Chocolate-Cranberry Smoothies

Honestly, I don’t know why more people don’t use cranberries in their smoothies. You know the huge bags you see in the grocery stores with frozen berries of all types, all ready to be tossed into a blender? All you really need are some cranberries and a ripe banana.

Berries

Cranberries have huge amounts of Vitamin C, Vitamin E and fiber, which lead to amazing anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant (and even anti-cancer!) properties. They also have a deliciously tangy flavor that goes great with chocolate.

cranberries

This is my second recipe post for the Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen Cranberries – the first was my last post about how to make simple Larabar knockoffs with cranberries and just two other ingredients. I really enjoyed coming up with new cranberry recipes … and eating my mistakes. ūüôā

I encourage you to check out the great recipes and other goodies on¬†Cape Cod Select’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest; and if you can’t find them in your local grocery store, check out the store locator here.

For this simple recipe, you take a handful of Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen Cranberries, plus a frozen or ripe banana and milk. I also add chocolate-flavored protein powder (I enjoy the Orgain brand powder in chocolate fudge flavor for this recipe, but use your favorite brand), and either some raw hemp hearts or chia seeds for extra thickness and fiber.

 

Chocolate-Cranberry Smoothies

  • 1 handful (about 1/2 cup) of Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen Cranberries
  • 2 scoops of chocolate protein shake mix
  • 1 tbsp. hemp hearts or chia seeds
  • 1 ripe or frozen banana
  • 2 cups milk or almond milk

chocolate cranberry smoothie

If you’re on the go and don’t have a fancy travel cup, remember that mason jars (with plastic, re-usable lids) are an excellent way to reduce waste!

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recipe-card-smoothie

 

Easy and healthy Cranberry-Date Bars

I don’t know about you guys, but the “cherry pie” Larabars are one of my favorite go-to snacks.¬†I was recently checking out the package, and noticed this:

cherry pie larabars

That’s right! In addition to being raw, paleo, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, kosher, dairy-free and soy-free, it only has three ingredients!

This year, I entered the Cape Cod Select Blogger Challenge, to join fellow food bloggers in creating some delicious new recipes starring Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen Cranberries.

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I decided to make these “cherry pie” bars with cranberries instead of cherries. These are easy to make, really healthy and unprocessed, and YUMMY. I also added a touch of honey and cinnamon to counteract some of the tartness of the cranberries.

cape cod select premium cranberries

First, the ingredients. I know there are only three, but they’re important.

The Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen¬†Cranberries come frozen, so remove the bag from the freezer a few hours prior to making these. Then they’ll be easier to chop into small pieces.

I purchased this package of date paste, or baking dates:

baking dates

Just be sure to check the ingredients. If it says anything other than “dates,” buy something else. No additives are needed. Dates are naturally very sweet, so you don’t want anything with added sugars or oils.

If you can’t find date paste locally (I found it at my local Indian/Asian market), try purchasing it online. If you would rather make it from scratch, try this recipe.

As far as the almonds, the easiest way is to buy a package of the sliced almonds, and then break them up in the bag before you add them to the cranberries and dates.

  • 1 16-oz package of Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen Cranberries, defrosted and diced
  • 1 10-oz bag of sliced almonds, crushed into very small pieces
  • 1 13-oz package of date paste (see note above)
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. honey

Step 1: Make sure all ingredients are as small as possible. Dice the cranberries, crush the almond slices, and make sure the date paste is smooth. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and blend completely.

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At this point, try to squeeze out as much excess juice as possible.

Step 2: Transfer to deep-dish baking pan and make sure it is packed in tightly. Bake on the lowest setting in your oven for approx. 2 hours.

Note: Fresh-frozen cranberries are naturally much juicier than dried cherries, so you have a couple of options to dry the bars. If you have a dehydrator, you can also dehydrate then for 3-5 hours on the high setting.

bars on the dehydrator

Step 3: Wrap each bar individually. Keep chilled.

cranberry date bars

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recipe-card-cdabars

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Easy sourdough bread

Sourdough is one of my favorite types of bread ever, and I can’t believe it’s so easy!

