Green Monkey Smoothie

When I started my health journey sometime seven (!!!) years ago, I was told I had to eat all of my veggies and fruits, stop eating sweets, eat less carbs, and do tons of cardio. I listened to that advice for most of my journey but thankfully, I snapped out of all that noise since then. Yeah, I still eat better than I did back then but my focus shifted. I eat what I want but watch how I feel when I’m eating. What do I mean by that? I eat what I crave when I’m hungry until I’m satisfied. Can you believe it took me seven years to figure that out? Such a simple concept that can change the way you eat and view food isn’t as widely known as “eat less carbs and sweets and do all the cardio.” Confusing.

One thing that stuck, that’s equally as important, is the veggies part. If you know me, you know that I loathe vegetables. Hate them with the burning intensity of a thousand suns. I’m not talking about all vegetables, but the ones that everyone usually preaches are the best to eat. Like broccoli and stuff. Yuck. The only way you can get me to eat a leafy green is if it’s covered in pasta sauce or in a smoothie.

Enter the Green Monkey.

Kale bouquet

What’s a “Green Monkey?” Only my favorite way to get my greens in! It’s a combination of spinach, kale, bananas, and peanut butter. The monkey part is obviously the banana (and maybe the peanut butter?) What I love about this combo is that it’s impossible to taste the greens. You wouldn’t even know they were in there if the smoothie itself wasn’t green. It tastes like bananas and peanut butter; the classic combo that most kids, like me, love.

The best way to make this smoothie is in a powerful blender. If you’re one of the lucky ones with access to a Vitamix, I’m officially jelly. I have my trusty Magic Bullet (which I actually broke when we got it but I fixed it, so we don’t talk about that anymore) to blend in, which works great in a pinch. I usually break up the smoothie in two batches because I love packing as many greens as I can fathom into my smoothies.

Smoothie Prep

Along with a boatload of greens, the banana is an integral part of the smoothie. It’s what gives it that thick and luscious texture. Bonus if the banana is frozen because it does double duty in chilling and making the smoothie thick. No frozen bananas? No problem! Use ice (duh)! Finally, the peanut butter. I love the natural, smooth stuff but feel free to sub with your fave smooth or chunky nut butter.

The result? The Green Monkey: a smoothie so delicious, you forget it’s healthy. Amp up the health content by throwing in a scoop of your favorite protein powder. Chocolate protein powder works pretty well; makes it taste like drinking a Reese’s. It’s the perfect post workout drink, along with a healthy snack to help refuel your body.

Green Monkey Smoothie

Consider the Green Monkey the next time you realize you could use more greens in your life but don’t actually want to eat them.

The Green Monkey Smoothie – a Lucy the Baker Original

Makes one smoothie

  • 2 cups of kale, rinsed and de-stemmed
  • 1 to 2 cups of fresh spinach, rinsed
  • 1/2 of milk or water
  • 1/2 to 1 whole banana
  • 1 to 2 tbsps natrual, smooth peanut butter

Directions:

  1. Rinse and de-stem your kale. If you’re using a small blender, tear the leaves into smaller pieces. Repeat with the spinach but don’t remove its stems (there are a lot of vitamins in spinach stems and they blend easy, unlike kale stems).
  2. Place the prepped greens in the cup of you blender. Add in the banana, the peanut butter and the milk or water. Add ice if using, and blend! Make sure greens are thoroughly blended until smooth (ahem, hence the name smoothie).
  3. Pour the smoothie in a glass (if you’re fancy) and drink!

Lucy’s Tips:

  • For the lazy, like myself, you can enjoy this smoothie straight out of the blender cup. Throw a straw in it (or not) and call it a day. 
  • You can add a variety of greens into this smoothie, just stick with mild ones so they don’t overtake the flavor of the smoothie. 
  • Use frozen bananas when you can!
  • Feel free to use the milk of your choice. I use soy milk but this smoothie would be fab with almond milk (and almond butter!), coconut milk, cow’s milk, etc. 
  • Also, use the nut butter of your choice. The options are endless!
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Kitchen Experiments: Pilot Cookies

Recipe development has always scared me. I’ve been baking for a while now, so it was only a matter of time until I finally made something up myself. Baking is a science and that means that if things aren’t exact in the formula, it can go south fairly quickly.

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I set out on trying my hand at cookies as my first attempt at sweet recipe development. The first thing I thought to myself was: “how many of my favorite mix-ins can I put into a cookie dough?” With that in mind, I looked for a guide to help me formulate this recipe.

Michael Ruhlman’s “Ratio” was the help I was looking for. I read and re-read the chapter on cookies one day at work, and without looking at the recipes included in the chapter, I used his formula and wrote my first draft on a piece of scrap paper.

