoying the imagination game? I find myself thinking about this kind of thing a lot: how many thousands of years had to go by before someone figured out how to prepare an artichoke so that it’s a delicious treat instead of the “problem vegetable” that it is in its untouched state? The artichoke is one of the weirdest vegetables there is, and it’s pretty labor-intensive to prepare, and yet it is all so worth it to get to that delicious heart and eat the meat off the bases of the leaves. Mmmmm.

Despite its baggage, I am a huge fan of these guys, and today I share with you the best artichoke and dressing I have ever eaten. The dressing is a simple combo of melted butter and harissa, a red spiced paste that comes from Tunisia and is usually made from chilis and olive oil. It goes so well with artichokes, I can’t believe I didn’t think of this combo before now. Please please please make this simple recipe as soon as you can – it it magnificent.

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INGREDIENTS (this recipe easily doubles/triples/etc.)

1 artichoke
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp harissa paste (or more, to taste)

Just the Recipe link: Steamed Artichoke with Harissa Butter

DIRECTIONS

Fill a pot with 1 inch of water, toss in the bay leaf, and set it to boil. Meanwhile, prep the artichoke for steaming. Using a serrated knife, chop the stem most of the way, and cut through the middle of the artichoke so that you trim off the leaf points. Pull the small leaves off the base and discard.

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When the water is boiling, put the artichoke in the pot, wide cute side down and stem up. Cover, turn down to a low boil, and cook 20-30 minutes. It’s done when you can easily pull off smaller leaves at the base near the stem. Remove the artichoke from the water and set is aside to cool down a bit.

To assemble the harissa butter, melt the butter and stir in the harissa.

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When the artichoke has cooled enough to touch, take out the choke. Take your tongs and use them to find the middle section of the artichoke, where the purple-y leaves are. Use the tongs to pull this section out of the artichoke and expose the hairy choke in the center.

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Then trade the tongs for a fork. To remove the hairy center, use the fork to gently loosen the hair from the heart. Pull it away and throw it out. Continue to gently loosen the hair and remove it until the heart is clean and exposed.

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Put your artichoke on a plate and spoon about half of the butter over the center, over the heart. Use the rest for dipping the leaves; I like to dip each leaf and scrape the base for the “meat,” and then eat the heart last. These are so unbelievably good!!

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And thank you, oh culinary pioneer of the past, who discovered the glory of artichokes and made this meal possible.

Green Taco Burger Wraps.

I love lettuce wraps – I think I even prefer when things are wrapped in lettuce to any tortilla or bun (excluding hot dogs, of course). The cool crunch and the light freshness of the lettuce just seems to pair well with a lot of the foods that we think of as bun-worthy. This recipe for what I’m calling “green taco burger wraps” combines the best of cheeseburgers and tacos and wraps the whole thing in nice crunchy lettuce. The burger meat is spiced with cumin and oregano to give it a bit of Mexican flavor, and the toppings are all my taco favorites (especially avocado….mmmm). They’re easy and healthy and so delicious!

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INGREDIENTS

about 3/4 lb ground meat (I used beef)
1 egg
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
red onion, diced
cheese, sliced (I used cheddar)
cilantro, rough chop
tomato, chopped
red pepper, raw or lightly sauteed
4 large lettuce leaves, rinsed and patted dry
avocado, sliced
green onion, sliced
1 lime, sliced

Just the Recipe link: Green Taco Burger Wraps

DIRECTIONS

First, season the burger meat. In a large bowl, add meat, egg, cumin, garlic powder, paprika, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, and red onion to taste. I set the rest of the red onion aside in a little ramekin to top the burgers with later. Use your hands to mix all the ingredients together.

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That’s the only cooking prep you’ll do in this recipe. At this point, I set the meat aside to let the flavors hang out a bit while I chopped up everything else and put all the amazing toppings into their own little bowls.

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When everything else is ready to go, cook the burgers. First, use your hands to form them into small patties (we made two little patties per person). I cooked them on my beautiful new Le Creuset grill pan from Williams-Sonoma, but a regular grill or a pan can do the trick as well. Put your pan over medium high heat and lightly grease before adding the burgers. Cook until browned on each side and medium-rare in the middle (or however you like your burgers cooked!). Set aside for 5 minutes to let the meat rest.

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The next step is just assembly!

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I started with the lettuce wrapper, then laid the burger on top and placed the cheese on top of that, so it would get a little melty. Then it’s only a matter of topping to your heart’s content – cilantro, red pepper, red onion, green onion, avocado, and a finishing squeeze of lime make these a perfect fresh and healthy lunch. Before you take a bite, just wrap the lettuce around your taco-topped burger. Then dig right in!

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Celery Root and Sweet Potato Soup.

I’ve been wanting to try this type of thing for a while. Have you ever noticed, while you wander through the grocery store, a really knobby, homely-looking reject vegetable? One that looks like something went wrong when a normal vegetable was growing and it came out all messed-up? That’s celery root, also called celeriac. It’s notorious in the culinary world as one of those foods that many home cooks tend to shy away from, never knowing its versatility and great flavor. I hope to learn a lot more about celery root and to have some more recipes up here in the near future! For now, this warming, pale orange soup is just lovely, despite celeriac’s homeliness. Thank you to Frugal Feeding for the inspiration.

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INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp butter, divided (or skip the butter and just stick with oil)
olive oil (any oil really will work  – I used sunflower oil. Because I felt like it.)
2 small onions, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small celery root, peeled and diced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
4-5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
thyme, paprika, salt, pepper to taste (I used a small palmful of each)
bay leaf
1/2 – 1 cup half and half
fresh parsley for garnish

Just the Recipe link: Celery Root and Sweet Potato Soup

DIRECTIONS

Heat oil and, if using, 1 tbs if butter in a large soup pot, and add onion and celery. Cook until translucent, stirring occasionally. When the onions are nearly there, stir in the garlic.

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Add the celery root and sweet potato and cook 5 minutes.

Next, pour in the stock and add your thyme, paprika, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. If you’re using butter, add the second tbsp here and stir in to melt. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potato and celery root are totally soft.

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Remove from heat and puree in batches, either using a blender or food processor, or, if you’re lucky enough to have one (I do not!) use an immersion blender.

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Pour in the half and half and stir, and you’re ready to serve! Garnish with fresh chopped parsley. I had a nice little lunch of this soup with a butternut squash and green onion quesadilla.

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