Zucchini “Crab” Cakes (GF,DF)

 photo IMG_0567.jpgIt would seem that I am not the only gardener overrun by zucchini this year, and I’m with most of the gardeners who responded to my last post; I’m delighted to have this problem of what to do with all of my zucchini. A few years ago a pal of mine posted a recipe on her Facebook page during the height of zucchini season. I was intrigued by the simplicity of the recipe and by the ingredient list which includes Maryland’s favorite spice mix, Old Bay Seasoning.

And so I began my usual process of fiddling, seeing how far I could move within the recipe while achieving the desired results. Over time I’ve adapted my friend’s lovely summer recipe and it is a zucchini staple in our house. While I won’t say that these actually taste like crab cakes (because my mother and many other Marylanders would be appalled by that idea), the flavor of these babies SUGGESTS crab cakes and they are just darned tasty crab facsimile aside. If Old Bay is not available in your area (I nearly passed out when I couldn’t buy it in California years ago), look for spice mixes intended for steamed spiced crabs, but be sure they don’t include super large chunks of spice as many shrimp boil spice mixes do OR try a homemade version like this one.

Zucchini “Crab” Cakes serves 4

 photo IMG_0579.jpg

  • 3 cups grated zucchini
  • 2 eggs (I used flax)
  • 1 c garbanzo bean flour
  • 1 T sunflower cheese (you could use mayo)
  • 1 T apple cider vinegar
  • 1 T Bragg’s Amino Acids (or soy sauce)
  • 1-2 T Old Bay

The key to working with zucchini is to remember that it is FULL of water. In order to get browning in a pan, zucchini needs to be lightened of some its moisture load. To do this put your grated zucchini in a strainer with a sprinkle of salt stirred in. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes. I use that time to gather and measure the rest of the ingredients into a mixing bowl. Use a utensil to press zucchini to extract even more water. When you think you’ve pushed out all the water you can, wrap the zucchini in a clean dish towel and squeeze out as much as you can. Your zucchini will look a little less appealing after all this, but trust me, it’s well worth the momentary aesthetic sacrifice.

 photo IMG_0569.jpg  photo IMG_0573.jpg  photo IMG_0575.jpg

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir to incorporate. Mixture should be wet, but able to hold a patty shape. If they are too wet to hold form, add a little more flour. Form into  patties of whatever size you like. I made 8 “cakes” with my mixture. Heat oil in pan to medium and add the cakes. Allow them to brown on the bottom (this will mean leaving them alone for a couple of minutes, although as you can see I overshot for a couple). Flip and brown on the other side. Remove from heat. Serve with a big fresh garden salad. Happy summer!

The Zucchini “Problem” and My Vegetti

 photo IMG_0567.jpgThose of you who’ve grown zucchini know that if the plant works, you go very quickly from wondering if you’ll ever get any zucchini to stuffing zukes in neighbor’s mailboxes when they’re not looking to offload some of your surplus. For the past several years my zucchini have been decidedly in the NOT WORKING category, so I’ve not had to force squash on the cul-de-sac, but this year (largely I think because I got ahead of the bugs early), we have zucchini.

While I like zucchini, I admit that even I am not a fan of the traditional sautéed squash, so I’ve become a zucchini seeker. How else can we use this prolific nutritious gift without having it be, well, yucky? Big Sis and I have shared a few zucchini secrets in the past, but I found a new, and perfectly lovely solution, right there in the “As Seen on TV” display. If you just laughed, then you should admit that you’ve been tempted to look yourself. I just couldn’t stop myself when I saw a little gadget that claimed that it would spiral cut my vegetables for $10 and would fit in a drawer, the Veggetti Spiral Vegetable Cutter. I snatched that little sucker up.

