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Banana Mango Smoothie

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Whenever I am in a crazy mad dash to get to work in the morning and I have no time to spare, one of my favorite breakfasts to make is a simple smoothie. What I love about a smoothie is that it is quick to assemble, I can take it to work with me, and it’s delicious!  My Banana Mango Smoothie is a fresh tropical tasting mixture of banana, mango chunks, ice, and apple juice. Sometimes I like to add a scoop of vanilla flavored protein powder to fill me up and to help keep me from snacking at my desk.  Simply toss all ingredients into a blender and within a few minutes, breakfast is served. Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana (peeled and cut into chunks)
  • 1 cup mango chunks (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 – 3 ice cubes
  • approximately 1 cup apple juice
  • 1 scoop vanilla flavored protein powder (optional)
  • 1 – 2 drops liquid stevia (optional)

Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.  Add additional apple juice if desired.  Pour in a glass, add straw and serve.  Makes 1 serving.

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Israeli Couscous Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Mint

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Spring is about two months early here in Southern Oregon.  The weather is starting to warm up, the daffodils and crocuses are blooming, and the deciduous trees are already starting to bud out. I love warm weather but when it comes too early in the year, it comes with a large cost. The lack of precipitation in the form of rain and the lack of a snow pack in the surrounding mountains means that we are in store for another very dry year here in the Rogue Valley.

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With the seemingly early spring, many of my perennial herbs in my garden are ready to pick. What really caught my eye is that my mint has already poked through the soil and is about 6 to 8 inches tall. Mint is one of my favorite herbs and one of the easiest to grow.  I just love the aroma, taste and versatility of freshly picked mint.  From my own personal experience, if you plant just one little mint plant, it will be more than happy to try to take over your entire yard. That’s why when I grow mint, I plant it in its very own pot where it is safely contained and unable to grow freely where ever it chooses.  Once mint is established in your garden, it’s difficult to eradicate without the use of herbicides.  And those who know me, know full well that I don’t use herbicides in my garden. Ever…

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I currently have 4 varieties of mint growing in my yard.  Peppermint, Lemon Balm, Chocolate Mint and Spearmint.  I’m planning to add Apple Mint and Pineapple Mint to my little mint collection in the near future.

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Fresh snipped spearmint and Italian flat leaf parsley from my garden was used in my Israeli Couscous Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Mint. For those who are unfamiliar with Israeli couscous, Israeli Couscous is a small semolina pasta also known as Pearl Couscous, Ptitim or Jerusalem Couscous. It’s mild in flavor and takes about 10 minutes to prepare. The little ball shape of Israeli Couscous makes it perfect for all sorts of soups, salads, main or side dishes. The next time you see Israeli couscous at your local grocery store or online, be sure to buy some.  It’s a quick cooking and very adaptable ingredient to have on hand in your kitchen pantry!  Enjoy!  Tessa

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Israeli couscous
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup Roasted Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup roasted cherry tomatoes (see instructions below)
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese (crumbled)
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian flat leaf parsley (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives (chopped)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Begin by heating the olive oil in a 2 quart pan over medium high heat.  Add Israeli Couscous to the pan and stir constantly until lightly browned, about 4 1/2 minutes. Reduce heat and slowly add water.  Cook covered until water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.  Add remaining ingredients, toss lightly, then taste and correct your seasonings.  Add the mixture to a serving bowl. Serve at room temperature or chilled.  Makes 8 – 1/2 cup servings.

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  On a baking pan add 1 pint cherry tomatoes.  Toss lightly with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt. Bake for 10 minutes or until the tomatoes collapse.  Remove from oven and let cool. Makes little over a cup. Use immediately or store covered in the refrigerator for a few days.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette: In a blender add the following ingredients and blend until smooth.  Makes about 1 cup.

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup roasted cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

Use immediately or keep refrigerated in a tightly covered container for a few days.

Oregon Elk Stew

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A few months ago I was invited to do a guest post for one of the best food bloggers that I know.  His name is Raymund and his blog is named Ang Sarap.  He’s a Filipino food blogger who is passionate about food.  What I love about Ang Sarap is that you never know what Raymund is going to dish up.  One day, it may be a traditional Filipino recipe and the next day he might serve up a platter of spicy Buffalo wings.  His food photography, versatility, and ability to cook is simply amazing!

The dish I chose to share with Raymund at Ang Sarap is my Oregon Elk Stew.  Elk meat is very low fat and high in protein.  It’s similar in flavor to beef and tastes milder than venison.  My Oregon Elk Stew is prepared with bright orange carrots, onions, celery, and zucchini and then slow cooked on the stove top with red wine and fresh picked herbs from my garden.  It’s best served with a scoop of mashed potatoes on the side and with a slice of your favorite crusty bread. 

Many thanks to Raymund for allowing me to be do a guest post on his site!  Those who have not met Raymund, please stop by, say hello, and most of all, subscribe to Ang Sarap.  You’ll be glad that you did!  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  •  1 ½ pounds elk stew meat (beef may be substituted)
  •  2 large carrots (chopped)
  • 1 medium onion (chopped)
  • 2 stalks celery (chopped)
  • 1 zucchini (chopped)
  • ½ quart beef stock or as needed
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 Tbs fresh thyme
  • 1 Tbs fresh oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  •  2 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 – 2 Tbs flour
  • 1 – 2 Tbs canola oil
  • Dash of Kitchen Bouquet (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Begin by cutting the elk meat into uniform sized cubes.  In a medium sized bowl, coat the elk meat with flour, salt and pepper.  Place a thick bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid (I used a Dutch oven) on the stove and heat to medium high heat.  Add canola oil and the elk meat.  Brown the elk on all sides, be careful not to burn.  Add beef stock and red wine to the pot and use a spoon to deglaze the bottom of the pan.  Add onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and oregano.  Turn heat down to low and cover.  Cook for an hour and a half or until the meat is fork tender.  Add carrots and celery and cook covered for an additional 30 minutes. If needed, thicken stew with a flour and water mixture. About 15 minutes before serving add zucchini.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Add a dash of Kitchen Bouquet for a richer colored stew (optional). Remove bay leaf and serve with mashed potatoes.  Makes 4 servings.