If you don’t have your own sourdough starter, you can find instructions on how to make one here. But I got mine from a lady giving it away in a Facebook group post; and if you know anyone who makes their own bread, chances are very good that they have a sourdough starter to share with you.

It’s very simple: you start with this 8-oz jar of bubbly liquid. You can store it in the refrigerator, and once a week, you take it out and empty out half (4 oz.).

You can use this to give to a friend so they have starter, or you can use it for baking bread or a myriad of other sourdough things: muffins, biscuits, crackers, pizza dough, bread, English muffins, even sweet breads and muffins like blueberry or banana. Then you add 4 oz. of water and 4 oz. flour, and mix well. Now you have starter for next week.

sourdough starter

By the way, you can also keep your starter at room temperature and discard/feed it every day, but who has time for that?! That method is for people who have the time to bake a loaf of bread every day.

Here is a simple, quick bread baking method (no, really, this IS quick, most sourdough bread recipes require at least 12-24 hours for proofing and rising). You can make this in one evening after work or weekend morning/afternoon.

Easy Sourdough Bread

  • 4 3/4 cups bread flour*
  • 3 tbsp. white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups sourdough starter
  • 2 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast (0.25 oz.)
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 2 tbsp. softened butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp. water

First, combine 1 cup of the flour with the salt, sugar and yeast, and mix well. Add the wet ingredients (sourdough starter, milk and butter) and once fully incorporated, slowly add the rest of the flour.

Turn dough out onto a flour-covered surface and knead for 5-10 minutes, then put it back into the mixing bowl (add a little oil first to prevent sticking). Cover and let the dough rise for about 1 hour.

After about an hour, punch down the dough and form into loaves (you can use traditional rectangular bread loaf pans, or form the dough into a ball and bake it in a round cake or pie pan). Let rise another hour.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, then sprinkle the egg wash (a large egg scrambled with 1 tbsp. water) on top of each loaf. Then bake another 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

sourdough bread

*Tip: You can totally use all-purpose flour for this recipe, and it will make a fine loaf of bread. But bread flour is much finer and softer, and will lead to a softer and better piece of bread.

Need more tips for your starter? Check out these tips and tricks on the King Arthur Flour blog.

Mason Jar Salads and Mason Jar Dressings

These Mason jar salads are all the rage nowadays, and I am happy to say, I made these before they were cool.

Nothing to it, really, just get all of your favorite salad fixings together, plus a few mason jars. I like to use the wide-mouth pint jars (Ball and other companies even have them in pretty colors), and if you can obtain a few reusable plastic lids (like these), that would be even better.

mason jar salad

I generally like to keep it simple, so I make the same salad for every day. You can obviously change it up so you can have a different salad every day.

Once you have all of your supplies and ingredients, there are only two rules:

  1. Keep the dry stuff dry.
  2. Keep the wet stuff wet.

So, start with the dressing. Fill each jar with a tablespoon or two of your favorite or chosen dressing.

Next, add other wet salad ingredients: fresh tomatoes, legumes, fruits, beans or corn, pre-cooked (and pre-cooled) pasta, avocados, feta cheese, tofu, hardboiled eggs, etc.

Then try to put a “barrier” like chickpeas, quinoa,¬†cucumbers or beets, but if you can’t create a barrier, just make sure the layers cover the whole jar.

Put your greens (lettuce, romaine, spinach, kale, etc.) at the top along with anything else that needs to stay dry, like tortilla crisps or crispy bacon bits.

That’s it!

Now you have premade, healthy meals that are ready to go all week.

beforenaftersalad

Mason Jar Dressings

OK, so these aren’t popular (yet, anyway) but they should be. You know that jar of strawberry jam or raspberry preserves in your fridge that you never use? The one that has just enough that you can’t use it for anything else? What about that one jar of mustard that only has a few teaspoons left? Do you have a container of yogurt that you need to use before it goes bad?

Oh yeah. We’re using up your fridge leftovers with this one.

First, take that almost-empty jar out of the fridge. Shake it around a little. Make sure it isn’t filled with toast crumbs from the last time you used it. The contents of this jar will be your binder.