And let me tell you what. It works. It actually does what it apparently says it does on TV. With little effort and about a minute of turning I had enough spiral zucchini noodles for 2 adult dinner sized portions – from one zucchini. Nice.
 photo IMG_0493.jpg  photo IMG_0495.jpg  photo IMG_0497.jpg

 photo IMG_0499.jpgBeing fans of Mediterranean food, we naturally concluded that we could put tomato sauce right on those bad boys and call it dinner, but we were feeling a little zesty, so we went in another direction, sort of a deconstructed zucchini chili mac.I simply prepared the fixins that I would normally serve for us to make burritos and instead of wrapping everything up in a tortilla, we served it on top of zucchini noodles. And it was delish. My vote on the Vegetti? A resounding yes, and I can’t wait to make some zucchini noodles for Pasta Sunday. Next time I post I’ll have another fab zucchini suggestion straight from the heart of Maryland. Hope you’re all having a lovely summer!

Stone Fruit Recall for Possible Listeria

FSNBI got a call. A few hours too late, but I got a call and that’s pretty impressive.

Let me explain. I’ve been a bit out of touch because my brother, who lives halfway across the country from me, has been visiting. I checked out of most of my regular life and spent some wonderful days getting to know him better and watching my children fall in love with their uncle. I’ve missed all kinds of news, including the news about the bag of nectarines in my refrigerator.

In case you’ve not heard, stone fruits are being recalled nationwide for possible listeria contamination. More details follow here. It is important to note that bulk packs, individually sold fruits, and pastry made with fruit are all subject to the recall. I am pleased that my market called me to let me know; I just wish it had happened before breakfast. If they hadn’t called, I probably would have had another before I saw the news today. I’ve eaten several of these. If I complain of flu-like symptoms anytime in the next several months (because apparently it can take that long), please fell free to remind me to see my health care provider.

I will now return to my regularly scheduled activities, including sharing recalls when they come across my wire. I’d encourage you, however to check out the Food Safety News website yourself so you can be informed about the fruit in your fridge. Eat well, be well friends. Fingers crossed.

Buying Healthy at Costo: My Faves

The first time I went to Costco it was with a neighbor. I told her I don’t do well in large stores with lots of different kinds of things to see. “Let me guess; you freeze up?” Why yes, yes I do. She shrugged and said, “Don’t worry. John does the same thing. I’ve got practice. I’ll get you through.”

I like to think that I’ve gotten a little better at managing my scene at Costco. I no longer need a guide or sherpa. I’ve never been tempted by the vehicles or pianos (although I confess camping gear can get a little dicey). I attempt to take a list, and sometimes I even stick to it (silence in the peanut gallery please). At any rate, through all this increasingly disciplined procurement I have discovered that Costco has some remarkable deals on some healthful foods. These have become staples for me that make it easier for me to plan highly nutritious meals or to fake a planned meal with high quality ingredients. While Costco does offer a significant amount of prepared food, they also have a remarkable number of real food ingredients. If you are skeptical, or still in the frozen stage of your Costco relationship, I thought I’d share my top healthful purchases at our local Costco, so you can guide yourself through the onslaught of offers.

1) Produce  photo IMG_0510.jpg

There are a lot of good deals on produce at Costco, although many of them are packaged in ways that I just can’t stomach, so I’m going to focus on the really exceptional, and less poorly packaged, deals here. My favorite Costco discovery is the bag of Power Greens. It has several hearty greens mixed together and is perfect for adding to salads, soups, smoothies, and anything else you would normally add greens to. Don’t forget greens freeze just fine, so the size of the bag shouldn’t put you off. It’s 4.99 for a massive bag of greens that you would normally buy in little piddly amounts in a plastic box. Carrots are also an exceptional Costco score provided you use them a lot. We are carrot lovers and use our 10 lb bag in plenty of time. This bag comes with two bags inside, so it would also be easy to split with a carrot loving friend. Avocados at a dollar apiece? Yes please.

 photo 5979419c-4a0e-404b-a85d-b976cce8135e.jpg  photo IMG_0521.jpg  photo IMG_0514.jpg

Frozen produce is also a good deal with organic sweet peas going for just over a dollar a pound. Our Costco also offers frozen organic corn and mixed vegetables. You can find other great deals on dried fruit at Costco. They offer a wide variety of high quality dried fruit at lower than grocery store prices. Just check the ingredients to find the varieties that do not have added sugar. ;-)

