Posts Tagged ‘recipes’

I Pinned It, I Did It: Microwave Fudge

Monday, April 14th, 2014

My Mom is pretty famous in our family for her fudges. She makes a chocolate fudge with marshmallows and walnuts that is always a hit at parties and people can’t seem to get enough of her peanut butter fudge. At Christmas time she creates an assembly line and sends bricks of homemade fudge in those small Priority Mail flat rate boxes from the post office. The truth is, she doesn’t really enjoy making the fudge. It’s quite a chore for her with all of the cooking and stirring over a hot stove and watching to be sure you don’t scorch the chocolate or overcook the peanut butter to a dry, crumbly mess. In fact, watching her make fudge over the years made me not want to try it for myself because it seemed like way too much hassle. That is, until the day I read about Dark Chocolate Almond Fudge.

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Photo credit: Mary Younkin, barefeetinthekitchen.com

I’ve known food blogger Mary Younkin of Barefeet in the Kitchen for several years and I have always admired her work. Her recipes are delicious and well-tested. She offers a wide variety and includes lots of gluten free options if your family needs them. She also has the perfect recipe for Dark Chocolate Almond Fudge and — get this — it only takes 90 seconds in the microwave!

I figured 90 seconds was within my candy-making skill set and it met my threshold for prep time so I had to try it. It was a hit. Everyone loved it and when I shared how quick and easy the recipe is, my tasters were astonished. This got me thinking about Mom’s peanut butter fudge. What if that could be accomplished in 90 seconds as well? If I used the basic recipe from Barefeet in the Kitchen what other concoctions could I create?

Using Mary’s ratios and method, I created a few more varieties of quick microwave fudge. Check out her blog for the exact recipe and technique.

Dark Chocolate Orange Fudge
This one was a fan favorite among my taste-testers. The consensus was that this reminded them of the chocolate oranges that are popular at Christmas time. The texture was soft and the orange flavor was just right.

You can make this variety by substituting the following ingredients: 1 bag (12 oz) of dark chocolate chips, 1 can of sweetened condensed milk, 1/2 stick of butter, and 1 teaspoon of orange extract

Peanut Butter Fudge
Taste testers really liked this variety, but the consistency was really sticky. I ended up using a chef’s knife to cut this into small squares but I had to run the knife under hot water between each cut. I then loosely wrapped it in parchment and stored it in the fridge. Once cut, the squares dried a bit and became firmer. I think letting this one hang out in the fridge for an extra day exponentially improves the texture.

You can make this variety by substituting the following ingredients: 1 bag (12 oz) of peanut butter chips, 1 can of sweetened condensed milk, 1/2 stick of butter, and 1 teaspoon of Mexican vanilla extract

Mint Chocolate Chip Fudge
This one was a whim and I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out, but I wanted to re-create the essence of mint chocolate chip ice cream. It worked and everyone loved it. Of all of my experimental batches, this had the firmest texture and cut most easily. While it doesn’t necessarily beat a chocolate craving because mint is the predominant flavor, it is a nice sweet bite after a meal.

You can make this variety by substituting the following ingredients: 1 bag (12 oz) of white chocolate chips, 1 can of sweetened condensed milk, 1/2 stick of butter, 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract, and 3-4 drops of green food coloring. I garnished this with a handful of miniature semi-sweet chips I picked up in the bulk food section to complete the mint chocolate chip ice cream look.

The ease and popularity of these varieties has inspired me to try more. I have plans to try layering flavors to create Dreamsicle and root beer float fudges. Christmastime recipes are dancing in my head and they include dried cranberries and crystallized ginger. The possibilities are endless!

Are you a recipe modifier or do you go by the book? What variations might you try on this tasty recipe? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Hard Fireball Razzyade

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

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This month, I am taking the whiskey baton from Christina, who created a fabulous Ginger Whiskey Cocktail last month, and spicing things up a bit by turning to a newly popular whiskey for inspiration — Fireball Whiskey.