Next, determine what flavors go well with that binder. Raspberry or strawberry (or other berries) go well with balsamic or dark vinegars. Mustard –¬†particularly spicy mustard – is best accented with white or white wine vinegar. Then add fresh or dried herbs.

Here are a few ideas to mix it up:

  • Berry jam/jelly¬†¬†+¬†¬†¬† Balsamic vinegar¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†+¬†¬† fresh rosemary or basil = Balsamic Berry Dressing
  • Greek yogurt¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† +¬†¬†¬†¬† White wine vinegar¬†¬† + ¬†fresh dill and lemon = Creamy¬†Dill Dressing
  • Dijon mustard¬†¬†¬†¬†+¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†White vinegar¬†+ ¬†fresh or dried oregano = Herby Mustard Dressing
  • Pure Honey¬†¬†¬†¬†+¬†¬†¬†¬†Apple Cider¬†vinegar¬†¬†+¬† sriracha and lime = Spicy Honey Vinaigrette
  • Greek yogurt¬† + cilantro, lime,¬†hot sauce +¬†fresh, mashed avocado¬†¬†= Baja Goddess Dressing
  • Creamy peanut butter + soy sauce, rice vinegar + cilantro, ginger = Peanut Ginger Dressing
  • Fresh hummus + white vinegar + feta cheese and fresh basil/herbs =¬†Greek Hummus¬†Dressing

Once you have established the flavors and the binder, simply add a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and put the lid on the mason jar and shake vigorously until completely blended.

Baja Goddess Dressing

Baja Goddess Dressing

Homemade Bacon – nitrate- and hassle-free

It seems weird, but homemade bacon is one of the easiest recipes I know – and now it’s one of my favorites.

Part of it is because I have a great smoker: it’s a Masterbuilt M7P, and it grills, smokes (both with charcoal or with propane), and has a few other attachments to allow for steaming, boiling, frying, and even campfire cooking.


But I digress. Point is, you need a smoker. You can get a good one for the same price you paid for that fancy grill you have in your backyard right now, and this can grill or smoke.

Once you have the equipment, the ingredients are relatively easy. For unflavored bacon, you only need a pork belly, kosher salt and brown sugar. If you want to flavor it, it’s pretty simple to do so. I’ll explain that later.

Pork bellies may or may not be hard to find: I live in San Diego, and after messing around the first few times I made bacon with going to a commissary (you need a friend in the military to take you shopping for that to work) and going to a fancy butcher shop (waaaay to expensive), I settled on buying my pork bellies from a local Korean grocery store. They are quite cheap ($5-$7 for about a pound and a half), and the bellies are already helpfully trimmed into lovely little blocks, just waiting to be cured and smoked.

Step 1: Once you get the belly home, place it in a large (gallon size) freezer bag, and add one cup brown sugar and two cups kosher salt. [Note: if this doesn’t coat your pork belly completely, add more of both sugar and salt, just make sure there is twice the amount of salt to sugar.] Make sure the salt and sugar is both completely mixed and completely coating the meat. Refrigerate.

Depending on the size of your pork belly, this curing process will take between 2-7 days (7 is for a really huge, dense piece of meat – most pork bellies will take between 3-5 days.) You will be able to tell the belly is cured when the freezer bag has liquid in the bottom and the meat is hard to the touch.

Step 2: Remove the meat and rinse the salt and sugar off, and put it on a clean plate.

Now is where you add flavoring if you desire; I recommend either coating the belly with cracked peppercorns, (real!) maple syrup, or even sriracha for a spicy bacon.


Step 3: Place the belly, on the plate, flavored if you like, with no cover or wrap, in your refrigerator. This will cause an invisible film to develop on the meat, which will act like a magnet for the smoke when you smoke the meat. Leave it this way for at least 12 hours (preferably overnight).

Remember you will need to soak your wood chips for smoking, too, so this would be a good time to put them on to soak!

hickory chips for smoking

The next day, remove from the refrigerator and let sit for about 20 minutes (just to bring it to room temperature) before smoking.

Step 4: Smoke it! Keep your smoker’s temperature between 200-300, and depending on the size and thickness of the meat, the smoking will take between 4-7 hours. 

