Posts tagged ‘Recipes’

February 12, 2017

Green Smoothie Packs

I am always looking for ways to prepare for the week ahead and save myself some time. One of my biggest tips for success is making your morning as easy as possible with make ahead freezer Smoothie Packs. Our Vitamix is easily the most used tool in our kitchen. When both of us are home, we use it at least once a day. I like making green smoothies, but I hate making a mess in the morning. It always feels like a big to-do to get out a thousand ingredients, make sure things are fresh and pull it all together and then get it cleaned up before work. I was finding myself skipping it and opting for a yogurt that was quick and easy on my way out the door.

This is my solution; spend an hour to make 15 Smoothie Packs and stick them in the freezer. I find I don’t have to worry about wasting my fresh greens, I use almond milk or water and am on my way. Each pack makes two smoothies and I throw the extra in a Blender Bottle for the next morning. (Or great to share with someone else. :)) Let me tell you, that is VERY convenient on days when you need to be up and moving early. Those extra early days, I even grind my coffee beans the night before, set up my french press and fill the kettle with water to get myself a shot of caffeine without any fuss.

Now I know not everyone loves the idea of greens in their smoothie. I love that I can get a couple extra servings of veggies in before I start the day. We consider this about the Blue run version of green smoothies. My Green run starter version for newbies would use only spinach and ease into adding kale and other veggies. You will see that I include broccoli and carrots and I swear you will never know they are there. Sometimes I use the stocks of broccoli I am planning to cook and chop them into pieces, that way you are getting more bang for your buck. For a Black Diamond version, add Spirulina, Apple Cider Vinegar, or Cod Liver Oil (or all three!) This is a great way to hide healthy things in your diet, but beware, we have had a few versions that were a little too green.

In most cases, I hit up Costco and Trader Joe’s and get veggies that are already chopped to save some effort. One thing to pay attention to is trying not to let your frozen fruit melt as you build your packs. If you do, you end up with a giant fruitcicle in the bottom of your bags that can be tough to break up. (Trust me, I know!)

My mom makes her own non-green version, which we will share soon. Her’s are equally easy and super tasty!

Enjoy an easy way to get a healthy start to your day!


Green Smoothie Packs

Quart Size Ziplocks

Large Bag each Spinach and Chopped Kale

Variety of Frozen Fruit (4-6 Small bags)

Bananas, Sliced (Optional)

Bag of Broccoli Florets

Bag of Baby Carrots

Vanilla Protein Powder

Hemp/Chia/Flax Seeds (you can throw whole seeds into a Vitamix, for some blenders, use powdered versions)

Almond Milk


Lay out all your ingredients (pulling one or two bags of frozen fruit out at a time). Measure 1 cup of mixed frozen fruit and add to the bottom of your quart size bag. Put a couple broccoli florets and a few baby carrots next. Then add one handful of each spinach and kale. Next add 1 T of your choice of seeds and 1 scoop of protein powder. Carefully remove some of the air as you zip them closed. I tend to measure the ingredients that are high calorie and higher sugar and not worry too much about being exact with my greens. They are a great low calorie way to get lots of great things into your diet.


Put in the freezer as you complete them. (By putting the heavy ingredients on the bottom, when inverted into the blender, they will help push the greens down to the blades).


As needed, pull one smoothie pack out of the freezer and add to the blender. Add 1-2 cups of your choice of liquid. I like almond milk or water. Blend until smooth. Split into two portions, put one in a Blender Bottle in the fridge to be used the next day.

The great things about this is that you can use your favorite things! Whatever you prefer; throw it in! Get creative and adjust to your own taste. We started by replicating our favorite Whole Foods smoothies, and ended up removing the juice as we got used to drinking greens. If you prefer it, use a bit of juice too. All of these ingredients cost me about $25, that is less than $1.75 per smoothie! (The protein and hemp last through many more smoothies). Much better than the $8 Whole Foods versions. I always feel better and have more energy when I start my day with a green smoothie; I hope you enjoy too!

November 26, 2013

Turkey Day Changeup

This year’s Thanksgiving had been a bit turned on its head in our house. Some of our Thanksgiving family had a conflict so we decided to move the festivities to Friday so we could all be together. It has kind of thrown us for a loop in terms of planning and prep because we have a whole extra day! Nothing to complain about, I know but it does change the things you always do. The other big change for us is the menu…we didn’t want to just repeat Thanksgiving in all its glory, but have an upscale riff on leftovers. So, our planning has turned to making things a little differently and centering everything around sandwiches! How can you go wrong?? We have found that there are some traditional things that people can’t live without. So far, we have made dough for rolls and cookies, stuffing, cream puff shells, cranberry relish and chipotle cranberry sauce. Here is our menu (in progress as always):


Thanksgiving Menu 2013



Shrimp Cocktail

Sweet Potato Croquettes



Roasted Turkey Sandwiches

Beef Tenderloin Sandwiches

Wild Turkey Casserole


Mashed Potatoes

Caesar Salad Spears

Cranberry Relish

Cranberry Chipotle Sauce

Sweet Potato Rolls


Onion Jam



Pumpkin Pie with Vanilla Whipped Cream

Cream Puffs with Pumpkin Mousse and Chocolate No-Moo Mousse Filling

Ginger Snaps


If you would like to see our regular schedule, check this out! Countdown Day 7, Day 5, Day 4, Day 1


It will be a great way to spend the day after turkey day! Happy Thanksgiving to You and Yours! Back with more recipes post-Thanksgiving.