Fireball Whiskey is a strong cinnamon-flavored whiskey; it’s delicious and perfect for people (like my husband Bryan) who are not whiskey fans. Although most people I know drink it as a shot, there are a lot of great cocktail recipes that feature this fiery whiskey.

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I was hoping to find a recipe that provided some surprise factor. I love it when I try something, or have someone try something, and you get to play the “Guess what’s in it?” game. Wait. Let me clarify that. I love playing that game when the answer isn’t something I wouldn’t want to be eating – like Rocky Mountain Oysters.

When I first read the recipe below, I was highly skeptical that cinnamon and lemonade would pair well, but this recipe definitely delivered. In fact, after taking one sip, Bryan informed me that he was taking mine and that I could make another one for myself.

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Hard Fireball Razzyade (Recipe by This Girl Walks Into a Bar)
* 2 ounces Fireball Whiskey
* 3-4 ounces raspberry lemonade (you can add more or less depending on your taste)
* lemon wedge, squeezed
* lemon slice and/or raspberries for garnish

Fill a glass with ice (I recommend using a lowball glass), then pour the whiskey and lemonade in the glass and squeeze the lemon wedge over the drink. Stir lightly with a spoon and garnish with a lemon wedge or a few raspberries on a toothpick.

To up the ante on the red, and keep the drink from diluting, you could also use frozen raspberries in lieu of ice.

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Go get some Fireball Whiskey and brew up this love potion for your own Valentine!

Ginger Whiskey Cocktail

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

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A couple years ago one of my co-workers brought in a few cans of ginger ale along with a box of saltine crackers to ease an office full of upset stomachs – we were all miserable with the flu. I’d never tried it before – but a few sips later my tummy felt a bit better and I was hooked. Ginger ale is a staple ingredient for lots of my favorite cocktails, I use it in my brunch punch and it goes really well with spiced apple whiskey, too. I brought home a four pack of Bruce Cost Unfiltered Ginger Ale a couple of weeks ago and I can’t stop drinking it. It’s more spicy than it is sweet and you get little chunks of fresh ginger in each sip. Over the last few weeks I’ve been experimenting with recipes and loved the way it tasted paired with honey whiskey.

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Ginger Whiskey Cocktail, serves one

Ginger Ale
2 oz. Honey Whiskey
Lemon Juice

Add ice to your glass and fill halfway with ginger ale. Add 2 ounces of honey whiskey. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into your drink and save a slice for the garnish. Stir well and top off with ice and ginger ale.

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Cheers!

P.S. Check out this post for a list of bar cart essentials and tips for stocking your bar cart on a budget.

Our Favorite Champagne Cocktails

Friday, December 27th, 2013

I can’t believe Christmas is over! Soon, we’ll be counting down – 3..2..1..2014! You’ll need a festive, fizzy drink to toast the new year. As promised in last week’s post, I’m back to share a few of the Wilderness Girls favorite champagne cocktails. Make one the signature drink for your New Years Eve celebration, or set out a variety of fruits (pomegranate seeds, strawberries, raspberries, clementines) and let your guests design their own champagne cocktail.

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Jenny’s Pick: Peach Bellini

6 oz. Prosecco
3 oz. Frozen Peach Purée
Peach Slices (for garnish)

Combine prosecco and peach puree in a chilled champagne glass. Garnish with peach slices.

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Rachael’s Pick: Prosecco with Fruit
adapted from an Italian Bella Vita Recipe

6 oz. Prosecco
2-3 Clementine Slices
Pomegranate Seeds

Place clementine slices and pomegranate seeds in a champagne glass. Pour prosecco over fruit.

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Christina’s Pick: Brunch Punch

6 oz. Champagne
3 oz. Orange Juice
Splash Ginger Ale
Splash Grenadine
1 Maraschino Cherry (for garnish)

Pour champagne into mason jar; add orange juice and ginger ale. Slowly add grenadine and garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Cheers!

