Tag Archives: vegan

Stewed tomatoes and bringing you up to speed.

I apologize for the lack of recent activity in the blog, but peak harvest season is in FULL SWING!  If you were to step inside my home you would be climbing over crates of freshly picked tomatoes, side-stepping gallon jars of fermenting pickles, and listening to the dehydrator and canner compete for your audio attention.

I had quite a few “filler food posts” lined up, but when my 16 month-old laptop bit the dust last month (and that is just the tip of the shit-storm), I lost over 1500 pictures!  Everything from December 2010 through mid July, gone.  Like unrecoverable gone.  Bummer, huh?  Oh well, that will teach me for: (1) not backing up my computer onto my external hard drive, and (2) not transferring my images onto said external hard drive.

Since I lost all my photos, I now have a large que of blog posts waiting for accompanying images.  Although I live in my kitchen during this time of the year, most of my activities revolve around preserving the harvest, so there is not much “real” cooking and recipe experimentation going on.  Most of my daily meals consist of snacking on raw produce and grilled veggie sandwiches, which I have already posted about.  I’m hoping to sneak in more food time, but with 60 lbs of tomatoes staring me down on a daily basis, it does not look too hopeful!

Because my tomatoes are in their “full throttle” production stage, I am constantly searching for new ways to put them up.  Don’t get me wrong, I like canned tomatoes, especially in soups and curry dishes, but I still have quite a bit left over from last year’s harvest.  While flipping through my ever-growing library of canning books, I found instructions for stewed tomatoes.  Seeing as how I grew celery this year, I knew I had to give this recipe a whirl!

Stewed Tomatoes - from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Home Canning, Freezing, and Dehydration

4 Qts chopped, peeled, cored tomatoes (24 large)

1 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped green pepper (I used Purple Beauty, see note below)

1 Tbsp sugar

2 Tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a large sauce pot.  Cover; cook 10 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking.  Ladle hot vegetables into hot jars, leaving 1-inch headspace.  Adjust two-piece lids.  Process pints 15 minutes, quarts  20 minutes, at 10 pounds pressure in a pressure canner.  Recipe yields 7 pints or 3 quarts.

I ended up with 5 pints of stewed tomatoes and 1 quart of tomato juice.  Instead of tossing the left over juice, I reserved it to use as cooking liquid for quinoa and rice.

**Never ever EVER change quantities of acid and non acid foods in canning recipes.  Varieties, however, are interchangeable.  If a recipe calls for 1 cup chopped green pepper, you can substitute 1/2 cup green and 1/2 cup jalapeno, etc.  This is ok because you are still meeting the required 1 cup amount.

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Patiently waiting for my food to evolve.

Lacto-fermentation is a method of food preservation where lactic acid is produced by good bacteria.  Not only will lactobacillus keep food perfectly preserved, but this process also increases the vitamin content, while promoting the growth of healthy flora in your intestines, allowing for ease in digestion.

LACTIC ACID

Of all the organic acids, lactic acid is the one that best inhibits the proliferation of bacteria that cause putrefaction, but it does not bring about in the body the over-acidifying action of certain other acids….While other products of the fermentation process, like alcohol and acetic acid, must be decomposed and eliminated, lactic acid can in large part be used by the body…. Organic acids present in fermented milk and vegetable products play an important role in the health of old people as they aid a digestive system
that is growing more and more feeble…. After two or three days of lacto-fermentation, vegetables begin to soften and certain substances
in them begin to decompose. If the vegetables contain nitrates—often the case after a summer with little sun—they are broken down….If all goes well,
the lactic-acid producing bacteria take over and the process of acidification begins. New substances are formed, notably…choline and, above all, lactic
acid. This acidification ensures the conservation of the vegetables…but the fermentation of the aromas doesn’t come about until a later stage, during storage. Lacto-fermentation is not only a means of conserving
foods but also a procedure for ennobling them, as proved by their taste and aroma.— Annelies Schoneck, Des Crudités Toute L’Année

Several well-known lacto-fermented foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickles.  Canned pickles, however, are not the result of lacto-fermentation since the bacteria is killed during water-bath processing.  Also, the brine resulting from lacto-fermentation will become cloudy, canned pickles maintain a clear brine (unless you have added spices that muddy up the brine).

