How to Make an Awesome Smoothie

If you want to learn more about delicious, nourishing, real food without the guilt trip for everything you're not doing right, hit that "like" button on the right, and subscribe to my posts by e-mail or reader feed so you don't miss anything. Thanks for stopping by!

Strawberry, Banana & Peach Smoothie

I think my smoothie-making has reached new heights lately. My non-smoothie-loving husband has even been enjoying them, which is quite an accomplishment in my mind. I've finally found a method that produces a delicious smoothie every time. Want to know how?

Tips for Making Awesome Smoothies


1. Use frozen fruit. Using fresh fruit, or even a mixture of fresh and frozen, results in a thinner, more liquid smoothie. My favorites are strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and peaches. When those fruits are in season locally I buy a bunch at the farmer's market or u-pick farm and freeze them. (My next post at Modern Alternative Kitchen is on Lazy Freezing Techniques. Subscribe over there so you don't miss it!) Then I have enough for smoothies year-round!

You can freeze strawberries whole with tops for smoothies!

2. Banana is key. The creamy sweetness of a banana can't be beat! Next time you have some slightly over-ripe ones, cut them into chunks and throw them in the freezer. (You can sometimes find over-ripe bananas for a reduced price. This is an excellent use for them!)

3. Add greens...sparingly.  Greens such as spinach or kale add a lot of nutrition to your smoothie, provided they are lightly cooked first. See this post for how to prepare greens for smoothies (scroll down to the smoothie section), or do it the easy way: buy a bag of frozen spinach. Make sure you get the kind that is not all in one solid clump. Add a couple tablespoons to your smoothie right from the bag. They are already cooked before freezing, so you don't have to worry about the raw greens problem. Don't add too much, or the taste may be overpowering. Experiment and see what works best for you!

See the little green flecks?

4. Start with just a little liquid, and add more as necessary. I use whole raw milk in my smoothies. Full-fat coconut milk is a good alternative if you can't tolerate dairy. I start with just a little, which I add after I put the fruit into the blender. Then when the blender gets stuck because it needs more liquid, I stream more milk in through the top while it's running.  I add just enough to get it going.

5. Season your smoothie. I like to add a pinch of salt, a splash of vanilla extract, and sometimes a little honey if it's too tart. It's amazing what a difference it makes in enhancing the flavor. Don't forget to taste it before you pour it out to see if it needs anything.

6. Use plain, full-fat yogurt. This goes a long way in making the smoothie satisfying. Greek yogurt guarantees an even thicker product, but make sure you buy full-fat! I can only find full-fat Greek yogurt at the health food store.

7. Include coconut oil.  I love the subtle flavor that coconut oil adds, and it's a healthy fat. Read more about it here. In the past I've melted it first, but lately I just throw it in solid. As long as you follow the next tip, it will be okay.

8. Blend it thoroughly. It's no fun to run into chunks of un-blended fruit. Don't be shy, let that blender do it's thing until you're sure it's all blended! This also makes the smoothie....frothy. Frothy is good.

Strawberry Orange Julius

If you're afraid to make a smoothie without a recipe, you can find recipes all over the internet. Use your judgement and use only real ingredients! And if you want to try something a little different, try my Strawberry Orange Julius. It's a refreshing treat any time of year!

What's your favorite smoothie? Share your smoothie-making tips in the comments!

This is part of: Hearth and Soul Blog Hop, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Whole Foods Wednesday, Healthy2Day Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday. Keep it Real Thursday, the seasonal recipe round up for berries at Gnowfglins, Monday Mania


Recipes by the Soup Goddess: Tomato Soup

If you want to learn more about delicious, nourishing, real food without the guilt trip for everything you're not doing right, hit that "like" button on the right, and subscribe to my posts by e-mail or reader feed so you don't miss anything. Thanks for stopping by!

This is the first recipe in my new series, Recipes by the Soup Goddess! This tomato soup is like nothing you've ever tasted, especially if you grew up on Campbell's. Seasoned with loads of fresh basil and chock full of nutrients, it's totally worth the effort of peeling and seeding fresh tomatoes from your garden. 