Stock Your Holiday Bar Cart

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

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A few months ago as Rob and I were preparing for our pumpkin carving party, we headed out to BevMo with plans to stock our cute vintage bar cart. Before heading out, I searched the web for a recommended list of spirits and mixers that one should have on hand when hosting a party. Alcohol is spendy and I wanted to provide a variety of options to our guests without breaking the bank. Unfortunately I came up empty handed, unable to find a list that would help me shop smart. So, the shopping list included all of the ingredients we needed to make our signature cocktail (an apple cider margarita), along with a few spirits and mixers that I’d consider staples.

The pumpkin carving party was a success, with most guests sticking to our signature cocktail. When a couple folks decided to mix their own favorite drink, I was relieved to see that our little bar cart was stocked with everything they needed. In typical blogger fashion, I thought I’d share my shopping list which includes a selection of staple spirits, mixers and garnishes that will make a wide variety of drinks; along with a few tips to keep in mind when shopping for booze.

Stock Your Bar Cart Shopping List

Spirits
Gin
Vodka
Spiced Rum
Whiskey/Bourbon

Mixers
Tonic Water
Soda Water
Ginger Ale
Orange Juice
Cranberry Juice
Aromatic Bitters
Grenadine
Triple Sec

Garnishes
Lemons
Limes
Oranges
Maraschino Cherries
Green Olives

Tip #1: Select a signature cocktail or two for your party. Choose a drink that will pair well with the food you serve and it will be an easy choice for your guests. This will also make shopping much easier as you’ll spend most of your adult beverage budget on the ingredients needed to make one drink.

Tip #2: Don’t buy everything! You could quickly spend hundreds of dollars stocking your bar cart unless you keep it simple. Provide your guests with a variety of staples and they’ll be able to mix up a delicious drink. Your guests don’t want you to go broke providing unlimited options. And, if they have a soft spot for an obscure spirit encourage them to bring a bottle to share with the group. What a great conversation starter!

Tip #3: Keep a few cocktail recipe books on hand. Unless your friends are bartenders, you’ll probably have a few guests that don’t know the recipe for their favorite drink. This will also help them mix their own drink later in the evening.

Tip #4: Post the recipe for your signature cocktail(s) near your bar cart. You don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen all night making drinks. Greet your guests with a pre-made signature cocktail, then let them have fun mixing one of their own.

Next week, I’ll be back to share the Wilderness Girls favorite champagne cocktails. A bubbly champagne cocktail is the perfect signature drink for your New Years Eve celebration!

Did I miss anything? Be sure to share your bar cart must haves (or the recipe for your favorite drink) in the comments below!

Gourmet S’Mores Bar

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

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One of my favorite memories from last year’s fall foliage trip was roasting marshmallows under the stars. We’d packed the fixings to make a traditional s’more — marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers.

This year, our accommodations were a tad less rustic, with no fire pit for a campfire. We did have a huge fireplace though, which called for a s’mores upgrade. I’ve always wanted to put together a s’mores bar and this was the perfect opportunity.

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I packed a variety of chocolate bars, marshmallows and sweet crackers. All of the chocolate bars came from World Market, they have a great selection with lots of unique flavors. It was really hard to choose! After pacing the aisles for a while, I landed on salted caramel milk chocolate, candied ginger and orange zest dark chocolate, Lindt milk chocolate, coconut dark chocolate and raspberry cream dark chocolate. I also picked up organic graham crackers, butter biscuits and vanilla, strawberry & toasted coconut marshmallows.

We had so much fun trying different combinations. Over the evening we each found a favorite flavor combo and took turns preparing our signature s’more for the other girls.

Here are our favorites:

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I think this would be a really fun dessert bar for a party; your guests will have a blast getting creative and testing different combinations. Feature the recipe for a few signature s’mores on a chalkboard and set out small takeout boxes so that guests can take home the ingredients of their favorite.

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Have you ever put together a s’mores bar before? Are you a s’mores purist? Be sure to tell us below in the comments!