2) Nuts and Seeds

While Costco does not fill my raw cashew needs, they manage to answer all my other nut cravings and requirements, and again they do it at prices that consistently beat grocery stores, even those with bulk bins. Kirkland almonds, pecans, walnuts and pistachios are permanent residents on my Costco list. We’ve also gotten pine nuts and chia seeds there (prohibitively expensive at the market, and they do keep just fine).

 photo IMG_0542.jpg  photo IMG_0537.jpg  photo IMG_0541.jpg

3) Grains and Beans

 photo IMG_0546.jpgOrganic brown rice at Costco rings in at 1.16 per pound. Costco also sells sprouted dried beans and organic quinoa at better than grocery store prices.

4) Nut Butters While with the nut prices Costco has, I should really be making my own nut butters, I confess that I don’t. This is one place where I let convenience win the day. Kirkland brand organic peanut butter is a staple in our house. We’ve recently been pleased to also find organic almond butter, both at substantially lower prices than I can find them in the market.  photo IMG_0526.jpg  photo IMG_0528.jpg

5) Pantry Staples  photo IMG_0534.jpg

This is the category for a miss-mosh of ingredients that we buy at Costco and that we’ve found to be higher quality, and less expensive, than any of our other local options. Our Costco pantry staples include: Kirkland maple syrup, Kirkland extra virgin olive oil, dijon mustard, and Kirkland balsamic vinegar.

6) Beverages  photo IMG_0519.jpg

While we no longer buy most of the packaged beverages offered at Costco, we do enjoy the screamin’ deals on snooty coffee. If you are a whole bean coffee purchaser, you should check their prices out. We also occasionally take advantage of sales on coconut water.

7) Bread  photo IMG_0508.jpg

We have had a good experience with whole grain sandwich bread at Costco and have also occasionally enjoyed the gigantic stack of whole wheat tortillas that they sell for the same price as a dinky grocery store package.

8) Better Junk While we typically eschew junk food, the occasional whole grain tortilla chip goes a long way toward limiting the sense of overwhelming deprivation that can consume my kids. Costco has great prices on a few items that I would categorize as better junk. We typically buy one of these for gatherings or vacations and enjoy the leftovers.

 photo IMG_0505.jpg  photo IMG_0502.jpg

So there you have it, the bulk of my permanent Costco list on my phone (which the children now read and manage in a very dictatorial fashion, much to my chagrin). One of the biggest barriers to healthier eating is the cost of high quality ingredients. If you already have a Costco membership, check out these amazing deals. If you don’t have one, but are now tempted, consider giving it a try – or touring the store and doing the personal calculation of whether or not it makes sense for you, or for you and a friend. I am staring at that picture of chips as I write this… I am weak in the face of chips. Hope you are all having a glorious summer and if you are already a huge box store shopper, what are your favorite healthy (or healthier) deals?

Cold Comfort in a Hearty Salad

The heat is on! Summer is finally really here and so far it’s been lovely. Only brutally hot for a couple of days at a time, lots of play, and good friends all around. While I wouldn’t go so far to categorize my summer as all play and no work, I have been really making the most of time and effort saving cooking strategies to maximize fun time. Let’s face it, when it’s 95 degrees outside and everyone’s been playing as hard as they can for hours, the last thing you want to do is turn on the oven.

Big Sis and I have many times highlighted the importance of cooking extra when we cook in order to create leftovers or to create ingredients that can be used in a later meal. I especially like to do this in the summer. Whenever I cook grains in particular, I try to make twice what I would normally make so that I have some in the fridge for later, and colder dishes.

All of this is leading up to a lovely recipe mash I put together last night, with leftover quinoa playing a secondary, but much appreciated role. The inspiration came from a great dish I made with a great friend last week. She shared a cookbook with me that she had found and after we finished drooling over the pictures (Fresh from the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Storiessuch great pictures), we skimmed for a dinner and came across a quinoa and bean salad that looked like just the ticket. We made it, and it was great, and we had the summer joy of eating it cold for several lunches and dinners.

 photo IMG_0478.jpgUpon my return home, I remembered my big bag of sprouted beans, and a recipe on that bag. It was similar to the quinoa salad, and so I decided to use it as a loose guideline to recreate the quinoa and bean dish. This recipe results in a generous amount, good for a summer cookout or for several days of lunching and munching from the fridge.