We like to serve it with pesto grilled cheese sandwiches, made with homemade pesto that we froze last summer in ice cube trays.

The makings of a great grilled cheese: sprouted bread, fancy cheese, and a cube of pesto from the freezer.

It makes a big Dutch oven full: enough to eat, share, and have leftovers! (We like to freeze the leftovers for a summery treat in the dead of winter.)

Tips for Success from the Soup Goddess

1. Fresh basil is key. Don't be shy!
2. Blend to the thickness you like. She likes hers a bit chunky.
3. Freshly grated Parmesan sprinkled on top is The Upgrade. (She always has an Upgrade.) She likes to grate hers on a microplane.
4. As always, remember this Soup Goddess secret: "Taste, sprinkle, taste, sprinkle, taste."
The cheese oozing out the bottom is Dill Havarti.

Best-Ever Tomato Soup  

Original Recipe by Sara Moulton, amended and upgraded by Linda Leeman

  • 4 T. butter
  • a splash of olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 onion (medium or large), diced
  • 3 carrots, finely diced
  • ¼ c. flour (I've used all-purpose, but I bet sprouted would work well)
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 6 lbs fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped (details below)
  • 2 (28 oz.) cans pureed tomatoes, or more fresh tomatoes
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 4 c. homemade chicken broth
  • 4 t. fresh thyme leaves (or 1-2 t. dry)
  • 2 T. fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 c. light cream or whole milk
  • freshly grated Parmesan, for garnish
1. To peel and seed the tomatoes, fill a large pot halfway full with water. Bring it to a boil, and carefully place the tomatoes in the pot. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon after less than a minute, or when you see some of the skins starting to break or wrinkle. Drain in a colander, and let cool. Slip the skins off, cut off the stem end with a serrated knife. Slice in half and remove the seeds, either by squeezing or scoping them out with your finger. Chop coarsely.
2. Melt the butter and olive oil in a Dutch oven or other large pot. Add the onion and carrot and cook over medium heat until almost tender. Add the garlic and continue cooking a few more minutes.   
3. Add the flour and cook, stirring, 1-2 minutes. Do not allow to brown. 
4. Add seeded and peeled tomatoes, canned tomatoes (if using), tomato paste, chicken broth, and salt and pepper to taste. 
5. Simmer, stirring every few minutes, for 30 minutes or longer (the longer it simmers the better it tastes). Halfway through simmering, add the fresh thyme. Toward the end of simmering, add the fresh basil. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
6.  Puree the soup (preferably with an immersion blender to avoid extra dishes and potentially squirting soup all over the kitchen!). The Soup Goddess prefers hers a little bit chunky.
7. Add the cream or milk and heat on low for a few minutes, tasting to adjust the seasonings one last time.
8. Serve with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan and a grilled cheese sandwich.

A Few Notes

The last time I made this,  I used tomatoes I had frozen whole last summer. Did you know you could do that? When they thaw, the skins slip right off and you can cut and seed them as normal. It actually saves a step - you don't have to boil them first.

(My next contribution to Modern Alternative Kitchen is a post on Lazy Freezing Techniques like this one! Be sure to subscribe over there so you don't miss out!)

Tomatoes frozen whole with skins. Who knew!?
I also made use of my crock pot last time I made this. We were having some friends over for lunch after church on Sunday, so I went as far as step 4 above the night before, on the stovetop. Then I plopped the contents of the pot into my crock pot insert and stuck it in the fridge. In the morning before church, I turned it on high and it simmered for about three hours. When we got home I added the fresh basil and cream, pureed it, and seasoned to taste. It may have been my best batch ever!

Does it get any better than this?


Recipes by the Soup Goddess: A New Series

If you want to learn more about delicious, nourishing, real food without the guilt trip for everything you're not doing right, hit that "like" button on the right, and subscribe to my posts by e-mail or reader feed so you don't miss anything. Thanks for stopping by!

Best Ever Tomato Soup with Pesto Grilled Cheese
Summer seems a strange time to start a series about soup. But it's also the time when gardens start to overflow with fresh vegetables. One of the best ways I know of to use up fresh vegetables is to turn them into soup. And I happen to know a soup expert.