The following recipe is by far my absolute FAVORITE pickle.  Ever.  Last year’s batch lasted through February; so not long enough!  This year I plan on making several gallons in hopes of stretching out their tasty consumption well into next Spring!

Cajun Pickles - adapted from the Pickle People

8 cups cold water
1/2 cup pickling salt
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons pickling spice
1 1/2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning (I have my own *special* blend)
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian herb seasoning
3/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
50 finger-sized pickling cucumbers (about 4 pounds) or 17 medium cucumbers, disked (I make both) **see bottom for note**
6 cherry peppers, thinly sliced (don’t seed)
6 jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced (don’t seed)
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced

Combine water, salt, vinegar, and seasonings; stir until salt is dissolved.  Pack cucumbers, cherry peppers, jalapenos, garlic, and onion into a gallon  jar.  You can also use 4 quart jars,  just divide peppers, onion and garlic evenly among them.  Ladle in spiced brine, covering vegetables.  Place lid(s) on jar(s) and let pickles ferment at cool room temperature for 3 days.  Refrigerate another 5 days; for those who want it and want it now, the pickles are ready to eat.  I always allow mine ferment for at least 1-2 months, so the brine can really develop.

The batch pictured above was made using whole cucumbers and my Chinese 5 color peppers.  This is my first year growing that variety of hot pepper, so I am very anxious to taste them!

**When using whole cucumbers, trim the blossom end by 1/16″, since the blossom may contain an enzyme that encourages excessive softening.

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Rosemary Focaccia

This past May, I spent an evening with my friends, Bill and Lauren; they too share my enthusiasm for all things local, organic, and of course, homegrown!  Because I am a passionate advocate for healthy food, low-impact living, and organic gardening, it only seems natural that I end up being the go-to person for related questions and advice.

My friends were very interested in starting an organic garden, as well as purchasing their transplants from me.  We had decided to make a night of it.  I’d bring their plants, my hot artichoke dip, and a fresh-baked apple pie (they were in charge of the main course) and we would share an evening of delicious food and great conversation!  And that is exactly what we did.

For 4 hours I talked (pretty much non-stop) about food, the food system, and organic gardening.  Lauren had a pen and paper at the ready, while her hubby, Bill, absorbed every word I spoke.  I’m friends with a lot of like-minded individuals and in our shared idealistic world, we would all be homesteading, off-grid, in our own little community!  Ahhhh… the dream!

For that evening’s dinner, Lauren grilled California-style veggie sandwiches, which were served on warm-from-the-oven focaccia, paired with a tomato, basil, and mozzarella salad.  Everything was delicious!

With the back-to-back-to-back, oppressive heat waves that have been taking place, I’ve been relying on my grill for dinner.  Two weekends ago I baked a double batch of focaccia to be paired with my evening meal of fresh-from-the-garden veggie sandwiches.

Rosemary Focaccia - adapted from the Pioneer Woman (I’m still trying to get Lauren’s recipe!)

1-1/2 tsp active dry yeast

1-1/2 cup warm water

4 cups King Arthur all-purpose organic flour

1 tsp  salt

1/3 cup olive oil

large sprig of fresh rosemary, minced

course alaea salt, for sprinkling

olive oil for drizzling

Sprinkle the yeast over warm water and let stand for 10 minutes.

Whisk flour and salt, then drizzle in olive oil until combined with flour.  Next, pour in yeast/water mixture and mix until the dough comes together in a sticky mass.  Form the dough into a ball and lightly coat with olive oil.  Place the dough into a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap, set it aside for 1-2 hours.  If you do not plan on using the dough right away it can stay in the fridge for several days.