Sprouted Bean and Quinoa Salad

  •  photo IMG_0488.jpg2 cups dry beans (any beans would work here, the sprouted bag I have has a nice variety of sizes which contributes to texture for the dish)
  • 1 c cucumber, chopped
  • 1/3 c chopped scallions
  • 1/3 c olive oil
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 c chopped tomatoes (I like cherry or grape for cold salads)
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 c cooked quinoa or other grain
  • 3/4-1 t cumin
  • 1 t salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • hot sauce if desired

Cook your beans according to the bag or standard bean cooking procedures. As usual, I highly recommend lentils for quick cooking time. Rinse with cold water to cool off. Add to large bowl with the other ingredients. Stir gently to combine. Yup, that’s it. Delish.

 photo IMG_0481.jpg  photo IMG_0479.jpg  photo 12887a73-1bbf-447e-a2e7-4b8dfc6b5073.jpg

Oh, and what’s that cool thing that squeezes the lemons (even the strangely large ones) without getting seeds in the food? Yeah, that’s a very cool and sturdy tool very cool and sturdy tool given to me by one of my absolute favorite people in the world. You can have one too, if you don’t like lemon seeds in your salad.

Green Beans, Raspberries and Almonds Oh My!

 photo IMG_0459.jpgSummer is here FOR REAL. Know how I know? It’s not the lack of school. It’s not the calendar. It’s not the heat. It’s not the clothes and toys strewn around the house with wild abandon. It’s the garden. My garden has told me that summer is well and truly here by giving me a glorious bounty of green beans and raspberries.

We planted a small grouping of raspberry canes three years ago. I now have a raspberry thicket that in the last two days has yielded 8 cups of deliciously sweet and fabulous raspberries. And that’s after the Japanese Beetles take a share. I must have found one of those magic spots in gardening, because frankly I’ve not done anything special for these raspberry canes. They are so vigorous that they are taming the mint that somehow got in the ground over there (what kind of idiot would plant mint in the ground… ahem… yeah…).

 photo IMG_0465.jpgMy favorite summer meal game is to look at the produce I have and find a way to put it together and enjoy it. So a few days ago I was staring at a big bowl of green beans and a big bowl of raspberries. Why not? I’ve done beans with oranges, why not berries? Why not indeed?

Green Beans with Raspberries and Almonds

  • olive oil for the pan
  • green beans – as fresh as possible, so much yummier fresh
  • salt to taste
  • raspberries
  • almonds
  • balsamic vinegar

Yes, that’s it. No I don’t have quantities. I feel confident saying that your own preferences can rule the day on this one. Warm the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the green beans to the pan. The key is to sauté the beans until they are just al dente. They will get a little deeper green and sweat a little. Add a sprinkle of salt. When beans are very nearly to the tenderness you prefer (yes, you have to taste them to determine this), add the raspberries and almonds. Give them some gentle stirs. Splash in some balsamic vinegar and stir gently to distribute. The raspberries are delicate and will disintegrate if you over-bother them. When warm, remove from heat and serve. Eat as soon as possible and with great summery gusto. Delish!
 photo IMG_0461.jpg  photo IMG_0463.jpg  photo IMG_0466.jpg

BBQ Slaw as a Main Dish? Yes, Please (GF,DF)

Summer has arrived and while on the one hand that means veggies are becoming plentiful and delicious and oh so fresh, but it’s also the time for all kinds of food traditions that don’t line up as well with my current efforts. Let me be clear – I am no purist. If the occasion or the offering is adequately compelling, I will ditch my well-honed nutritional guidelines, but in order to have that only be a very occasional complete gustatorial debauch, I am also very much in favor of scratching the craving itch without crossing any health lines.

