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Make-Ahead Smoothies ♥

A great tip for smoothie makers, how to make them ahead of time: Just make 'em, that's it.
So am I the last smoothie lover to figure out that smoothies can be made ahead of time?! If so, sorry, move on with your day, I'll try to do better next week. :-) Otherwise, join me in this life-changing smoothie revelation:

Easy prep ahead of time, all that washing and chopping done all at once and out of the way for the week (or at least three or four days).
Good-sense portion control, a great feature since I don't know about you, but a blenderful of smoothie just calls to me, "Drink me nowwww, NOW I say!"
An easy on-the-go, out-the-door breakfast, a quick after-swim snack all ready and waiting in the fridge.

Rhubarb Curd ♥

Today's fun and easy rhubarb recipe: A take-off on lemon curd, not quite so tart but definitely "rhubarb sour" and with gorgeous color, especially in this easy and oh-so-pretty parfait.
Who says that lemon curd has to be made with lemons? Ahh, well yes, of course, lemon curd must be made with lemons and in my world, always always as Brown Sugar Lemon Curd, my Canadian family's signature recipe. But a couple of years back, my dear friend Mary served a couple of fruit curds for a book club dessert and while I've lost track of those recipes (mango perhaps? raspberry?), the idea of a fruit curd stuck.

Enter a handful of beautiful rhubarb from last Saturday's trip to the farmers market. Rhubarb custard pie? Muffins? (I'm still on the hunt for my go-to rhubarb muffin recipe. Rhubarb lovers, I'd love to try your muffin recipe if you'd be willing to share, especially if it's less-sweet and made with at least some whole-grain flour.) My mom's rhuba…

Chunky 'Choke & Chickpea Chow ♥
aka Chunky Artichoke & Garbanzo Spread

Today's vegetable recipe: A great veg(etari)an sandwich spread, a sort of hummus meets artichoke dip. Weight Watchers, just 1 or 2 points, that's because the dense calories of chickpeas have been lightened up with virtually calorie-free artichokes. Vegetarian and when made with vegan mayonnaise, not just vegan, "Vegan Done Real".
Cha-Ching! When the word dancer in me noticed the chance to title this recipe with three CHs in a row, twas no chore to challenge myself to channel a fourth. "Chow" fit the bill! Chafing, I know, to my chagrin! But it might have been worse. You just don't the temptation to turn this into a mushroom spread too, you know, with chantarelles, perhaps with cheese and leaves of chive, served on china? And eaten with chopsticks! Please, tee hee, won't this arouse a small chortle?

Greek Spinach-Asparagus-Potato Gratin ♥
(Spinaki me Sparaggia Orgraten))

Today's extra-special spinach recipe: A gratin that starts with a layer of potato, then is topped with a thick layer of the best "creamed spinach" I've ever made (or tasted). The secret? The spinach is mixed with asparagus! What a spring treat!
Three or four times a year, we share a dinner with a group of food-savvy friends who are the culinary branch of the Missouri Mycological Society. Each dinner carries a theme. Last month, we celebrated a "Greek Orthodox Easter" by cooking a whole lamb (note to vegetarians) at a green-as-summer outdoor venue west of St. Louis, part of Shaw Nature Reserve. I love-love-love this group! It's plain fun to cook with/for smart and food-obsessed like-minded food people and I also appreciate the forum to cook dishes slightly more complicated. Plus I always learn something!

And here's what I learned with our assigned dish, a vegetarian casserole called σπανάκι με σπαράγγια ογκρατέν, that's Spinaki me Sparaggia Orgr…

Seven-Layer Strawberry Salad with Homemade Poppy Seed Dressing ♥

Today's party salad: A spring riff on the traditional Seven-Layer Salad, layers of strawberries, mangoes, kiwi and avocado plus the traditional romaine and red onion. Not just vegan, "Vegan Done Real".
Everybody loves the Classic Seven Layer Salad, you know, that messy concoction of lettuce, bacon, cheese, bacon, tomato and hard-cooked egg. Wait, is that seven layers? Ooops, add green peas, too.

This is a summer and fruity version of that salad, substituting colorful layers of fresh fruit: strawberries, kiwis and mango plus avocado and toasted walnuts. Seven-Layer Strawberry Salad: the name alone makes me want to mix up another beautiful bowlful!

It was the crowd favorite at a party last week and would make a great contribution to the next potluck or dinner gathering.

Savory Muffins with Sweet Potato & Feta ♥

Today's "baking with vegetables" inspiration: A muffin, a real muffin, and decidedly savory, there's not a speck of sugar, even the spices are just salt and pepper, you know, savory. The best? The muffins are studded with tiny cubes of roasted sweet potato and creamy feta. For Weight Watchers, just 3 points (Old Points) or 4 points (PointsPlus)!
What in the world has happened to muffins? Is it just me or have they taken a turn to the too-too sweet and the too-too cake-like?

And okay, so cupcakes are supposed to be airy and cakey and sweet. But there are two-million-bazillion cupcake recipes, each one competing on the Cute Quotient. (I kid you not. Have you seen the baking blogs lately? Talk about CuteCupcakeOverload.) Cupcakes have their place.

But on the other end, the muffin end, how many muffin recipes are of the savory sort? Once upon a time, I did one of those get-to-know-you corporate team-building exercises. One query after another, virtually all the parti…

Thai-Style Celery & Peanut Butter ♥
(Celery with Peanut Butter for Grown-ups)

Today's quick vegetable snack idea: Celery stuffed with peanut butter with an Asian spin reminiscent of satay. Low carb. Not just vegan, "Vegan Done Real".
During my kid years, "fancy" food caught my attention. Think oddball stuff like half a banana upright inside a ring of pineapple (was a maraschino cherry on top? probably) and something called "ants on a log" – celery filled with peanut butter, raisins lined up all in a row on top. Fancy, eh? Let's bet: a "creative cooking for kids" book was involved.

Stirring together this kicky Thai-Style Peanut Butter, I couldn't get those "ants on a log" off the picnic tablecloth in my mind. It's still peanut butter, just amped up with the heat of chile and the brightness of lively citrus, but a step or two or a mile beyond the familiar favorite.

Could it win over people who are only so-so about peanut butter? (Who are there people and how can we be related or even friends?) Ne…