The formula is fairly simple: 1 part sugar: 2 parts fat: 3 parts flour. This formula is the same one behind chocolate chip cookies, which is what I was going for. He measured by weights but I wanted to measure by volume, so my ratios were; 1/2 cup of sugar: 1 cup of butter: 1 1/2 cups of flour.

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From there, everything else was easy. I knew I wanted to put as many mix-ins as I could, but ended up settling for four: rolled oats, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and pretzels. In my first draft, I wanted to replace some of the flour with ground oats, and chop up the pretzels to incorporate it into the dough.

Satisfied with my first draft, I made my first batch of cookies and ended up failing. Since I took out some of the flour for oats, the cookies were too brittle and barely made it from the tray to the cooling racks. The chopped up pretzels weren’t much help, as they made the cookie heavier and took over the entire cookie. I took my scrap paper and went back to the drawing board.

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Not to be defeated by a failed batch, I decided to put back the flour I took out and incorporate the rolled oats as a mix-in. I also took the chopped pretzels out and opted to top each scoop of dough with one instead. I said a little prayer and popped them into the oven on my second try. It took me two weeks to try to make this recipe and I think it was definitely worth the wait. The cookies came out with the right structure; sturdy but not heavy. The oats made them chewy, which went great with the soft chocolate and sweet butterscotch chips. And then the pretzel. Easily the best part of the cookie! I was worried the oven would soften them but they stayed crispy atop the cookie, and added a little saltiness.

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I took my cookies to class with me and they were definitely a hit! My classmates were already supportive of me and my baking endeavors (those sweethearts), so I already felt better about debuting these with them. One of my classmates even said these were her new favorite!

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To be completely honest, they were the inspiration behind this cookie. I am part of this super new and innovative program called CO*OP that aims to bridge the college to career gap in New York City for advertising and marketing graduates. For those who don’t know, I graduated college over a year ago and have been struggling to start my career ever since. This opportunity kind of fell into my lap this past summer, and I have been rocking with it ever since. We’re the guinea pigs for the program, so things are always changing and we’re just rolling with the punches. Our founder told us from the beginning that we were the pilot, hence the name of these cookies. We’re the first group and since this was my first try at creating a sweet recipe, I named them pilot cookies (that, and because ‘oatmeal butterscotch chocolate chip pretzel cookies’ is a mouthful).

I learned a lot while creating and trying these cookies out, and definitely had fun doing it. For one, I won’t replace ingredients for others without seeing how it’ll affect the final product. Since these are my pilot, it’s only a matter of time until I start creating more recipes on my own (with Ratio’s help, of course)!

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For more information on CO*OP, check us (and my face) out here and here

Pilot Cookies – a  Lucy the Baker Original

Makes 28-30 cookies

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) of unsalted butter, room temperature and slightly softened
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup each of rolled oats, chocolate chips, and butterscotch chips
  • 28-30 salted pretzels

Directions:

  1. Place the oven racks in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a medium sized bowl, cream together with an electric mixer the slightly softened butter and the sugars until light and fluffy; up to five minutes. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula and add the egg and vanilla extract. Mix until completely incorporated.
  4. Gradually add the flour mix to the batter, scraping down the sides of the bowl periodically. Do not overmix!
  5. Fold in the oats, chocolate and butterscotch chips with a rubber spatula. Using a small disher or two spoons, scoop the batter onto the prepared baking sheets, about an inch or two apart. Place a pretzel atop each scoop of batter and gently press down so the pretzel sticks to the cookie dough.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. Rotate the pans halfway through baking.
  7. Cool cookies on the pan for a minute before transferring to racks to cool completely. For storage, place in an airtight container at room temperature. Cookies should keep for about a week.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Make sure your butter is room temp and slightly softened; not completely softened, as that will affect your final product. If your butter got too soft, make the batter and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour to firm the dough back up. To know if your butter is ready, gently press it with a finger. It should be firm, not too cold, and your finger should only make a slight indent. 
  • To prevent overmixing, incorporate the last bit of flour with a rubber spatula instead of the mixer. It’s also a good opportunity to scrape the bowl and make sure all the flour is incorporated. 
  • I use a #50 disher (similar to this one), which holds 1 1/4 tablespoons of dough. Feel free to use a larger one or two spoons to scoop your batter. 
  • To rotate your pans during baking, switch the top tray and the bottom tray (so the top one is now on the bottom rack and vice versa), and turn them 180 degrees. Sounds confusing but I hope that makes sense!

