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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Peach Smoothie

 For many years, I had this misconception that smoothie has to do something with fruit and yogurt while a milkshake involves fruit and milk. That was until I read about the history of smoothie somewhere. According to wiki, a smoothie is a fruit based, blended and (sometimes) sweetened beverage. Sometimes chocolate or peanut butter may be added as well. Besides fruit, it may include crushed ice, frozen fruit, honey or syrup. They may also contain dairy products like milk, yogurt or ice-cream. And coming to ice-cream, there are divided opinions about whether it can be used in a smoothie or not. Some believe that ice-cream is added to milkshakes and not smoothies. As long as I know it tastes yummy, I don't care whether the ice-cream goes into a milkshake / smoothie. :)

It turns out that pureed fruits and fruit slushes have been a part of many cultures across the world for many centuries. The word "Smoothie" supposedly first appeared in 1940 in connection with the then newly commercialized electric blender. In short, the invention of electric blender paved the way for smoothies in America. The waring corporation (who financially backed the inventor of the blender, Fred Osius) had published a booklet that contained a dozen early recipes of "Milk Smoothees". Mabel Stegner, a Home Economics Consultant developed these recipes for the blender company and she coined the word "smoothie" for the first time in her article "Let the blender do it for you" in the year 1940. Her instructions to smoothie preparation were to add a banana / strawberries / pitted cherries / diced vegetables to a few ounces of a liquid base of one's choice. The liquid base can be milk / fruit juice / tomato juice or any other desired liquid. And the recipe mentions that in under one minute comes out a banana milk smoothie, a fruit nectar or a raw vegetable cocktail.

Smoothies were made initially in households that owned blenders. The first smoothie flavors were limited to the seasonal fruits available until refrigerators started appearing in homes. Banana, strawberries and pineapple used to be the most commonly available and popular flavors. The invention of blender and refrigerator during the early 1900's have revolutionized the smoothie making business. Other berries and exotic fruits came into the smoothie world once refrigerators became popular among households. The fruits could be now frozen and stored for using during the off-season. The smoothies gained popularity once the  ice-cream vendors and health food stores started selling them during 1960's. 
I kept it simple for today's smoothie. I just blended a cup of peach slices, a cup of yogurt, some ice cubes and a small quantity of sweetener. The resulting beverage was thick, creamy and real yummy.

This is going to be a part of "Smoothies" week, at BM #43


Monday, August 25, 2014

Strawberry Smoothie

Thanks to my husband, one of my refrigerator bins is always filled with a variety of colorful fruits. However I tend to reach out for humble bananas or juicy strawberries whenever I think of preparing shakes/smoothies. Somehow they are my favorite choices and no surprises there considering that how popular are those smoothies over the blog world as well. Here is my version of one of our favorite smoothies made with plump, sweet strawberries. A refreshing and filling drink for a muggy day like the one we had today or for a quick breakfast option.

Just blend the following ingredients for a yummy drink.
1 cup strawberries
1/2 cup chilled yogurt
1/2 cup chilled milk
6 ice cubes
Sugar to taste

This goes to BM #43, for the "smoothies" theme.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Banana - Chocolate Smoothie

I had chosen "Smoothies" theme for this week's blogging marathon and the timing wouldn't have been more perfect than this. Our summer months here are June through August and we hit very few 80 deg F (around 26 deg C) kind of temperatures until the middle of August this year and I was enjoying the balmy weather. I had even mentioned to my mother a couple of weeks ago, that we had relatively a mild summer here in Chicago-land compared to previous summers. I had spoken too soon it seems and from last few days even though I am not seeing sun much, temperatures are more or less around 90 deg F. I know if I mentioned this to any southerner or people living along the west coast, they would have been wrinkling their noses at me. :)
This heat and muggy weather is making everyone at home preferring cold smoothies, ice-creams, chilled juices and that kind of stuff. My daughter who seldom throws a look at chilled stuff  has been reaching for that chocolate ice-cream carton in the freezer more and more. I had prepared this yummy smoothie a few days back with some leftover overripe bananas. Make sure that sweet variety kind bananas are used. Add frozen banana / some ice cubes if not using frozen yogurt. 

Blend the following ingredients to a smooth consistency and serve immediately.
1 sweet variety banana (Bananas can be frozen ahead too.)
2-3 tbsp chocolate chips
2/3 cup frozen yogurt (or substitute chocolate ice cream.)
Sweetener if needed


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pizza Rolls

Here is one more yummy snack idea for the "Pizza" themed week of BM #43. I had used the dough that I posted on yesterday's post to prepare these yummy rolls which were a hit at home. Homemade or store bought pizza dough can be used. Even puff pastry sheet / bread dough can be substituted for the pizza dough. One can add their favorite toppings and seasonings. I am just giving the general directions below.

Pizza dough
Pizza sauce
Mozzarella cheese
Any pizza seasonings (optional)
Cornmeal for dusting

* On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle, make dimples with your fingers and brush the surface with olive oil.
* Then spread pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese and seasonings if
using. Roll it into a tight log.
(At this point I chilled  the log for about 20 minutes as my pizza dough was very soft and I had read somewhere that it would be easy to cut the rolls without them falling apart when chilled.)
* Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Sprinkle cornmeal over the baking sheets.
* Cut the log into one inch slices and place on the cornmeal sprinkled sheet.
* Place them in the oven and bake until slightly browned or for about 15 - 20 minutes.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Pizza Sticks

I usually make a rectangular shaped pizza and cut it into rectangles to make pizza sticks. Though there is nothing wrong with the taste of those sticks, I never found them appealing enough looks-wise to post it on the blog. For me they look like just rectangular shaped pizza slices with sauce and cheese oozing from all sides. I prefer neat looking individual sticks over them. I therefore decided this time to slice the rolled out pizza dough into rectangles before baking rather than waiting to slice after the baking part is done.
The dough I used for these pizza sticks comes from here. This recipe has become a recent favorite of us and I have been using it quite often for delicious, homemade pizzas. I used half of the dough to make cheese pizza and the rest to make about 13 sticks. For a quicker option, store bought pizza dough can be used.
Ingredients for pizza dough: 
1 cup lukewarm water
1.5 tsp active dry yeast
1.5 tbsp sugar
1.5 tbsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil (optional) 
2 & 3/4 to 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 
Ingredients for pizza sticks:
Pizza dough (above or store-bought)
Pizza sauce 
Mozzarella cheese
Vegetable toppings if desired
Pizza seasonings any if desired
 Dough preparation:
* Add sugar, yeast and salt to lukewarm water. Mix well to combine and leave the solution in a warm place for about 10 minutes. The mixture would turn frothy by the time. 
* Start with about 2 & 1/2 cups flour and go on adding extra as needed to form a smooth, soft dough.
* Using a mixer / a bread machine set on the dough cycle / hands, knead the dough until it's smooth and elastic, about 7 to 10 minutes.
* Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let it rise for 1 to 2 hours.

Making Pizza Sticks:
(I used half the dough I prepared from above measurements and divided it into two portions.) 
* Gently deflate the dough before using. Line a baking sheet with greased aluminum foil or parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 450 deg F.
* Place the dough ball directly on the sheet, shape it into a thin rectangle and slice it. If the end slices have contracted around the edges, just pull and reshape.
* Spread pizza sauce and sprinkle cheese over the slices. Arrange vegetable toppings and seasonings if using.
* Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake until the cheese bubbles and slightly browns.
* Remove from the oven and slice them along the previously made cuts.
* Serve immediately along with ketchup or marinara sauce.
These are on their way to BM# 43 under "Pizza" theme. Check the link to learn what other marathoners are cooking this week.