Remove dough from bowl and place on a lightly floured surface.  Divide dough in half and roll out into a rectangle.  I reserved the second portion to be baked later that week.  If you are baking both sections, place each one on a separate cookie sheets and lightly drizzle with olive oil.  Cover each one with plastic wrap and allow to rise for another hour.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Remove the plastic wrap (dough will be puffy) and use your fingertips to gently press dimples into the surface of the dough.  Sprinkle with rosemary and coarse salt.  I baked each one separately, so 20 minutes was just the right amount of time to yield a golden brown surface.  If you are baking both, 30-40 minutes is recommended.

Cut into pieces with a pizza wheel.  Serve immediately.

Since I reserved some of the bread for the next day’s meal, it needed a bit of freshening up.  I placed two pieces on the top-level of the grill for 3 minutes and it worked like a charm!

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Filed under Baking, Vegan, Vegetarian

Cooking with Fire

I’ll admit, I’m kind of new to the grilling scene. Not to say I was completely inexperienced, because I’m not, but I never actually owned a grill up until about 2 months ago. That’s unless you count the time I had an in-ground fire pit that we would fill with charcoal and lay grill grates over top. It was kind of awesome. After cooking dinner, we would fill it with wood and have a fire. I, however, was completely paranoid because we had nosey neighbors and there was an enforced ban on open fires, and it was placed right next to my other neighbor’s wooden fence. Do you see where I am going with this? Sure, it was constructed from brick and cinder blocks, but paranoid I was!

Since I am not much of a carnivore, it never entered my mind to purchase a grill after moving into the new place.  Then, the summer holiday super sales on grills began, so I ended up getting one.  I thought about charcoal, because I really like the smoky flavor, but I really don’t want to mess around with coals.  So propane it is!

Mainly, I grill veggies, but it has seen two pork chops and three chicken breasts, too.  I found them when I cleaned out the freezer late Spring to make room for this year’s anticipated veggie harvest!  Last week I grilled tofu for the first time and I must say I was pretty pleased with the results!

Grilled Herb Tofu and Agave-Dijon Root Vegetables – adapted from Cookouts Veggie Style

for the tofu::

1 block extra-firm tofu, sliced and pressed to remove excess water

2 Tbsp lemon juice

2 Tbsp rosemary infused olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

8 fresh basil leaves, sliced into ribbons

1 med sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped

several splashes of vegan Worcestershire sauce

salt & pepper to taste

Whisk together lemon juice, oil, garlic, rosemary, basil, and Worcestershire in a shallow bowl.  Marinate tofu “filets” for 20-30 minutes.  Overnight would have been awesome, but I had just gotten home from work and I was starving!  Remove tofu from marinade and sprinkle each side with salt and pepper, place on a hot grill over a medium flame and cook approximately 5 minutes per side, or until browned.  I have one of those veggie cage things (I have no idea what they are really called) and it worked perfectly!  Seriously, when I saw it at the store I gasped out loud and was like “MOM! Oh my god, that is awesome and I am so grilling stuff with it!”  She just shot me the one eyebrow raised “you’re so weird” look.

for the root veggies::

4 Tbsp agave

3 Tbsp Dijon mustard

4 Tsp lemon juice

2 Tbsp olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

4 medium beets, sliced and quartered (you can peel them if you want, I don’t)

4 medium carrots, coined into 1″ pieces (I don’t peel my carrots either)

Marinate veggies 20-30 minutes, then transfer to foil.  Double wrap the veggies and place them on a hot grill over a medium flame.  Cook for 15-20 minutes, turning once.   Remove from grill with tongs; use caution when opening the foil package, the steam will come rolling out!!

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Summer Berry Granola

I’d like to introduce you to the latest addition in my morning granola rotation: Summer Berry!  Yes, I know, sour cherries are not technically a berry, but the title “triple fruit” did absolutely nothing for me!