Make sure you use a digital meat thermometer, or otherwise keep an eye on the internal temperature of your bacon. Once it reaches an internal temperature of 160, it’s ready, but feel free to smoke it longer to increase the wood-smoke flavor.

meat thermometer

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Bacon recipe card

 

Boochcraft takes San Diego’s brewery scene to new heights

For the last several years, San Diego county has been called “The Craft Beer Capital of America” due to its over 100 small breweries and brewpubs. From big guys like Karl Strauss to local favorites like Mission Brewing or Belching Beaver, it’s not hard to find great suds in our fair city. (Learn more about our local breweries and brew pubs here.)

Likewise, kombucha has had a great rise in popularity recently, as more and more people are getting into fermented foods and health foods …. Booch is one of the best (and tastiest) ways to get your probiotics and make your gut happy.

ginger lime boochcraft

The Boochcraft company combines the best of both worlds: a healthy probiotic with a boozy kick, made locally and sustainably. In just the last few months – they’ve been open for two years but the first¬†bottles didn’t hit the stores until March 2016 – they’ve become one of the area’s fastest-growing breweries.

I met with Adam Hiner, the founder “and stuntman” for Boochcraft, and he told me about how his passion for the stuff has led him to so much success.

Hiner started out at the now-shuttered Local Habit in Hillcrest, where he was in charge of the kombucha brewing. He saw how people would line up to fill their growlers with his kombuchas, and realized he had to take it mainstream. “I saw the demand every day,” he said. “I talked to my partners and we made it happen.”

After sitting down with his friends to discuss business ideas, they decided to make their kombucha with an extra-high alcohol content to make it even more marketable. Once they finalized the best way to make healthy kombucha extra alcoholic, they inked a distribution deal with Stone Brewers, and San Diego culinary history was made.

kegs

Homemade kombucha usually has a very low alcohol content – between .5 and¬†1 percent. If you buy¬†regular kombucha¬†in a grocery store, expect it to be regulated — even though the alcohol content is minimal, any alcohol at all makes it the government’s business and they might ask for ID or stick an extra tax on it. Most grocery stores and health food stores¬†carry a large selection of brands like GT’s, Synergy, KeVita and Celestial Seasonings.

Boochcraft, while it is starting to expand distribution to grocery stores, is sold like beer –¬† the variety of flavors¬†are in the beer¬†section of your local liquor store,¬†fully sold alongside a selection of big bottles of IPA’s and stouts.¬†Unlike GT’s and KeVita, Boochcraft’s alcohol content is 7%.

The "first ferment" - the tanks are covered with cloth to keep out insects and debris, but still allow the fermentation to occur.

The “first ferment” – the tanks are covered with cloth to keep out insects and debris, but still allow the fermentation to occur.

If you make kombucha at home, you can usually have something to drink within 2-3 weeks, and you can make it fairly easily with tea, sugar, and a SCOBY – generally there is a “first ferment” with tea and sugar, then a “second ferment” to make the booch extra bubbly. Because not all yeasts can tolerate kombucha and the process of making it,¬†Boochcraft needs¬†a few extra steps to make it extra boozy.

Boochcraft is made very similarly to how you’d make booch at home, except they add champagne yeast to the second ferment¬†and let it ferment about 5-7¬†days extra. The total process – from purifying their own water to adding the fruit juices after the second ferment – takes about a month. The flavors are added at the very end, just before the kombucha is put into bottles and kegs for distribution. Right now there are four flavors of Boochcraft: ginger/ lime/ rosehips, watermelon/ mint/ chili, grape/ coriander/ anise, grapefruit/ heather/ hibiscus and tangerine/ turmeric/ ginger.

The tangerine flavor is a limited batch, but it will be coming back into production soon and will be back on the shelves in December or January. In the meantime, keep your eyes open for the new apple/ lime/ jasmine flavor, hitting stores later in October 2016.

Boochcraft still continues to grow – they’ve¬†been producing all the booch they can, at full capacity, and this month will be expanding by almost 5 times. Get ready to see new flavors like apple/lime/jasmine, and some variety in alcohol content (as high as 10%!)