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!

Banana Biscuits – GF / DF

Look at all the lovely letters at the end of our recipes indicating what it is and what it ain’t.  Well these biscuits should be GF / DF / not CB, because they are not like cardboard.  They actually had a little fluff going on, and were really quite delightful.  I do love a biscuit, so one that is low on fat and can be eaten by y GF/DF family and friends is great except that it means less for me.  Ah well.  The problem with good food is that other people want to eat up all those potential leftovers, huh?

One key to a good biscuit is a hard fat that gets distributed without melting too fast or weighing things down with liquid.  No butter allowed over here at my house, so coconut oil placed in the freezer before use served the hard fat need.  Banana offered some moisture / replaced some of the fat, and good ol’ Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Baking Mix removed the wheat from the equation as well.

We ate these with a little orange marmalade and found that to be quite a treat for a weekend breakfast :-)

20140711_083044-001

Banana Biscuits (I will definitely double this recipe next time, but if you want to stick your toes in first, try this amount which yields 4 large biscuits)

1 1/2 cup gluten free flour mix (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp guar gum
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 tsp lemon zest
1/3 – 1/2 cup mashed banana (after mashing.  It was a medium large banana)
1/3 cup milk (I used unsweetened almond)
3 Tbsp hard coconut oil (Stick it in the frig the night before – or in the freezer if you forget)

Pre-heat oven to 375
Mix the dry ingredients and zest together.
In a separate bowl (or large glass measuring cup), mash the banana and then mix in the milk.
Cut the coconut oil into pieces and mix in with a pastry cutter or a large fork if you don’t have a pastry cutter.

20140711_075940-001

Add the mixed banana and milk and stir to combine but don’t over-mix or mash.
Spread out on a cutting board or counter to a thickness of about an inch.

20140711_080138-001

Use a glass to cut biscuits.
Place on a cookie sheet
Bake for about 12 – 14 minutes or until browning just a touch on top

20140711_082846-001

Eat warm.

My son ate his with peanut butter….. makes sense, don’t you think?

 

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.

Grilled dessert… with or without chocolate

Grilled vegetables are not new to me, and like roasted vegetables, I never tire of them.  Whatever you have in the garden or the vegetable bin will probably be great coated with a little oil or marinade and then skewered, ka-bob’ed, wrapped in foil, laid right on the grate or tossed in a fancy grilling box to sizzle over the coals for 15 – 30 minutes depending on how big you cut it and how tough it is.  I particularly like to include colored peppers for their sweetness and red onion because it infuses everything with a lovely flavor.  Zucchini, mushrooms, yellow squash, green beans, whole cherry or grape tomatoes – it’s all good!  Corn is good on the grill also and Little Sis has a no-fuss method here.

The eye-opener for us this summer is grilled pineapple.  After the veggies are done, we just lay rings of pineapple (I’ve used fresh, not tried canned) right on the grate and let them sit until warm or seared – whatever you like!  I do brush the slices very lightly with oil first – I used avocado, but coconut would be awesome as well – both of these are safe high heat oils.  Let them cook about 5 minutes a side, but keep an eye because it all depends on how hot and how close the coals.

20140705_201544-001

The flavor is amazing!!!  Sweet, juicy and a perfect summer dessert.  The first time we did this the fire was hotter and we got the lovely brown char lines on the pineapple.  Last night the fire was cooler, so no lines, but it was still awesome.  Our guests really enjoyed it.  One of our brilliant guests spied the dark chocolate that the children had rejected for use in s’mores and wondered if the pineapple would be even better with chocolate on top.  Well, very few things suffer from the addition of chocolate, so…. we tried it.

Melt some squares of chocolate – estimate how much you’ll need for the amount of pineapple in question.  We did not have much pineapple left, so I did probably 2 ounces.  Adding a little coconut oil makes it drizzlier, I added very little- probably 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon.

Melt slowly in the microwave (15 – 20 seconds a few times, then less, stirring between), or in a double boiler.

Cut your pineapple into chunks and either drizzle the chocolate over, or let people dip.  Luckily the kids didn’t see what we were doing right away.  Let them have s’mores – I’ll take chocolate drizzled pineapple any day of the week!  Mixed in with friends, kids setting off  bottle rockets, and top it all off with reading beside the fire after the guests were gone and the evening was very sweet all around!

20140705_202014-001Have you got any fruit on the grill this summer?