Craving more fall foliage photos? Check out our photostream on Flickr.

I Pinned It, I Did It: Pumpkin Extravaganza

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

I lamented about this in my post on mulling wine, but the season I miss most in Arizona is fall. The crisp air, the colorful leaves, and most of all, the hundreds of pumpkin spiced food and drink items. This time of year, I spend hours scouring Pinterest, repinning and drooling over pumpkin muffins, smoothies, cakes, soups, and just about any other orange concoction that has pumpkin in the name.

As good as all those recipes look visually, just viewing them on my glowing computer screen doesn’t quite satisfy my pumpkin spice tooth, so I decided this year I was going to do something about it. For five days, I made a different pumpkin recipe from Pinterest.

Come join me as we take a sweet journey for your taste buds!

Day 1: Pumpkin Brownies with Pumpkin Spice Buttercream

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Source: Cookies & Cups
How did it taste? The unique thing about this treat is that the brownie is two ingredients – a can of pumpkin and a box of brownie mix. The texture is more like a fudgy brownie and it’s not overly sweet, even with the icing
Any tips? They tasted great without it, but the frosting is amazing, so it’s worth the extra effort. Also, I don’t know what planet where a 9 x 9” pan yields 25 brownies, but it’s not the Jenny planet. I yielded 9 brownies.

Day 2: Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

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Source: Seeded at the Table
How did it taste? If you like snickerdoodles and pumpkin, you will love this. The cinnamon spice in combo with the pumpkin is fantastic. The dough is a great snickerdoodle base and wasn’t too dry once baked.
Any tips? I am horrible at measuring cookies. If a recipe says it makes 4 dozen, I usually end up with two. I had the opposite issue here in that I ended up with more cookies than the recipe said I would. This recipe yields 3-4 dozen. I ended up with 6. The bonus was that it took almost half the time to bake. My measurements were tablespoon-sized balls, so if you want 3-4 dozen, make them bigger.

Day 3: Pumpkin French Toast Bake

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Source: Minimalist Baker
How did it taste? I now understand why french toast bakes are so popular. It was incredibly easy, and the taste was great! It was very similar to a bread pudding – moist on the lower half, and crispy and spicy with cinnamon on the top half.
Any tips? Follow this recipe as-is and you can’t go wrong. I halved it, per her recommendation, and it worked great.

Day 4: Spiced Pumpkin Buttermilk Biscuits

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Source: Sweet Pea’s Kitchen
How did it taste? The first thing I thought as I bit into the biscuit was that it was an exceptionally good biscuit, not just as a pumpkin treat, but as a biscuit in general. Above and beyond that, the pumpkin flavor is subtle, making this biscuit perfect for Thanksgiving.
Any tips? I am not sure I did her folding method correctly, but I tried it anyway and the biscuits turned out exactly as they were pictured – tall and layered. I think a cinnamon butter would be spectacular on these.

Day 5: Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

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Source: Sweet Peas and Pumpkins
How did it taste? It’s like pumpkin pie in a glass. And the best part is that you get a filling and healthy pumpkin fix instead of a coffee drink that gives you the calories but none of the nutritional value that this smoothie packs into one glass.
Any tips? To make it more filling, I added ¼ cup of old fashioned oats and ½ tablespoon of ground flax seed. I also blended all the ingredients and then added ice and blended again to make it colder.

This was a really fun experiment, and I plan to do this again around Christmastime with gingerbread or breakfast/brunch recipes.

What is your favorite pumpkin treat of the fall season? Are there any Pinterest goodies that you want to try out? Let us know how it goes in the comments below!

Chicken Chili Blanco

Monday, October 7th, 2013

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I’m willing to bet that there are few dishes more comforting than a big bowl of chili.

With humble beginnings as a staple meal for settlers on the American frontier, chili is relatively easy and inexpensive to prepare and can be made using ingredients most of us have readily available in our pantry.