Summer Berry Granola

2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup flax seeds
1 cup slivered almonds, raw
1 cup black walnut pieces, raw
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, raw
3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2 Tbsp agave nectar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 Tbsp sunflower oil
a pinch of salt
a sprinkling of cinnamon
a sprinkling of vanilla powder
Toast the oats in a 9×13 pan for 15 minutes at 300°F, stirring once.  In a small bowl, combine wet ingredients and whisk until well blended.  Remove the toasted oats from the oven and add remaining dry ingredients, except for the fruit, cinnamon and vanilla.  Stir until combined, then evenly pour the oil-sugar mixture into the pan stirring well to make sure everything is well coated.
Place pan back in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until granola starts to brown around the edges, stirring once or twice.  Be careful to not overbake your granola when using flax seeds.  Not only will flax lose its beneficial health properties when over heated, but it will also develop a smoky flavor.  Add dried fruit and stir.  Top off with a sprinkling of cinnamon and vanilla.  Allow to cool completely before placing into containers for storage.

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Meatless Meatballs

I’ve been on the hunt for a good meatless meatball recipe for what feels like years; probably because I’ve really been looking that long!  Thankfully, I can now stick a fork in that recipe search and call it done, because I found a keeper!!!  Technically, I stumbled on it a few months back, but I am just now getting around to trying it out!  No matter what I do I can just never seem to keep up!  Sigh.

Meatless Meatballsadapted from Enlightened Cooking

2 1/3 cup TVP
1 3/4 cups veg stock
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp garlic, minced
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/4 tsp dried oregano
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 flax eggs

Place TVP in a large bowl; bring veggie stock to a boil and then add it to the TVP. Stir,  fluff with a fork and set aside.  In a small skillet saute onion and garlic in olive oil until onion is translucent.  Add cumin, oregano, soy sauce, salt and pepper, stir to incorporate; remove from heat.  In the bowl of a food processor combine TVP, onion/garlic mixture, cilantro, and flax eggs; process till the mixture begins to come together.  Shape into balls.  Mine ended up being about 1 1/2 ” in diameter.  Place balls on a cookie sheet and give a light spray of olive oil and bake at 375°F for 18 minutes, or until lightly browned.

I paired my “balls” (seriously, did you really think I could get through this post without giving in to at least one naughty innuendo?) with some organic whole wheat linguine and my homemade canned pasta sauce.  It. Was. Awesome.

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Food Feature – Radish

Radishes are a root vegetable belonging to the Brassica family.  Typically the napiform taproot is most commonly consumed; however, this entire cruciferous plant is edible, so eat those greens!  Radish leaves make a tasty addition to both salads and sandwiches!

Radishes are a favorite among childrens’ gardens due to their easy-to-grow, fast-maturing nature; many varieties are ready for harvest in just 3-4 weeks!  Radishes are a cool weather crop and will grow best in the Spring and Fall; although some varieties, like French Breakfast (a personal favorite), are more tolerant of Summer’s heat if water is regularly supplied.

Radishes are an excellent source of potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and folic acid; they are also rich in vitamins B and C.

To keep this root-veggie from becoming too spicy, it’s best to harvest them when they are young and small, especially the Spring varieties.  If left in the ground too long they become fibrous and hot.  Once pulled radishes will quickly become pithy (spongy), so it’s best to use them right away!  If you are storing them in the fridge place them into an air-tight container, but be sure to cut the greens off first!

Radishes are often eaten raw, but can also be enjoyed cooked or pickled.  Several days ago I decided to roast some and I’m so glad I did, they turned out awesome!!