PS—I think the patrons at Whole Foods today need a good reminder of the spirit of the season since it seems we need police presence in the parking lot and a near riot over a lack of whipping cream! I am still trying to kill it with kindness and a smile! Thank goodness for some friendly employees. J


March 3, 2013

Graduation Party Family Style Recipes

Continuing on our earlier post, Graduation Party Family Style, we bring you the recipes. It is amazing how you find favorites that are always there and reinvent them for a new theme. We do that often in our cooking. Things do always seem to evolve and are rarely exactly the same twice. In addition, we are never afraid to try something new for a party. If it doesn’t come out, we improvise…that is half of the fun! As long as you can find a way to enjoy the party, you have succeeded. Let us know how you like these!

The “No Fork” Menu


Challah Bread

Homemade Rolls – just like the buns we made before only smaller!


Homemade BBQ Sauce: This one deserves its own post, so look out for this to come!

Lemon Aioli: Sans basil; so easy!

Cranberry Chipotle Sauce:

Start with cranberry sauce (ours was saved from Thanksgiving and canned), take one chipotle pepper and 1 tablespoon of the canning sauce and blend all ingredients together. Use as a spread for your sandwich (or on everything, it is so good!) If you wanted to get really creative, you could make it into butter or mayo to make a creamy spread. YUM.

Parmesan Croutons:

Preheat the oven to 375°. Cut stale bread into cubes as desired. Place in a bowl and toss with a sprinkle of olive oil, salt, crushed red peppers, and crushed fresh garlic cloves. Melt about a tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium high heat add the bread to lightly toast the croutons. Stir to brown on all sides. Toss with shredded parmesan cheese. Place the skillet in the oven for about 10-20 minutes until mostly dried out. Allow to cool and store in an airtight container.

Goat Cheese and Pear Appetizer:

Kelly found this recipe for Goat Cheese and Pear appetizer on Pinterest. Just slice the pears (we dipped in some lemon water to reduce browning), then spread goat cheese, and sprinkle with chopped pistachios and dried cranberries. If I was going to do this again, I would make them right before. I don’t think it saved very well, so perhaps best for a smaller group. Also, the original recipe left a bit of space for picking up, which is a great idea. That said, this was a keeper!

Relishes in Jars

Mary found this idea for the relishes on Pinterest, again! Just find some different jars or vases and fill with vegetables. It creates a great color blocked look.

Caesar Salad Spears with Green Goddess Dressing.

The idea for this salad dish was that guests could pick up the individual spears which were already dressed with Green Goddess and Croutons.

For the Green Goddess, we used about 1 cup of our lemon aioli (leave out the basil), ½ bunch of scallions, ½ cup of chopped Italian parsley, anchovy paste to taste (about 1 tsp), 2 cloves garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Place all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.

For the salad, place spears on a platter and dress in layers. Top with croutons and enjoy!


Elvis Style Cole Slaw

Remember this one? All we did was leave out the basil in the aioli and voila it becomes Elvis Style!

Cupcake Mania

We made homemade Sprinkles Chocolate Frosting. I will not even try to take credit for this frosting. It is AWESOME. Every single time it is great. It is rich and light at the same time. If you have been looking for a great frosting, here it is! We just used a chocolate cake recipe that we had on hand, but we are still in search of the perfect cupcake recipe…let us know if you have one!!

We thought this was a hugely successful party, but wish we had hired some help to better serve the 65 people who came. We would have had a better chance to visit with people. Parties like this are always easier in the summer because you can spread out more and make more targeted areas for food, drinks, etc. Overall, we thought this was one of our best parties. We had a great crowd and a great team effort to pull it off! One of the biggest successes of any party has to do with the people you invite and we had a great crowd! Thanks to everyone who shared this day with us.

& Kelly



February 9, 2013

Graduation Party Family Style

I am thrilled that we have a fantastic guest post courtesy of my Aunts. Mary’s sisters, Diane and Sue, were kind enough to share their take on Ali’s graduation party which they help make happen! Thank you both for all your help and for sharing with Zest!! Keep an eye out for the recipes in a post to come.


We always enjoy cooking together as a family. So, as the out-of-town aunties, (Mary’s sisters), we were so happy come to town and join Mary and Kelly in the planning, shopping, cooking and entertaining for Ali’s graduation celebration in December. And since we got the chance to pitch in, we have the honor of being the guests on ZESTblog to recap this fun party.

Friday was planning and prep day, and Saturday we got to cook all day together! We had so much fun laughing, sharing ideas and trying out new recipes, but mostly being together in the kitchen.