This is my mom, Linda.

Isn't she a good lookin' Grandma?

Her friends call her the Soup Goddess.

I'm not sure when it started. She has always been a good cook, but in the last ten years or so she has been perfecting the art of soup. Cream of Asparagus, Minestrone, Tomato, Ham and Potato, Split Pea, French Onion, Beef Barley, Chicken Corn Chowder, Broccoli Cheese, Turkey Dumpling, Wild Mushroom, Chicken with Wild Rice, Butternut Squash with Brie...are you getting hungry yet?

Momma's Minestrone

How many times have you been to a restaurant, ordered the soup, and thought, "Well, that was disappointing"? Or do you go through the effort of making soup from scratch at home and then think that it was just okay?

Butternut Squash Soup with Brie

Let the Soup Goddess teach you how to make soup. I'll be sharing her recipes here at Plus Other Good Stuff, as well as her secrets for how to achieve the tastiest soup!

We'll start with some summery recipes like Tomato Soup and Minestrone, and as fall approaches you better believe we're bustin' out the brie for the best squash soup ever! Yeah, get excited! 

Are you ready to learn how to make delicious, nutritious, satisfying, family-pleasing soups?


Raw Dairy at MAK!

He loves his raw milk!

Have you heard? I am honored to be one of the contributors to a great new site called Modern Alternative Kitchen! It's a sister site to Modern Alternative Mama, and will focus exclusively on real food. We have an awesome editor named Jill and ten awesome contributors. I'm thrilled to be a part of it!

Today, my very first post went live! It's all about raw dairy: health benefits, safety considerations, and tips for making raw milk a part of your life. And cute toddler pics. Because everything is better with cute toddler pics! :) I hope you'll hop on over and take a look!

This is part of Fresh Bites Friday and Fight Back Friday.


Granola Recipe UPDATE!

Peanut butter granola, blueberries, and whole milk Greek yogurt.
I'm in love with homemade granola. It's flavorful, satisfying, an easy breakfast or snack, and I wouldn't be able to buy anything nearly as healthy in the store.

That being said, my husband is hooked on Bear Naked's Heavenly Chocolate Granola. Since it's expensive, contains sugar and canola oil, and isn't soaked, I decided to try to make some chocolate granola to satisfy his craving.

All I did was make my usual granola, and after it was finished cooking, but still warm, I sprinkled on some dark chocolate chips (maybe next time I'll try homemade) and drizzled on some honey. Then I stirred it up and let it cool. The result is a super yummy chocolate-coated variation!

I only did this with half of the batch. With the other half I stirred in some peanut butter and honey (inspired my a delicious granola recipe a friend sent me) as it was cooling and then finished it off with dried fruit as usual. I love how both these variations have flavor on the inside and the outside. You know how store-bought cereal has flavor that just explodes in your mouth? I think this is as close as we're gonna get to that, but much healthier. You can feel good about serving this granola to your family. And even though it's a two day process, it really doesn't take that much hands-on time.

If your family is addicted to store-bought cereal, give this recipe a try! I've updated my original recipe with these two tasty variations. Enjoy!

This is part of Whole Foods Wednesday and Pennywise Platter Thursday.


Easy Change #8: Cut back on Microwave Use


This is part of my Easy Changes series. To see other easy changes you can make today, go here. And if you like what you're reading here at Plus Other Good Stuff, click "like" on that box to the right!

I mentioned in my recent meal plan that we don't use the microwave to heat up leftovers. Let me clarify: we still have a microwave. But it's in the basement.

Why We Moved Our Microwave to the Basement

1. To free up counter space. 
We have a small kitchen. Now I have more room for kombucha and water kefir on my counter!

2. To encourage us to use it less.
When the microwave was right there, we used it to heat up leftovers all the time, even after I decided to try to cut back our usage. I realized the only way for us to use it less was to move it somewhere less convenient. So down it went.

The Best Reason to Stop Microwaving Leftovers


I'm gonna tell you why microwaves are scary in a minute. But first I want to tell you an even better reason to stop using your microwave to heat up leftovers, that has nothing to do with your health.

Microwaved food tastes gross.