Oven-Roasted Radishes

12-15 radishes, cut into chunks (I used French Breakfast)

2 Tbsp Tahini Paste

2 Tsp Red Wine Vinegar

3 Tbsp Rosemary Infused Olive Oil

sprinkling of garlic salt

fresh ground pepper to taste

Place a small cast iron skillet in the oven and heat to 425 F.  Chop radishes and set aside. In a small bowl whisk together oil, vinegar, tahini, garlic salt, and pepper.  Add radishes to the bowl and toss to coat.  Place radishes in skillet and roast in the oven for 12 minutes stirring halfway through.  Enjoy!

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Food Feature – Kale

Kale is a variety of cabbage that parallels traits found more commonly in wild species, as opposed to the domesticated tight-head varieties seen at most farmers’ markets and food stores.  It is also called Borocle, which is thought to have originated from the Dutch boerenkool, meaning “farmer’s cabbage”.

Kale is a member of the Brassicaceae family, and also known as a Cruciferous Vegetable.  I’m just going to link rather than attempt to explain the ins and outs of biological classification.  By the way, that was me being kind of lazy; it doesn’t happen often, but I’m sure most of my readers don’t care about taxonomic rank.  If you happen to be one who does, I’d be glad to suggest further reading.  I’m sure I’ve worn out my welcome on those books at the library anyway.

Notice the cross like formation of the flower petals?  The word Cruciferae is Neo-Latin for cross-bearing.

Flowering kales, sold as ornamental cabbage, are edible as well.  Their rosette can be found in brilliant shades of pink, lavender, white, blue, violet, and red.  Growing up we always had the pink and purple shades.  I do believe flowering kale may make its way into this Fall’s edible landscaping!

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Why kale is so incredibly good for you:

1. When steamed, the fiber-related components bind easier to bile acids in your digestive track, which allows for easier excretion, thus lowering your cholesterol.

2. The Isothiocyanates (ITCs) in kale lower your risk for breast, ovary, colon, bladder, and prostate cancers.

3. ITCs play an integral role in assisting with the detoxification system.  I can surely attest to this!  I’ve eaten an obnoxious amount of kale over the last few days.  My over-wintered plants are beginning to bolt, so I wanted to eat them before the leaves turn bitter.  Have you ever been standing next to someone who has recently eaten a lot of garlic?  They seem to be surrounded by a strange aroma.  Yeah, well, kale apparently does that to me and I don’t think my coworkers are very happy about it!  Guess I’ll have to bring in a soy candle to burn when it’s a heavy kale consumption day, because I’m sure not going to stop eating this cruciferous veggie!

4.  With over 45 identified flavonoids, kale’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits are unsurpassed.  Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation are risk-factors associated with cancer.

Curried Kale

large colander packed full of kale

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 tbsp panang curry paste

1 tbsp sriracha

6 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

1 tbsp sun-dried tomato oil

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 large onion, diced

3 med-large red potatoes, cubed (I don’t peel mine)

2 cups water

Sautee onions over med heat with olive oil until they begin to brown, about 6 minutes.  While the onions are cooking, in a small bowl, whisk together garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, sun-dried tomato oil, curry paste, sugar, and sriracha, then add it to the onions.  Cook for about 2 minutes, then add potatoes and water; mix well.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.  While potatoes are cooking wash kale and remove large stems and midribs; slice into strips.  Add kale, cover, and continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

For more delicious kale recipes check out the following posts: Kale Chips and Garlic, Kale and Chickpea Soup.

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Lentil Patties

Sunday afternoon I started the seasoning process for a new-to-me cast iron skillet I scored several weeks back.  This is my second piece of cast iron, not including my enamel covered pieces.  I really love cooking with cast iron, and knowing that (with proper care) I will have them for the rest of my life makes my personal reduce-reuse-recycle-repurpose campaign all the more fulfilling!

Since my oven was currently occupied with the lengthy process of re-seasoning the skillet, I had to come up with a dinner that could be made stove top, and in a relatively short amount of time.  My niece had stayed with me for the weekend, 4 year olds are exhausting and I was starving!!  Lentil patties to the rescue!

Lentil Patties

1 cup dried lentils, rehydrated. (I had brown on hand but any variety will do.)

