Monthly Archives

December 2009

Warm Balsamic-Poppy Seed Salad

December 29, 2009

The snow is everywhere here and it is cold, very cold. I’m positive that no matter how many Iowa winters I endure, I will never truly grow accustomed to temperatures that dip into the negatives. I’m convinced if New Year’s were to fall during June or July, when temperatures are sweltering, resolving to eat healthier and lighter fare would be much easier than in January when you live in an only slightly milder version of the North Pole.

The Iowa tundra on Christmas day

Since that’s just not the case, my ‘lighten-up’ salads during the winter are often filled with flavors both savory and sweet, with dressings that are deceptively rich. In truth, I think eating toast with very liberal amounts of crunchy peanut butter would be the perfect breakfast and lunch day after day, but that hardly seems like a good healthy eating technique, and much less exciting to share with you dear readers.

This salad is an example of a salad warmed up for winter weather. Filled with veggies, fruit, toasted pecans and a delicious balsamic-poppy seed dressing, it’s sure to satisfy even the most intense cravings for rich, decadent food. One last tip – warming the dressing slightly in the microwave before pouring it over the salad is a great way to add an extra boost of comfort to any salad.

*Romaine lettuce
*1 medium apple, chopped
*2 Tbsp. chopped pecans
*2 Tbsp. dried cranberries
*Dressing: 2 parts balsamic vinaigrette, 1 part light poppy seed dressing

*Toss together an enjoy!

Happy cooking!

Green Detox Smoothie

December 26, 2009

Thanksgiving and Christmas have passed, and my guess is that many of you are in need of a break. A break from butter and sugar and almost anything sweet that comes out of an oven, only to be covered in icing and powdered sugar or topped with whipped cream (and maybe even a break from family). So while I have a delicious oatmeal-coconut cookie recipe to share and a fruit pie that is to die for, I’m moving on to lighter, healthier fare – the kind that makes you feel good about what you just put into your body.

I love to eat, and because of that you will never see me posting anything about the Master Cleanse diet – a celebrity diet consisting of drinking nothing more than water mixed with lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup. If that’s a detox, I want nothing to do with it! But after the holiday season has come and gone, I find myself needed to lighten it up a bit.

It doesn’t get any healthier, or easier, than this smoothie. Packed inside this little glass is a serving of veggies (yes, veggies), fruit, and dairy. And when paired with a salad for lunch, it packs even more punch. As usual, feel free to play around with the fruit in this smoothie. The spinach is a great choice for the veggie because it has a very mild, and slightly sweet flavor that doesn’t overpower the sweetness in the yogurt and fruit. Trust me, you won’t even know the spinach is there.


1 (6-8 oz.) yogurt (preferably one with 100 calories or less)
1/4 cup skim milk
1/2 cup fresh or frozen spinach
1/2 banana
2 handfuls ice
1 Tbsp. lemon or lime juice


*Mix all the above ingredients together in a blender until smooth. Top with grated lemon peel, if desired.

Outstanding Christmas Butter Cookies

December 22, 2009

I didn’t intend to leave the blog unintended over the past week, what with it being the peak of Christmas cookie season and all, but this past week has left practically no time for baking, and almost everything I’ve eaten has been take-out, from a restaurant, or a box of cereal. Hardly worth blogging about. What has been keeping me so busy? A little thing called graduation and all that goes with it: family visiting from Florida and moving into a new apartment! After an exhausting week of settling into a new place I was more than ready to bake, listen to Christmas music, and to present to you the most delicious Christmas cookie recipe I’ve found in quite some time.

With Dad and my little sister, Taylor

Mom and me at graduation

This entire Christmas season, I’ve been struggling to find a cookie recipe that was inspiring. Typically, I spend an entire day in full cookie production, baking anywhere from 6 to 12 different kinds of cookies. But this year I was in search of one perfect cookie. One perfect cookie enough to surpass a dozen average ones. Where did I turn? The lovely Deb of Smitten Kitchen, a beautiful blog full of recipes that always deliver.

Of course, I thought it necessary to make a few changes of my own. Using the base recipe provided by Dorie Greenspan via Smitten Kitchen, I tossed in a half a cup of dried cranberries and a teaspoon of cinnamon. In the second batch, since my mom always taught me to double every batch of Christmas cookies, I tossed in 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder, 1/2 cup toffee bits, and 1 tsp. cinnamon.

Light and mildly sweet, these cookies are not your average Christmas cookie. They sing of sophistication and simplicity, begging to be eaten with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, perfect for when friends drop by, or for sending in the mail to those you love, since they are sure to bring a smile to the face of everyone who receives them.

Happy Baking!


Green Goddess Pasta

December 12, 2009

There’s something undeniably sexy about pasta of any and every sort. In my opinion, it’s the sexiest of all foods, far surpassing the usual suspects: oysters, caviar, champagne. Maybe it’s because for me pasta has always been a bit of a ‘forbidden’ food. But truly, pasta can be delicious and healthy. Case in point? Green Goddess Pasta.

The base of this dish is 100% whole wheat spinach pasta, but any pasta would work just fine. One of my favorite tricks for stretching pasta is adding a bit of zucchini to the mix. Long, thin strips of zucchini made with a vegetable peeler, then sauteed in a bit of olive oil and tossed in with the pasta adds a mix of textures and tastes, and is a great trick for getting picky eaters to consume some extra veggies.

But the real star of this dish is the sauce. I’ve posted before on pesto made with a broccoli base. Growing up in a small town where fresh herbs cost an arm and a leg meant pesto was more a luxury than a staple, so using broccoli as the base makes it affordable for everyone. This version of broccoli pesto is adapted for pasta with a creamier texture and a bit more milk added in, serving as a luxurious sauce disguising how truly healthy it is. The amount given in this recipe is enough to serve 4-6 plus leftovers – meaning I have a lot of broccoli pesto sitting in my fridge.

*2 heads broccoli florets, steamed
*2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
*1 tsp. salt
*1 Tbsp. dried Italian seasoning
*2 cloves garlic, chopped
*1/4 cup slivered almonds
*1/2 tsp. black pepper
*2 Tbsp. olive oil
*1/2 cup milk (I used skim)

*Combine all the above ingredients in a food processor 2-3 minutes, scraping sides twice. Pesto will be almost smooth, with slight texture.
*Toss pesto with 1 lb. of spinach pasta or other pasta of choice. Add additional milk of a creamier texture is desired.

Happy Cooking!



December 9, 2009

For the past couple days I’ve had my previous post on what I’m thankful for on my mind. Maybe it’s residual feelings from Thanksgiving, the anticipation of Christmas, or a bit of both. Truth is, Christmas always makes me all nostalgic – especially nights like tonight when welcoming in the first big blizzard of winter.

To be able to sit in a warm house, wrapped in a blanket, drinking Reindeer Blend coffee while thinking and writing about food – not out of necessity but for enjoyment – is a luxury I take for granted every day.

So today I visited the World Vision web site and browsed their online donations page. World Vision, a non-profit aid organization, allows people to make donations, as well as purchase specific items, such as chickens, seeds, and vaccinations for those in need. Since Espresso and Cream is all about food, I made a general hunger relief donation. I’ve heard from many of you who read the blog, and would love to encourage any and all of you to make a donation as well. You can give as little or as much as you would like to, and even a dollar can make a difference in someone’s life.

Disclaimer: I promise, I am not getting paid by World Vision to say any of this! 🙂 As someone who loves food, knowing even a few more children will have something to eat this year because of the readers of Espresso and Cream would be amazing. If you do feel moved to donate, I’d love to hear from you!