Microwaved pizza turns all floppy and squishy. Microwaved beans and rice heat unevenly. Meat gets rubbery. Your food will go from still cold in spots to burn-your-tongue hot in seconds. Then it gets cold much faster than food cooked in an oven and you have to stick it in again.

But if you heat up your leftover mac & cheese in the oven...it turns into baked mac and cheese! Your oven roasted potatoes get a little extra crisp! Your pizza still tastes like pizza! You may actually start looking forward to eating those leftovers!

(Here's a great post highlighting more ways that not using your microwave can make your life easier and tastier!)

Why Microwaves are Scary

I don't want to fill you with fear, so I'll start by saying that we still use the microwave. We didn't get rid of it because it still comes in handy once in awhile.  Like when you're pregnant and you need a bean and cheese burrito (that you so shrewdly made ahead and put in the freezer) at 11 PM. There is no time to wait for it to heat up in the oven! You are hungry now! (In that case, it's actually convenient that the microwave is in the basement, because that's where the chest freezer holding the burrito is too.)

Nonetheless, microwaves kinda freak me out. Research is conflicting (when isn't it?) but there are enough people out there telling me that microwaves are dangerous for me try to use mine less. If those people are right, the possible dangers of the microwave include:
  • denatured food (loss of nutrition and changes to the molecular structure)
  • radiation which may cause cancer and miscarriage


How to Heat up Leftovers without a Microwave

If you're the slightest bit worried that microwaves may not be safe, try heating up food without one. You can do it! Yes, even you! (Stop avoiding eye contact. I'm talking to you.) Here's how.

1. Use a pot on the stove. This works especially great for soups, stews, curries. And it is seriously fast! Yes, you dirty an extra dish, but it's worth it, even to me, and I hate doing dishes.

2. Use the oven. The most common way for us to heat leftovers is to put them in a bowl or on a plate and put it right in the oven set to 350 or so. It takes 10-20 minutes, but there is plenty to do while we wait. It's a great time to catch up on dishes, nurse the baby, or play with the 2 year old. We then (carefully) eat right out of those dishes.

3. Use your trusty iron skillet. Do you have a trusty iron skillet? If not, go buy one. Sometimes you can find one at a thrift store, but I got mine at Bed Bath & Beyond for 20 bucks minus 20% with a coupon. It never leaves my stove top because we use it so frequently. Yesterday we heated up leftover spaghetti and meatballs on it because we didn't have time to wait for the oven. I just put in a little olive oil, plopped in the food, covered it, and stirred it every couple minutes.  It took no more than 5 minutes.

4. Get a toaster oven. I hear these are great for heating leftovers instead of a microwave. They do it faster than an oven and without heating up the whole house. We don't have one now, but it's on my wishlist for someday when we have real jobs and a bigger kitchen. :)


Other Common Uses for Microwaves, and How to Make the Switch


1. Popcorn. Stove-popped popcorn is delicious! We had some at a friends house last night popped in lard and it was seriously amazing. Good-bye "butter flavor," whatever you are!

2. Steaming Vegetables. If you have eight dollars, buy a steamer basket and steam your vegetables on the stove in a pot. It's fast and easy!

3. Melting Butter. Get some stainless steel measuring cups. (They last longer than the plastic ones anyway.) Put that half-a-stick of butter in to the 1-cup measure and put it right on the burner. Turn the heat as low as it will go, and watch that butter melt away. Or, melt butter in an-oven safe dish while the oven preheats. (Maybe even in the dish you're going to make something in. Then pour it into your mixing bowl, and what's left behind just greased your pan!)

4. "Baking" potatoes. Peirce potato with a fork. Put potato directly on oven rack. Bake potato at 400 until tender. Read a book while you wait.

5. Heating Water for Tea. We used to use a regular tea kettle, which works just fine. Then it got gross so for awhile we used a plain old pot. Then we asked for this electric tea kettle for Christmas. (Thanks mom and dad!) We were shocked at how fast this thing heats water! Some people who have real jobs and houses use something called a hot water dispenser. Looks like it would be super convenient, though I'm very happy with our tea kettle. :)


The Challenge


I challenge you to try it. You don't have to throw away your microwave, or even move it to the basement. Just try to use it a little less. Choose one of my suggestions and try it out. It's easier than you think!