As hostess and chief chef for the party, Mary’s vision for the dinner was a “no fork buffet” to make it fun, interactive and to cut down on utensils. So with this in mind, the menu we came up with for the Saturday night party was all “no fork” dishes:

By the time we got started with the prep on Friday, Mary already had lots of grocery lists and to do lists written up!

We had fun posting a small, hand-written sign in front of each food item, since we had a couple of meat choices and to designate the different and delicious sauces.  Mary’s favorite sign was the “Elvis – Style Slaw for Sliders” because the guests actually followed the instructions and put the coleslaw on their sandwich. (no forks!)

So the menu was set, the each course created and the food stations decided. Every pretty platter in the house was set out with the dishes accented by sauces and signage. Mary seemed pleased at how everything came out.


We were so impressed that there were so many homemade dishes. Most of the sauces and breads were homemade, using either one of Mary’s or Kelly’s tried and true recipes, like the Green Goddess dressing, and some were created that day with last minute ingenuity, like the sauces for the smoked meats. (Also note, the signature drink, in Ali’s school colors.) But all were amazing and delicious:

Challah Bread/ Homemade Rolls

BBQ Sauce

Lemon Aioli

Cranberry Chipotle Sauce

Green Goddess Dressing

Parmesan Croutons

Cupcake Frosting

(Recipes To Come!)


Steve’s Smokin’ Smoked Meats

The entrée was home smoked pork shoulder and beef roast, which we turned into sliders. The meat was prepared by Steve, a very generous family friend and great cook on his home smoker, and Mary asked him to do the honor of opening the buffet. (This is a tradition that our Mom, Del, used to do – pick someone special to “open the buffet”). The meats were served with a variety of homemade rolls and Mary’s beautiful Challah bread, with the various homemade sauces. We added BBQ sauce to half of the pork to make BBQ pulled pork, and we sliced the other half of the pork along with the smoked beef roast for sliders. So tender and tasty, a variety of sliders!

Goat Cheese and Pear Appetizer:

Kelly found this recipe for Goat Cheese and Pear appetizer on Pinterest. Just slice the pears (we dipped in some lemon water to reduce browning), then spread goat cheese, and sprinkle with chopped pistachios and dried cranberries. J

Relishes in Jars

Mary found this idea for the relishes on Pinterest, again! Just find some different jars or vases and fill with vegetables. It creates a great color blocked look.

Caesar Salad Spears with Green Goddess Dressing.

The idea for this salad dish was that guests could pick up the individual spears which were already dressed with Green Goddess and Croutons. (no forks!)


Elvis Style Cole Slaw

Remember this one? All we did was leave out the basil in the aioli and voila it becomes Elvis Style!

Cupcake Mania

We made homemade Sprinkles Chocolate Frosting and had fun decorating regular size and mini cupcakes with Christmas theme sprinkles on top. Specialty theme was Hostess Cupcake swirls on a plain chocolate cupcake, which Ali had requested.

Diane and





August 24, 2012

Tomato Bruschetta

As promised, here is one of my favorite go-to recipes of all time. Seriously, if I have to take something to a party or am making something for someone new, this almost always make an appearance. This bruschetta is easy and so pretty. I always get compliments on both the presentation and the taste. You will never have worked so little for such a great result! It is also, conveniently, the PERFECT time of year for tomatoes! Ours are just coming off the vine and we have gotten some from our CSA as well. There is just nothing like homegrown tomatoes! Do you make a version of this? I would love some new variation ideas!



6 or 7 ripe tomatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs)

2 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

6-8 fresh basil leaves, chopped.

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Shaved parmesan cheese

1 baguette French bread or similar Italian bread

Chop the tomatoes fairly small and combine with garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, basil, salt and pepper. Allow to sit for 15 min – several hours. (You can make the topping well in advance and assemble once you arrive at your destination or when your guests arrive.) Slice the bread into 1″ slices and lightly toast under the broiler or on the grill, turning once. You can brush lightly with olive oil if desired, though I do think you usually can get good results without the additional oil. Just make sure to keep an eye on it!! We have burned LOTS of bread in this house! Once the bread is toasted, distribute the topping over the bread. Top with more fresh basil and shaved parmesan. Enjoy!

June 20, 2012

JUICE! It’s good for you!

I was sitting in the house this morning, hungry for a smoothie. Found no frozen fruits and no FRUITS at all! So instead I took this weeks CSA food and BLENDED it into my morning drink! YUM!

I took:

4 full carrots, 4 small radishes and 1 beet and finely chopped them.


What PRETTY colors!

I added Coconut Milk and some Orange Juice to get the goods to blend. I also added a scoop of Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator for an added boost.


Tossed everything in the Magic Bullet (*As Seen on TV) since I still don’t have the JACK LALANNE POWER JUICER and the juicing began!


This turned into a beautiful orange smoothie juice drink with lots of nutritional value! I don’t think I added quite enough liquid, but I like the thicker consistency of this drink. Plus its a vegetarian delight!

Now I am enjoying my juice and listening to Jimmy Buffet—Q97pG4

What a good morning/afternoon!

*no animal biproduct was hurt during the making of this drink.

**inspired by Juicing Vegetables 


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