Father’s Day just passed and my husband had a special request for breakfast in bed, blueberry pancakes with warm berry syrup. Nothing takes pancakes to another level than fresh fruit compote. I used my easy Pancakes recipe and added fresh blueberries in the batter, then topped it off with this easy recipe of 3 ingredients.
Oh yeah, remember my watermelon slushy where you freeze leftover watermelon for slushies? Well, you can do that with your berries. Maybe you went a little crazy strawberry picking or the market had a sale. Just freeze the extra, like I did, to make this compote.
Warm Berry Compote
This is great on pancakes. Cool it and use it to top your plain yogurt the next morning or spread it on toast.
Since I first discovered applesauce in a pouch, I started freezing them. I put the frozen pouches in my kids’ lunch boxes and they not only act as a cold pack but also make the perfect cold slush applesauce by lunch. They are great to take to the park or beach on a hot day providing a cold, sweet, healthy snack. Kids love slurping slushy applesauce. Definitely try it and you will be freezing your pouches all the time!
My first few weeks of blogging, I get an email from my dear friend, Debra. She and her lovely daughter Kyla, love eating Panera’s Broccoli Cheddar Soup but feel so guilty after eating it because it’s filled with cream, butter and tons of cheese. She wanted to know if I can create a healthier version for them that they can enjoy anytime minus the guilt, fat and calories.
This sparked a ‘light bulb’ moment for me. How many people go through a diet overhaul due to lifestyle changes, allergies, health problems and/or weight? How great would it be to have healthier versions of the ‘no-no list’ and make it ‘yes’ again? Hence, the birth of my Naughty to Nice Challenge! Each month I will take a recipe that you send me and turn it from something sinfully naughty to something deliciously nice!
So my first challenge:
Broccoli Cheddar Soup
I thought to myself, hmm, I could keep it simple and just replace some of the ingredients to lower the fat content and call it a day. No! That’s no challenge for me! If I’m going to go there, I’m going to go all vegan and healthy! My vegan and health conscious friends need more options and would love to have a creamy, faux cheesy soup recipe to add to their menu.
So, I started testing things out in my kitchen for the right flavors and consistency. My results? Something pretty darn good! Is it like the real thing? That’s up for debate. My kids loved it. My cheese-loving-husband loved it but said you can’t replace the taste of real cheese. Me? I say, it’s as good as it gets!
Use a large soup pot and sauté on high heat onions, cubed butternut squash and onions in 1/8 cup of coconut oil until onions are translucent.
Add 2 cups of vegetable broth, turn down heat to medium low and cook it down until the butternut squash and potatoes are soft. About 20 minutes.
Pour the ingredients from the soup pot into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Be careful blending hot soup. Set aside.
Use the remainder of the coconut oil and sauté the broccoli and carrots for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle sea salt and sauté for 5 more minutes.
Add both cans of coconut cream and light coconut cream, remainder of vegetable broth, and the pureed onion/squash/potato mixture.
Stir well and let it cook for another 20 minutes until broccoli softens and breaks apart.
Add nutritional yeast and nutmeg. Stir well. Add more salt if needed and add pepper to your liking.
Your vegan broccoli soup is ready to serve!
What is nutritional yeast? I'm glad you ask!
Nutritional yeast is jam-packed with essential vitamins and minerals. In fact, it’s one of the best non-animal sources of folic acid and vitamin B-12. The yellow color of the flakes is a result of their large amount of vitamin B – ½ tbsp. fulfills your entire daily vitamin B needs. In addition to B-12, nutritional yeast is high in 15 different minerals and 18 amino acids. Talk about a super food!
The yeast itself is grown on beets and dehydrated, so don’t let the word “yeast” scare you away. Since it is plant derived and dried out, it’s free of the harmful candida that can wreck havoc on your digestive system. Think of it as the kind of yeast your body will love!
Summer in LA gets hot and what sounds as refreshing as ice cold slices of watermelon? In my home, it’s my Frozen Watermelon Cooler! Have you ever walked by the giant watermelons at Costco and pick the largest one you can find because they charge per watermelon not per pound? I admit, I have plenty of times! Of course then, I have more watermelon than we can eat so, I cut those up into cubes, stick them in a freezer bag and freeze them.