1/4 of a medium onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup seasoned bread crumbs, toasted

1/2 cup soy flour

1/3 cup water

olive oil

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (Last year’s cilantro self-seeded and is growing like a weed, this makes me extremely happy!!)

Because I typically only measure when it really counts, like baking, the following amount are guesstimates of how much seasoning I used. Feel free to adjust to your personal tastes.

several dashes of Worcestershire sauce (omit to make this vegan/vegetarian friendly)

1 tsp salt

2 tsp cayenne pepper

juice from 1/2 a lime

1/2 tsp paprika

1 tbsp cumin

2 tsp pepper

1 tsp ground mustard

Rinse dried lentils and place in a sauce pan with 2 cups water, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.  Cook for approximately 15 minutes or until soft.  In a large pan, heat a bit of oil over med heat and brown bread crumbs, transfer to a plate.  In the same pan, saute onion for about 2-3 minutes, add garlic, and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Once lentils are cooked transfer to a food processor and pulse to mash them up; this can also be done by hand with a potato masher.  Add onion and garlic, pulse several times.  Transfer lentil mix to a large bowl and add spices, cilantro, Worcestershire, and lime juice; stir to combine.  In another bowl mix flour and water, then add to lentil mix; stir to incorporate.  Shape into patties (I made 7 palm-sized patties) and coat with breadcrumbs.  Place in skillet on med heat and cook until both sides are browned.

I paired mine up with some of my canned yellow tomato salsa and green beans. Delish!

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So Smooth

This past week Mother Nature has gifted us with some amazingly warm weather, albeit there have been several severe, tornado-producing storms, the temperature has been quite lovely!  With the emergence of warm weather brings my insatiable craving for smoothies.

Recently, I’ve made the decision to decrease my dairy intake, not because of ethical reasons, but more for health concerns.  Lets face it, the primary function of cow’s milk is to make baby cows FAT.  While I do enjoy indulging in a glass of ice-cold raw milk, it is not something I do on a regular basis.  I’m also appalled with the amount of hormones and antibiotics pumped into animals because of the inhumane conditions in which they are raised.  Did you know that 80% of the antibiotics produced in the U.S. are for injecting into factory-farmed livestock due to the horrendous conditions in which they are raised?  Cattle are packed into manure-laden holding pens, where they stand 2 feet deep in fecal excrement.  That, my friends, I have serious ethical issues with!

I have no plans of becoming a vegan, nor am I saying I will never again consume dairy products, because I’m not.  Besides, ice cream is one of my FAVORITE foods, and during the summer months I tend to make it on a somewhat regular basis; however, as far as my morning coffee and granola are concerned, I’ve decided to seek out alternative options.  Rhubarbs, my local natural food store, has a vast selection of non-dairy milks for the choosing.  I’ve replaced pasteurized milk, cream, and half and half with coconut milk.

They also have almond, rice, soy, and hemp, along with several other varieties, all of which I will be sampling. :)

Vegan Fruit Smoothie  (I don’t measure ingredients, it’s more of a toss and pour till it looks good. Trust me, you can’t screw up a smoothie!)

bullet 32 organic coconut milk

bullet 32 organic soy yogurt, I use wholesoy & company

bullet 32 1/2 a banana (I keep several on hand in my freezer so I’m always ready when the craving strikes)

bullet 32 fruit, the go-to favorite is strawberries and my canned peaches (my stand-alone freezer is still packed full of last year’s local fruit, although, the blueberries come from Jersey; that state grows the best berries!)

bullet 32 agave nectar

bullet 32 dehydrated Swiss chard

bullet 32 ground flax seed

Add ingredients to a tall mixing cup, insert immersion blender, mix till desired consistency is achieved.  You can also use a regular blender.

Some alternate additions are ice, honey, pineapple, peanut butter, coconut, espresso powder, plums, pears, avocado…the options are endless!

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