Do you use a microwave? What do you use it for most? Share in the comments!

 This is part of Monday Mania and Real Food Wednesday, and Simple Lives Thursday.



Meal Plan: July 9-15

I'm linking this up to Modern Alternative Kitchen's Monday Meal Plan! Have you checked out this new real food site that I'm honored to be a contributor for? This is launch week and there is a huge giveaway, with more chances to win every day!

Meal planning is a real life-saver for us. We definitely don't stick to it 100% of the time, but having a rough idea of what we're going to eat in a given week prevents last-minute shopping trips, allows me to prep things ahead of time (which is important when nursing an infant!) and keeps us from having to eat out. It's an easy change you can make that will make a big impact on your sanity and health!

In this crazy season with a two-month old baby and a toddler, I'm doing a few things to make my life simpler: 

1) Use the freezer. I have a lot of food in the freezer that I pull out to make meals easier. When I was pregnant I tried to make double batches of things so I could freeze food without working any harder. I'm so happy I did!
2) Lots of salads. Salads are easy to put together, require little time in the kitchen, don't heat up the house, and are perfect for summertime!
3) Intentional Leftovers. I make sure to cook enough that we can get multiple meals out of whatever I'm cooking. Then we use the oven to heat them up instead of the microwave. (It's really easy! Just put your food in a plate or a bowl and put it in the oven. Then wash some dishes or play with your kids while it heats up!)
4) Rest on Sundays. This is the day that works best for our family to have a Sabbath in this season of life. After church we come home, eat leftovers for lunch, take naps, and eat a very simple meal or more leftovers for dinner. A mother can't really ever take a day completely off, but I'm trying to be intentional about refraining from cooking and housework as much as possible.

So here's this week's plan. Hope you find some inspiration!


Breakfast: Fried eggs cooked in coconut oil,  sourdough toast with butter 
Lunch: Tuna melts on sprouted bread
Dinner: Out to City Vu Bistro with my parents



Breakfast: Cottage cheese with fresh peaches
Lunch: Sauteed vegetable sandwich (portobello mushrooms, summer squash, and onion, on sprouted bread with homemade pesto and mozzarella cheese), fresh cherries 
Dinner: Salad with leftover oven-baked chicken, hard-boiled egg, bacon, avocado, and homemade Caesar dressing
prep for next day: thaw meatballs and sauce



Breakfast: French toast frittata, raw milk
Lunch: Egg salad 
Dinner: Spaghetti with Meatballs (homemade meatballs and sauce are in the freezer!), salad with homemade Caesar dressing
Dessert with friends:  homemade ice cream (not sure what kind yet, something from this book with less sugar than she calls for...)
prep for next day: soak oats, soak brown rice, thaw cooked chickpeas from freezer



Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Leftover egg salad and/or spaghetti and meatballs
Dinner: Brown Rice Salad with Kale and Roasted Chickpeas (with escarole instead of kale)



Breakfast: Fritatta with veggies (greens, mushrooms, zucchini, onion), sprouted toast with butter
Lunch: Leftover brown rice salad
Dinner with friends: bring dessert - more homemade ice cream, perhaps?



Breakfast: Soaked pancakes (I use sour milk to soak them - great way to use it up!) with butter and maple syrup, fresh fruit, organic bacon 
Lunch: Mac and Cheese 
Dinner: Spicy southwest fish with pinto beans (new recipe!), corn tortillas, soaked Mexican brown rice (from the freezer!), roasted zucchini
prep for next day: boil eggs, thaw chili



Breakfast: yogurt with homemade granola and fresh fruit, hard boiled eggs 
Lunch: Leftover fish with pinto beans 
Dinner: Baked potatoes with chili from the freezer, salad with homemade vinaigrette

 So....what are you eating this week? Share in the comments!

 This is part of Real Food Wednesday, and Pennywise Platter Thursday.