Baked Chickpea Fritters

I have no idea where or when I ate my first falafel but I do know that it was love at first bite. I think it was my sister who introduced me to the magic that is that tiny ball of crunchy and fluffy chickpeas. Since then, I’ve been OBSESSED. I try to get my falafel fix wherever I can get it; most commonly at the Whole Foods hot bar. I know, it’s not exactly ‘legit’ but it fills the void.

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After trying it for the first time, I’d been dying to try and recreate that magic at home. Now, I’m not one to experiment much in the kitchen with savory items. I personally like the comfort of established recipes but I really wanted to put my own spin on this. Most falafel recipes have common ingredients, so I cross referenced with what I had and didn’t and got to work.

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This recipe was the result of three (four?) different tries. The first ones were way too smooth and soaked up a ton of oil but the flavor was there (and I also forgot to write down what I did). The second ones were on point texturally but were lacking in flavor. I repeated what I did the second time and tried to amp up the flavors, which resulted in salty fritters. At this point, I had been eating chickpeas several times for three weeks straight. I wanted to try one more time, tasting as I went along, and got something I was happy with.

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My fritters are pretty different from traditional falafel. For starters, these are baked. The first three tries, I pan fried them in some oil. They came out all nice and crunchy but they soaked up all that oil, which was kind of a turn off. Instead, I brushed them with a little bit of oil before baking and added a couple teaspoons to the chickpea mix.

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Mom’s Sofrito/sazón. Can you guess what’s in here?

Another big difference is in the ingredients. Traditional falafel recipes use tons of fresh herbs and other spices, most of which aren’t used in my house. The issue here is that if I buy them, they’d go bad. I’m not one to waste food, so I looked for another way to give my fritters flavor, even if it meant sacrificing authenticity. Enter my mom’s secret ingredient. Go into any Dominican woman’s household and there is a chance that somewhere in her kitchen, she’s hiding her signature flavor bomb. I’m talking about sofrito. Sofrito is basically a blended mixture of a bunch of seasoning ingredients. Common ingredients in this stuff ranges from a variety of peppers, onions, garlic, tons of cilantro; among other things. I’m not exactly sure what’s in my mom’s sazón or else I’d tell you, but I plan on getting that recipe…. eventually. For now, I just stole a couple tablespoons.

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Along with my mom’s Dominican sazón, I also threw in some of her other essential ingredient; Adobo all purpose seasoning. With this, please be careful. This stuff is salty if you put in too much, so watch your salt amounts when using this stuff. This is probably why my third try came out too salty. And finally, I added some dried parsley.

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The result? A surprisingly crunchy but creamy and chunky little fritter! I was very happy with these results. They were flavorful, spicy, and totally not greasy. Sure, they weren’t ‘legit’ falafel but at least with this recipe, I can get my fill of chickpeas in the comfort of my own home. They are far from perfect but for my first time creating a recipe, I’d say I did pretty well.

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Baked Chickpea Fritters – a Lucy the Baker Original

Makes 15 fritters

  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup of chopped onions
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon Adobo all purpose seasoning
  • 3-4 tablespoons sofrito/sazón
  • 1-2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried parsley
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • 2-4 tablespoons of flour
  • Olive oil for brushing/coating

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In the bowl of your food processor, add the chopped onion and garlic cloves. Add the chickpeas, along with the red pepper flakes, Adobo, sofrito, oil, dried parsley, and a pinch of salt. Pulse until the mixture is chunky but combined.
  2. Empty the contents of your processor into a bowl, giving it a mix with a rubber spatula. Add the flour by the tablespoon, mixing after each addition. Check to make sure the mixture is not too dry or too wet; it should come together when gently pressed into a ball but it shouldn’t be too sticky.
  3. Using a small disher or a tablespoon, portion out the chickpea mix onto the prepped baking sheet. Gently flatten out the balls, and brush with a little bit of olive oil. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Flip them over and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I’m assuming the majority of you don’t have access to sofrito/sazón. In lieu of that, please add more onions, cilantro, and some bell peppers to your mix. At least until I can grab that secret and post the recipe!
  • When adding the flour, less is more. Test the mix after each tablespoon to make sure you’re not adding too much flour. 
  • You can find Adobo all purpose seasoning in the ethnic aisle of most supermarkets. You’ll also find something in a jar called “sofrito.” It’s not exactly the same but it’s an okay sub to the one I used here. 
  • You can also make the mixture and throw it in the fridge for a while, if needed. It’ll help the flavors develop. 
  • Want to fry them? You can pan fry them in some canola oil or take the plunge (ha) and deep fry them. If you’re pan frying, put them on a baking sheet and bake them in the 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes after frying.