This recipe is for a white chili, but much like more traditional recipes, the meat, beans and rich spicy sauce are all there. While I know that chili ingredients can be a controversial subject for some, I challenge you to not love this white chili once you’ve tried it.

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Chicken Chili Blanco, serves 4-6

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 (29 ounce can Hominy
2 (15 ounce) cans Pinto Beans
1 cup Jack Cheese
1 1/2 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons taco seasoning (I use this recipe)
1 (15 ounce) can white corn
1 (10 3/4 ounce) can cream of chicken soup
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 (2 1/4 ounce) can diced green chili
1/2 cup chopped green onion
tortilla chips (optional)

Drain and rinse pinto beans, hominy & corn. Place chicken, pinto beans, hominy and corn in the bottom of a 4 quart slow cooker. In a large mixing bowl, combine chicken broth, cream of chicken soup, taco seasoning & green chilis. Mix well and add to crockpot. Cook for 4 hours on high or six hours on low. About 30 minutes prior to serving, shred chicken using a fork and add 1/2 cup sour cream to crockpot. To serve, garnish with remaining sour cream, cheese, green onion and tortilla chips.

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P.S. I like to set up a topping bar with all the fixings so my guests can choose their own toppings. Adults and kiddos alike will enjoy customizing their bowl with a variety of toppings like cheese, cilantro, avocado, hot sauce, sour cream, green onion, etc.

P.P.S. If you want to make this recipe a Iittle healthier, substitute Greek Yogurt for sour cream. You can also leave out the cream of chicken soup; instead just blend 1 cup of the cooked beans prior to shredding your chicken and return to crockpot. It freezes great too!

Have you tried white chili? What would you top your bowl of chicken chili blanco with?

A Taste of Fall: Mulled Wine

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Fall is hands-down my favorite season, and the one I miss the most living in Phoenix. There is nothing better than the feel of the crisp air, the mild scent of firewood as people starting using their fireplaces, the sight of bright colorful pops of red, yellow and orange leaves on the trees, and the taste of spiced cider and pumpkin bread.

Since Phoenix still has temperatures in the 80s and 90s and green trees in the fall, I resort to taste to fill my autumn needs. Taste is a very powerful thing. There is a scene in the Pixar film “Ratatouille” where the menacing food critic takes a bite of ratatouille and is whisked away to memories of sitting at his mother’s farmhouse table. Upon opening his eyes, he smiles, and wolfs down the rest of the dish. This is how mulled beverages and pumpkin spiced baked goods work for me. One taste and I am transported back to Halloweens of my childhood in Ohio,eating caramel apples and watching “Monster Squad” with my good friend Ryan.

Last fall, The Wilderness Girls took our first trip to Flagstaff to get a taste of the season we all miss. My culinary contribution was mulled cider. I used basic William’s Sonoma mulling spices and simmered them with cider until the flavors were infused. The girls loved it and requested that this year we upgrade to mulled wine. That left me with the task of finding a recipe, and so I thought it would be fun to share this recipe with you.

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I am going to show you two methods of mulling wine – a super fancy-pants version from Bon Appétit, that would be perfect for a very special occasion, and an easy version using premade mulling spices, perfect for the crazy busy schedule that most of us have during the holidays.

Let’s start with the Bon Appétit version.

Bon Appétit Mulled Wine

10 whole cloves
1 tangerine, clementine, or small orange
1 750-ml bottle of Merlot (use your favorite brand – I used Coppola Merlot)
1 1/2 cups fresh apple cider (or you can use the store-bought cider, like I did)
4 Pink Lady apples (optional)
1 cinnamon stick plus 6 for garnish (optional)
1 green cardamom pod, cracked
1 cup tawny Port (I used Fonseca Bin 27 Tawny Port, available at Safeway/Total Wine)

Press stem (pointed) end of 5 cloves into the tangerine, piercing through the skin. Place tangerine, wine, cider, Lady apples (if using), cinnamon stick, and cardamom pod in a large pot. Bring to a bare simmer over medium-low heat; cook gently for 20 minutes.