Salmon Patties with Probiotic Lemon-Dill Sauce

Salmon Patties with Wild Rice Pilaf

Crispy on the outside, studded with sauteed onion, and seasoned with dill and mustard, these salmon patties are one of our favorite meals. The simple sauce takes only a few seconds to mix together, which is easy to do while the salmon is frying. We like to eat these with either oven roasted potatoes or a wild rice pilaf.

The last time I made these, I tried something new: doubling the recipe and freezing half. I formed it all into patties, cooked what we were going to eat, and froze the rest without cooking. I put them in a container separated by parchment. I'm planning to thaw them and cook them up when we need a quick and easy meal...which is pretty often, with a newborn and a 2 year old in the house!

To make this even more economical, I used one can of the pricier but more delicious red salmon, and one can of the cheaper but less tasty pink salmon. I've made them with all pink salmon before, but we gave that a thumbs down. Half and half was perfect, though! If you're only making a single recipe, I recommend just using the red salmon.

This recipe makes 4 patties. It doubles easily.

Toss it in and mix it up!

Salmon Patties

1 16 oz. can wild Alaskan salmon (red or pink)
1/2 c. chopped onion
2 T. butter
2/3 c. homemade breadcrumbs, separated
2 pastured eggs
1 t. dried dill
1/2 t. dry mustard
freshly ground pepper
2 T. coconut or olive oil

1. Saute onion in melted butter in a large skillet.
2. Drain salmon, reserving liquid. Remove large bones (you won't even notice the small ones).
3. Mix together all ingredients, except for 1/3 c. breadcrumbs and oil. Add enough reserved liquid to moisten, up to 1/3 cup.
4. Place reserved breadcrumbs on a plate. Form the mixture into patties and gently coat with crumbs.
5. Fry in oil in a hot skillet until brown on both sides. Depending on the thickness, you may have to turn heat to low and cover in order for them to cook all the way through.
6. Serve topped with Lemon-Dill Sauce, below.

Lemon-Dill Sauce

1/4 c. plain yogurt
1/4 c. sour cream (I use Daisy Brand)
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 t. lemon zest
1/2 t. dried dill (I'm sure fresh would be great!)
salt and pepper to taste

Mix together all ingredients.

So yummy.

What's your favorite way to eat fish?

 This is part of Real Food Wednesday and Whole Foods Wednesday.


Got Too Much Raw Milk?

The boy loves his milk. Especially out of a real glass.

We get a gallon and a half of raw milk from our herdshare every Friday. 

Recently, we were gone from a Tuesday to the following Wednesday. Milk was delivered on Friday while we were gone, so when we got back we had a lot of milk to use in two days before our new milk arrived. We are not huge milk drinkers, so I had to get creative. In addition to trying to just drink more of it (and let my toddler have as much as he wanted) I made a few recipes that used up a lot of milk:

1. Easy Mac and Cheese
While I love my regular mac and cheese recipe, this is a great one for using up milk. You actually cook the noodles in the milk, which makes a thick, creamy sauce all on its own. It used up 3 cups, though I totally could have doubled it and used 6. (Note: I use brown rice pasta and add a few tablespoons of butter to this recipe. We also like to add cut-up organic hot dogs and frozen peas.) Get the recipe here!

2. Homemade Chocolate Pudding and Fudgesicles
I got the idea of freezing chocolate pudding into fudgecicles from Kelly the Kitchen Kop, but I used The Nourishing Gourmet's simpler chocolate pudding recipe (with cow's milk in place of the coconut milk, obviously). These are pretty much amazing, and used up 4 cups of milk. I made 6 fudgesicles and had some pudding leftover to enjoy unfrozen. :)

3. Fruit Smoothies
Usually I use yogurt in my smoothies, but lately I've been using all milk. My favorite last week was frozen banana, blueberries, raspberries, and spinach, plus a little vanilla, a pinch of Real Salt, and enough milk to get it to the right consistency (I like my smoothies really thick, so I start with just a little milk and add more as needed).

That's what I did this time around to use up the extra milk, but other ideas include:
Soaked Pancakes
Make Cookies (we always drink milk with cookies)
Turn it into Yogurt
Homemade Granola with milk
Use in place of water in Yeast Bread
Freeze it for later

How do you use up extra milk?

This is part of Monday Mania.