Healthy Breakfast Drink: Green Smoothie

Having a healthy breakfast is easier said than done. Let's face it: having a whole grain English muffin every morning quickly becomes a drag. Instead, try this sweet and tart breakfast smoothie. Inspired by Naked Juice's Green Machine, these Vitamix recipes, and a girlfriend of mine who makes her own variation of the drink, it has fruit and veggies, and doesn't taste nearly as strange as it may look. In fact, it tastes like apples and bananas with a citrus kick. Make a batch of four at a time, and store the leftover drink in your freezer. Thaw under refrigeration overnight for a ready-to-go breakfast that's well under 200 calories.

Serves: 2 (about 16 ounces) Prep time: About 5 minutes

Ingredients: 1 orange OR 2 clementines 1 Granny Smith apple 1 banana 1 cup kale (about 1.5 stalks) 3/4 cup water 1/2 cup ice (optional)

1. Prepare your fruit and vegetables: Peel the orange (or clementines), apple and banana. Core the apple. Roughly break up the fruits into segments (to make blending easier). Rip kale leaves off stalks. Add to blender. Add water and ice.

2. Blend on high until mixture is smooth, about 1-2 minutes.

My Notes: What if I don't add ice? I actually don't add ice to my smoothie. I start with cold fruit and kale, having stored it in the refrigerator, and I end up with a cool-to-room-temperature drink. I prefer it this way because it makes it easier to gulp down, which is important if you're on the go.

Why kale? Kale is an underrated vegetable. It's really high in vitamins K, A and C, and is a good source of fiber, calcium and potassium. Plus, it contains sulforaphane, which is known to be a strong cancer-fighting ingredient.

Why Granny Smith apples? Eaten alone, kale has a strong, bitter taste. The bright tartness of the green apples tones down the bitterness, resulting in smooth, clean flavor.

A Light, Easy, No-Cook Dessert: Strawberry-Ricotta Mousse

I’m actually not the biggest fan of mousse. It’s usually too chocolate-y or too bland, too soft or too sweet. Too something. But this recipe, taken straight from the Food Network’s Giada De Laurentiis herself, has just the right consistency – and with a few of my own tweaks, just the right level of sweetness. It’s super easy and best of all, it doesn’t require any cooking.

Serves: about 10 Prep time: 20-25 minutes

Ingredients: 2 cups whole milk ricotta (or 1 15-ounce container) 3/4 cup of strawberry preserves or jam (can be substituted for your favorite preserves or jam) 1 cup heavy whipping cream 1/4 cup powdered sugar

1. 1 cup of strawberries (or the same kind of fresh fruit as your jam) Either in a food processor or mixer, blend the room temperature ricotta cheese until it’s smooth and fluffy (usually about 30 seconds in a food processor, or 1 minute in the mixer). Add the jam and blend until combined, about several seconds until you get that nice, light pink color. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

If you’re like me and your kitchen appliances are both small and limited, you’ll probably need to wash and dry your mixer. You’re going to whip the cream, so you’ll want to make sure you have a clean mixer to make sure the cream becomes the right consistency.

2. Beat the cream on medium-high speed until thick, about 5 minutes. Add the powdered sugar and crank up the speed. Blend until the cream holds stiff peaks, about 5-7 minutes longer.

3. Fold (or gently mix) the whipped cream into your ricotta-jam mixture in small batches.

4. Refrigerate 1 hour prior to serving. When ready, use an ice cream scoop to plop a generous portion onto your serving bowls. I use one hefty scoop per serving. Garnish with your fresh fruit and enjoy!

My notes: Mine vs. Giada’s. When I first whipped up this dessert, I followed Giada’s recipe down to the last measurement. While I was happy with the texture, I felt the end result was a bit too ricotta-y and not quite sweet enough. I like a little extra jam and powdered sugar.

Which jam? Giada’s original recipe actually calls for raspberry jam. I’ve also seen this made with blueberries! Feel free to use whichever preserves or jam you like – it’s probably a good idea (for your wallet!) to choose one that’s on sale. Just don’t use jelly! You want the full-bodied taste of real fruit, and that’s a taste you get only from preserves or jam.

Why whole milk ricotta? For a more calorie-friendly treat, you could go with skim milk ricotta. I just prefer using whole milk to get a richer flavor and that perfect mousse-y texture. Also, when you’re making recipes with so few ingredients, it’s important to make sure they’re good quality. Using fewer ingredients means you can’t hide the tastes of cheap items!

Why powdered sugar? Powdered sugar is much lighter than granulated, so it incorporates into the cream much more smoothly. It also gives the cream a tiny bit of weight that lets it puff up. That way, you get a fluffy whipped cream that’s perfectly smooth.