So one of the things I admit a weakness for is barbecue. Barbecued whatever. It’s typically not as appealing to me as it used to be as I’ve developed some real aversions to the usual carriers of barbecue sauce, but I can still bring the flavor to my mouth just by thinking about it. Oh yes, I can dig some barbecue.

In my family, barbecue meant North Carolina barbecue and I love love love that and it falls into the category of foods for which I will nutritionally sin and that is the end of that. But when it comes to the other kind – the tomato-y kind, that’s the one I’d like to flirt with, but not really take home. This dilemma has been solved. Thanks, in part, to The Washington Post.

Apparently North Carolina Piedmont Slaw is a thing. It’s a regional thing, and I now officially love it. Especially since I tampered with it and made it a meal, not a side. Ditched some of the sugar, and added sprouted beans to make the most powerful summertime party slaw you’re gonna wanna eat. No fear, I’m sure unsprouted beans would also be fine, I just happened to have an enormous bag of sprouted ones (thank you Costco).

Power Barbecue Slaw inspired by North Carolina Piedmont Slaw, Washington Post

 photo 55a9fedf-dc38-4bcd-b850-4e78f2929b7a.jpg

  • 1 medium head cabbage (I used half green, half red)
  • 2 c dried beans of small size, cooked and drained
  • 1/2 cup ketchup (read the nutritional label to check sugar content)
  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t paprika
  • hot sauce to taste

Why the two colors of cabbage? Because it’s pretty, yup, that’s it. Know what else? Cabbage is CHEAP. This is a veggie where I can let my aesthetic preferences govern the budget. I initially started grating the cabbage in the food processor, but didn’t like how small it was grating, so I only did half of it that way. Honestly, cabbage is not hard to chop as it does a lot of the work for you, what with all those little segments. Moving on, chopped cabbage in large bowl. Add drained, and preferably cool, or at least cooled with cold water rinse beans.

 photo IMG_0449.jpg  photo IMG_0445.jpg  photo IMG_0451.jpg

Mix the next 6 ingredients in a separate bowl. Add to cabbage and beans. Mix gently to distribute. Serve as part of a salad, serve as a side, or do like we did and turn it into a sloppy jane, with a few pecans on top. Oh yes. That’s some good summer eating. Delish.

 photo IMG_0452.jpg  photo IMG_0457.jpg  photo 55a9fedf-dc38-4bcd-b850-4e78f2929b7a.jpg

Gouda Cheese & Smoked Salmon Recalled for Listeria

FSNBSmith’s Country Cheese gouda cheese recalled. Sold under different names, check the details if you gotta gouda.

Sliced, smoked salmon from Illinois (how that makes sense I’ll never know) recalled. Sold in grocery stores far away from Illinois. Check the details if you have some, share it if you don’t – I mean the news, not the fish.

Eat well, be well friends!

Tomatoes Growing Up

 photo IMG_0407.jpgIn the past several years I’ve had a fair amount of garden success.  We’ve had tons of greens, homegrown broccoli and cauliflower, peas, green beans, bell peppers, leeks, chives, potatoes, onions, raspberries and asparagus. And ohhhhhh the strawberries. All of this glorious bounty has been overshadowed by a string of defeats in the tomato patch. And folks, where I live, if you don’t have tomatoes, you don’t have a garden.

 photo IMG_0410.jpg  photo IMG_0408.jpg  photo IMG_0417.jpg

I’ve tried a lot of things. I’ve tried different varieties, growing from seed, growing from seedlings, growing from not so “seedlings,” watering with a timer, drip irrigating, growing upside down, and I won’t even go into the soil amendments and natural cure alls. I’ve rarely had lasting success, and when I have, either the deer, the squirrels, or some climate induced illness takes over.

So given that I am not ready to give up on tomato growing (which clearly indicates that I have serious issues), I decided to get a little radical. This year, we’re going vertical. Why? Because all my garden gurus say it’s a good idea, and it’s the only thing I haven’t tried. And, given that diseases associated with humidity have been one of my primary enemies, it seems like a good idea. Continue reading