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Spiced Butternut Apple Smoothie

Spiced Butternut Apple Smoothie

As soon as the first crisp days of autumn arrive, I subconsciously, and rather rapidly, begin to shift my diet to match the shifting environment that surrounds me. Outside my window, I admire the many shades of orange spreading across the sky. Then soon after, near as many orange hues start appearing on my kitchen counters.

Squash of every variety, and sweet potatoes too, fill up my empty wooden baskets, my ceramic plates, and now my mason jars, too.

Spiced Butternut Apple Smoothie

When Williams Sonoma kicked off this week with the theme of “Not Your Average Smoothie”, naturally I knew I needed to throw some squash into my blender.

I’m all about going outside the traditional smoothie box, and I’m also all about squash, so it seemed like a perfect platform for experimentation.

I turned on my oven, said bottoms up, and began getting to work.

Spiced Butternut Apple Smoothie

I decided upon butternut, loving its creaminess in soups that I often create with apples. I figured, why wouldn’t that be delicious iced and turned into a smoothie, too?

After testing out this smoothie several times, I finally came up with a recipe that’s a little weird, a little wild, yet totally straw-worthy and insanely refreshing.

Through my testing, I learned to save the oven for the squash soup, and stick to steaming for the smoothie. Steaming enables the squash to stay juicer and not as dense so you end up with a shake that has a nice light, whipped consistency. Along with some spirited spice – curry powder and a kick of cayenne (ow ow!) – this smoothie embodies some of fall’s best warming qualities while remaining refreshing till the last sip.

Feel free to try swapping the butternut with sweet potato, or even pumpkin. Just be mindful of possibly needing to adjust the liquid. If you want to step further out of the box, add some spinach. I did this to one batch, and the results were great (even if it sounds a little weird). To get a little wilder, top your smoothie with toasted walnuts or pecans. Or an extra kick of that spicy cayenne, if you like it hot.

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Mexican Brownies with Espresso Glaze

So, this definitely isn’t my best attempt at photographing a brownie. I’d like to say sorry to the brownies for not giving them the time or flattering light they deserved. However, despite a forced pre-dawn photo debut, a glance at these chocolaty squares still makes my mouth water.

Although, there might be a chance that’s because I already know what they taste like. And what they taste like is good.

In fact, these were so rich and chocolaty that this sleepy photographer devoured two of them for breakfast before walking out the door with the remainder—of which got quickly eaten at a work party that night.

I planned my first open house party for my new job, and ended up giving it a Mexican food theme. What Mexican had to do with the event mattered little to me. What really mattered here was getting an extra large bowl of guacamole on the table and pairing it with the quesadilla platter of my dreams. I’m pretty sure the office agreed that this was a win for everyone. I think the guests conquered.

But of course, as a cook and food blogger, I wasn’t going to let the entire party pass by solely on catered food. I don’t care how delicious that guacamole was, a touch of F-F-F was a mandatory part of the table spread. Leaving dessert out of the catering menu, it was easy to decide what I’d contribute. But deciding on exactly which sweet item to make wasn’t such an easy task.

Mexican desserts aren’t really in my repertoire and when I reached out on F-F-F’s Facebook page for some help, it became clear this was probably true for many of my fans, too. (Though correct me if I’m wrong. I’d love to hear of your ideas and recipes.) After browsing the internet for ideas, I came back to the idea of brownies, a classic party option, loved by all, that can easily be considered finger food.

Cinnamon and espresso give these brownies their flare, and a touch of cayenne adds a small kick to their fancy, but not too schmancy glaze. Rich, fudgy, and a touch of spicy, peppy personality, it’s hard not to love this homemade option on the party table.

As a note, this is not a healthy brownie. But sometimes good health calls for moderation of indulgence. Especially after the stress of your first month on a new job. For an occasion like that, these will hit the spot, all in good health I assure you. Cheers.

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Minty Watermelon and Lime Salad

Nothing says summer like watermelon —big, juicy slices of it, its sweet nectar running down your hands and face. My favorite way to eat watermelon is to hack a huge section off and dive right in.

However, when it comes to summer gatherings, I’ve had one too many sticky, pink dribbles fall from my hands to my dress. I’m generally a hands-on person, but in these situations, I actually start to long for a fork and bowl style of eating. Picnics provide the perfect excuse to do some simple sprucing up of watermelon and turn it into a refreshing side dish meant for silverware.

Mint too is great for gatherings because everyone likes a fresh breath, and when the temps. start soaring, there’s no better cool-down ingredient for this than mint. The perfect compliment to sugary watermelon, the touch of green adds just the right finish for a hot summer day. I also hit this dish with a dash of spice and a touch of salt, a combination that goes well with the natural sweetness of my favorite summer fruit.

With just 5 ingredients and 2 easy steps, this is a dish worthy of sending watermelon into cubes meant for a fork. Serve alongside fish tacos, BBQ, or any other outdoor favorite.

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Maple Curry Rice Salad

The following recipe started off with intentions of becoming a typical Waldorf Salad. Not that I was particularly craving it, but more like I had an abundance of apples on hand that I wanted to use.

I quickly abandoned the idea once I realized Waldorf salad traditionally calls for lettuce as its base rather than the rice which I wanted to pair with the apples. I don’t do too many sweet renditions of rice, but oddly that indeed was what I was craving.

Besides, it was easy to let go of the whole Waldorf thing, because really, when have you ever had a truly memorable Waldorf salad? For me, I can probably say never. Waldorf salad tends to be that mysterious item on the salad bar in which everyone takes a little spoonful because its creaminess looks, well, creamy. Creamy generally evokes those luxurious flavor adjectives such as smooth, rich, and buttery.  But does Waldorf salad generally embody any of these characteristics? Nada.

Occasionally, it’s worth a few bites, acting as a sweet, refreshing chutney in accompanying a heavy meal. But enough about forgettable Waldorf salads, let’s get to the rice recipe picture above. I decided to stick with the idea of creating a refreshing salad, and then veered off down a path of memorable flavor. I chose apples to keep it light, and then added curry powder to draw on the sweetness of the raisins and maple syrup I would be adding. I also chose to retain a light creaminess by adding yogurt, and then finished it off with some toasty, full-bodied nuts. The end result made me wonder why I don’t play with sweet and savory combinations more often. If given a spot on the salad bar, this Maple Curry Rice Salad would be worthy of more than just one curious spoonful. You’d bet I’d be back for seconds.

Serve this dish hot or cold. Note that if served warm, the cayenne will be more distinct, if used.
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