Mango Citrus + Strawberry Watermelon Smoothies // Changes Are Afoot

strawberry watermelon smoothie

I made some big changes to my diet recently. I stopped eating dairy. I filled up my meals with fruits and vegetables. I cut down on the starchy, carb-y, flour-based things that used to make up most of my meals. I added some whole grains, and swapped out refined sugars for honey.  I don’t spend any more time cooking than I used to, but I feel so much better. More energetic. Happier, knowing that I’m only putting the very best into my body. These simple changes have made my life a whole lot better. It’s only fair that my blog reflects those changes— from here on out, the recipes featured on here will be fresher, brighter, and lighter. It’s not that there will never be another oozy, gooey, cheesy dish on here, or that the cake recipes will all have to go. I still eat those things on occasion, and I will continue posting them. But the majority of dishes will be the healthier fare that I eat daily.

strawberries and watermelon in blender

strawberry watermelon smoothie in a jar

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Kale Garlic Pasta with Parmesan

kale garlic pasta with parmesan

The last week and a half has been incredibly busy. I’m in the middle of midterms-and-papers-and-readings season. I spend my mornings in class and my afternoons studying. The to-do list is never exhausted, and it’s a rare day when everything I set out to do is accomplished before midnight. On days like these, what breaks the monotony is coming home for lunch. I love cooking something satisfying in the middle of my day. I get to leave behind whatever I’ve been studying for a little while, and return to my work refreshed. 

garlic

The requirements are for the dish I choose to make are strict. It must be something that I can make in 30 minutes or less, but it must also be hearty enough to pull me through the afternoon.

This kale pasta does just that, and I made it twice last week alone. Crisp and bitter kale is paired with rich, buttery pasta. Salty, savory, and satisfying enough for a midday meal. I imagine it would make a great quick dinner, too.

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Homemade Marshmallows

homemade marshmallows

I have been on the quest for the perfect homemade marshmallow for months. I’ve always been a sucker for the jet-puffed variety, but when I tried artisan marshmallows from a local store, I was absolutely hooked.

hot cocoa with homemade marshmallows

I set about trying to figure out how to make a batch this good at home. I tried the smitten kitchen recipe, hoping it would yield a springy marshmallow without my having to use a stand mixer (I didn’t own one). The results were good, but not great. The marshmallows sweated in the refrigerator, turning the cornstarch and powdered sugar coating crunchy and resulting in a slightly sticky mess. A month or so later, I tried to make a batch of the Baked marshmallows, with powdered gelatin and an electric hand whisk. Failed again, this time too dense, jelly-like, and still watery.

Both of my marshmallow failures were probably due to a lack of equipment. Perhaps a stand mixer would have made my life easier. However, I wanted a recipe that was simple, and that I could make with the equipment I had at home. I was beginning to think I was out of luck, and that marshmallow making should be left to the pros.

Enter the Alton Brown marshmallow recipe. It produced perfect, springy, soft-but-not-sticky marshmallows on the first try. These were marshmallows I could eat every day, for the rest of my life. And while my first attempts at marshmallow-making had been daunting, I had learned the basic steps by now— it was easy. I used my electric hand whisk and stainless steel bowl in place of a stand mixer, and checked my sugar by hand as it cooked down (without a thermometer). I still had excellent results. You will get fluffier marshmallows with a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, though, so use one if you have it!

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie, from Cook's Illustrated/ America's Test Kitchen

It should come as no surprise that these cookies are featured in my first blog post. These are the cookies that I have been making for years, regularly and often, sometimes for myself and sometimes to fill requests from friends and family members. This is a recipe that I swear by. Sometimes I even keep a little extra cookie dough in the freezer, for those chocolate-chip-cookie-craving emergencies.

This recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated, and the title is theirs: “Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies.” And, if you ask me, they are.

Browned butter brings depth of flavor to these cookies. The aroma alone is incredible. The dough is sweet, but balanced by a touch of salt and high-quality semisweet chocolate chips. And while the recipe may have a few more steps than the typical cookie, the ingredients are ones you’ll probably have at home, and the few extra minutes of work are worth it.

Last weekend, the Bay Area was hit with some pouring rain. Rain was much-needed after months of drought, but after a few days of drizzle, the gloom set in. This was the view from my kitchen window:
rainy northern california weather

To make the most of the weather, I went on a rainy-day walk. These cookies made the perfect snack after. I mailed a few to my little sister for Valentine’s Day, and she loved them, too.

Keep reading for the recipe:

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