The recipe is so quick and simple and your kids and their friends will be thrilled to slurp these down. You will be the coolest mommy on the block! Ok, at least in your household.
Want to be ‘mommy cool’ to your fellow mommies too? Spike it with vodka or white wine. But you didn’t hear it from me! Shhh…
Frozen Watermelon Cooler
Raw honey is optional as my kids like it a little sweeter but definitely not necessary. Mint is something extra I like to add to this cooler if I have it on hand.
I have so much fun coming up with new drink recipes. Is it tapping into my creativity or is it the literal buzz I get during the process? Hmm, it’s both, but mostly the latter! I had friends coming over for a BBQ and was trying to come up something different and nostalgic for them to try. Something that reminded them of childhood in a grown-up kind of way. I grabbed a handful of grapes, a bottle of vodka and went to work.
My original idea was having it on the rocks. I finished the drink and it tasted like a naughty grape soda. It was very good, but darn it, it’s summertime and it’s hot! I dumped my sample glass in the blender to turn it into a slushy! Ahhh…that took it to a 80s childhood level! This sparked 10 year old Ping walking into her Auntie Jane’s convenience store and pulling the lever to fill her extra large cup up with grape Slush Puppie, sucking it down so fast that a brain freeze was inevitable. Yes, I just wrote in 3rd person! Yes, I taste tested a lot today!
Hence, the creation of my Grown-up Grape Slush Puppie! Of course, this version is free of corn syrup, dye and artificial flavors and replaced with fruit and vodka! It’s just the perfectly sweet nostalgic adult concoction.
Fresh Grown-up Grape Slush Puppie
On the rocks or blended, this grape cocktail will satisfy your sweet tooth.
In the past, the thought of gin brought back memories of that typical story of a 21 run where you drink way too many cheap gin and tonics that went down oh-so easy but came back up in a violent, stick-my-head-out-the-wind-like-a-drunk-dog in your boyfriend’s car kind of way. Remember that? No? Was it just me? I remember just the smell of gin would make me gag! Well, we’re not in the 90’s anymore! I’ve discovered a new gin! Hendricks gin! Traditional gin is infused with juniper berries whereas Hendricks also adds Bulgarian rose and cucumber in theirs. The flavor is distinctive and a far cry from your mama’s gin..wait, that’s me…
In the last few years, the Moscow Mule has made a big comeback and the lemon, ginger beer and mint in a mule recipe are perfect accompaniments to this gin. So, I’ve created a mule of my own with gin rather than the traditional vodka and added cucumber to bring out the essence of this spirit.
BTW, Hendrick’s gin did not sponsor or pay me for my rave reviews, however if anyone from there reads this, I’d gladly accept cases of it!!
Have fun and serve them in traditional copper mugs if you have them!
Years ago, I was at this greek restaurant that had the most amazing hummus ever. I kept haggling the owner for the recipe and he said jokingly that he’d have to kill me if he told me. However, I did manage to squeeze one secret from him which was to add a little water to the mix. That’s all I needed! This hummus is light, fluffy, flavorful and perfect for dipping. It is my go-to and most requested dish to bring to potlucks, BBQs and picnics.
Best Ever Hummus
I love serving this with a variety of veggies like bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes and whatever else is in season. Also great with tortilla chips and/or warm flatbread.
Place all your ingredients in a blender or food processor. I prefer a blender because it whips more air into the hummus which makes it lighter.
Blend until smooth. Taste and add more salt if needed.
Pour in serving bowl and sprinkle with smoked paprika and drizzle with more extra virgin olive oil. Get fancy and sprinkle pine nuts on them!
When I serve this at home, I use half and store the other half in a recycled wide mouthed glass jar. It makes it easy to transport or give away as a gift.
* I also like to use Himalayan sea salt because of the high mineral content. Himalayan salt has over 26 minerals that feed the body. However, if you do use it, add 1/2 tsp more as it tends to not be as salty as standard sea salts.
To tahini or not to tahini? It's a personal preference. I do it either way, but tahini is not always available when I'm making this and it is really delicious with or without it.