Mulled wine can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature. Rewarm gently over medium-low heat before continuing.

Stir in Port. Divide among six glasses; garnish each with a cinnamon stick and a Lady apple, if desired.

The result was delicious! Don’t have the time to tackle the Bon Appétit version? Don’t worry! You can make mulled wine using premade mulling spices and a diffuser (a mulling diffuser is different from a small tea diffuser, but a tea diffuser will work just fine).

Simple Mulled Wine

2 tablespoons mulling spices
1/3 cup granulated sugar
6 cinnamon sticks
1 750-ml bottle of Merlot (use your favorite, but again, I used Coppola Merlot)
6 orange slices for garnish (optional)

Take two tablespoons of the mulling spices and place them in the diffuser (or you could use cheesecloth and tie it at the top so the spices don’t fall out) and close the diffuser. Put a 750-ml bottle of the Merlot of your choice, and 1/3 cup of sugar in a large pot, put the diffuser into the pot, bring to a slow simmer over medium-low heat, and let simmer for 20 minutes.

Ladle the wine into four to six mugs, garnish with a cinnamon stick and orange slice, and you are done!

Below are some vendors online where you can find mulling spices and a diffuser:

Mulling Spices

Williams-Sonoma Mulling Spice
SpiceCubed Mulling Spice Tin
Morton & Bassett Mulling Spice
Penzeys Spices Mulilng Spice
World Market The Spice Hunter Mulling Spice Balls (the bonus to this one is that it has the spices already in the cheesecloth, so no diffuser is needed)

Diffuser

Williams-Sonoma Floating Mulling Spice Ball
Stainless Steel Mesh Ball

You could also use cheesecloth, available at most grocery stores, and tie the spices with kitchen string. Most tea shops also have diffuser balls, so that is also an option (just make sure it’s stainless steel).

So, there you have it, two fantastic recipes that will get you in the spirit of the season. I am looking forward to making this for Christie, Christina and Rachael at our 2013 Fall Foliage trip.

What is your favorite taste of fall? Let me know in the comments below.

The olive wood board featured in the photo above is from local vendor Arizona Olive Wood.

Berry Yogurt Breakfast Smoothie

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Berry Yogurt Breakfast Smoothie, serves 2

I stumbled upon this recipe by accident. One Saturday morning, I was in a rush to get ready for a meeting and didn’t have time to eat my normal breakfast of Greek yogurt with berries and granola. I asked Rob to throw everything into our Vitamix with a little almond milk and ice. Voila! The Berry Yogurt Breakfast Smoothie was born.

This recipe has been a lifesaver. I’m one of those people that has to force myself to eat Greek yogurt. I know it’s a smarter choice over the processed, flavored yogurts that I used to eat– it’s low in calories, high in protein & calcium and contains probiotics that can improve digestive health. But, for all of its benefits, I’ve always struggled with its tart taste and too thick texture. I actually prefer to add Greek yogurt to my smoothies now, it binds the other ingredients together and makes for a silkier smoothie.

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½ cup almond milk
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 cup raspberries
1 frozen banana
1 cup easy healthy homemade granola (I use this recipe)
1 tablespoon flax seed
3 cups ice

Add almond milk, yogurt, raspberries, banana, granola & flaxseed to vitamix and blend on variable 4 for 30 seconds. Add ice to vitamix and blend on high for 45 seconds or until blended smooth.

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Serve cold.

I’m excited to branch out and try Greek yogurt as a substitute in other recipes.

Have you used Greek yogurt as a substitute in recipes? Please feel free to share in the comments.

P.S. you don’t need a vitamix to make this smoothie – you could easily use a blender or bullet instead! Just be sure to add ground flax seed instead of whole if you use a blender as it’s easier for your body to digest. If this smoothie is a little tart for your taste, add a tablespoon of raw honey to sweeten it up a bit.

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