 

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

Half Raw Veggies, Full On Taste

You know I love stir-fry.  Who doesn’t?  Quick, easy, adaptable, and even most kids will eat it – even though you can hide all manner of vegetables in there ;-).

It was fully my intention on a recent evening to make a Raw Pad Thai c/o Julie Daniluk (Meals That Heal Inflammation).  It’s really delicious but I got started late and forgot scallions, and, well…. in true Sis sister fashion I sort of made something different with what I had.   Usually these forays into the land of scrappy / adapty cooking are good enough, but this was truly amazing… if I do say so myself.   Oh wait!  Mr. Bigg Sis and Very Amusing and Not Yet Snide 13 year old boy also thought it was amazing.  Having just eaten some leftover for lunch, I thought I’d share it with you!

So what’s with the half raw?  Well, I like the idea of using raw zucchini for the noodles in the Julie Daniluk recipe, but I didn’t feel like doing the prep work.  In addition I had some broccoli stems to get rid of and my favorite way to do that is to cut off the too tough parts, shred it in the food processor and add it to stir fry.  The sauce is what rules here.  It is easier than the original and puts the garlic in with the stir fried veggies.  I’m not a huge fan of raw garlic.

Half-Raw Stir Fry

Cook rice of your liking – I used black rice for this

Stir Fry:
1/2 – 1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or mashed
broccoli stems or florets (or both) if using stems, shred in food processor
3 – 4 carrots (I shred mine in processor – so easy!!)
1 very small head red cabbage (or half of a larger) also shredded
4 small zucchini (also shredded)
A handful of pineapple chunks if you have it and like it!

Heat oil and garlic until garlic becomes fragrant.
Add broccoli and carrots and stir fry for about 4 minutes
Turn off heat and add zucchini and red cabbage (and optional pineapple).

20140619_175525-001

 

 

Sauce: (adapted from Julie Daniluk’s Raw Pad Thai
6 Tbsp tahini
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp Braggs or soy sauce
1 Tbsp honey
Juice of 1 lime
2-3 tsp grated ginger

Mix all together.  It will be thick.  If you prefer a thinner sauce you can water it down with a little water.

Serve rice with veggies and let each person daub some sauce on top.

Some might like a plate (with some roasted green beans on the side):

20140619_180518

And some might like a bowl (with roasted green beans on the side):

20140619_180523

And one can eat as is, or mix in one’s preferred amount of sauce.

20140619_180528  Because of the raw zucchini and red cabbage it will not keep for a long time as a leftover.  I just had some 2 days after the fact and the zucchini was decidedly less cheerful, although still tasty.

If you are interested in more raw veggie dishes, check out Little Sis’ amazing raw, dairy free, gluten free Italian offerings

Sweet Potato Chili w/ Greens

My garden is not very extensive this year due to other commitments, but ahhh the pleasures of hearty greens!  Swiss chard in particular is easy to start – easy to grow and it keeps on coming back!  Especially when the rain and sun alternate so regularly as they have been doing here in Middle Tennessee.  This was the only plant that I managed to start indoors and then transfer to the ground this year, so it makes me smile every time I look at it.  (I’m pretty easy to please, no?)

Ain't it purty?

Ain’t it purty?

 

One of my favorite things to do with hearty greens (chard, kale, collards, spinach, mustard greens, beet greens – I’m sure I forgot one!) is toss handfuls into soups, stews and chilis.  They are much less offensive to the non-greens appreciators in the crowd that way but still bring a bang of nutrition and some color to any dish.  They also make dinner feel fresh when what you’ve really done is open the pantry door and said, “Hmmmm – I’m not very prepared, what can I throw in a pot and call dinner tonight?”

 

You guessed it.  I was doing just that recently and am about to share the results.  As always, Little Sis and I encourage you to see our recipes as food for thought as well as body in that substitutions are encouraged, welcomed and will probably make it taste better as well ;-)  It takes a village to make a really good meal!

So I give you Sweet Potato Chili w/ Greens Continue reading

Avocado Bisque with Garden Peas & Dill (DF)

 photo IMG_0421.jpgThe peas are ready! The peas are ready! Oh how I do love garden peas – the real deal, the kind you have to shell. I didn’t much care for them as a child (one for each year of life with a liberal swallow of milk so as not to choke), but have grown to like peas, but this is one area where frozen is really not the same as fresh. If you don’t care for peas, see if you can find the real McCoy at a farmer’s market and give them a go – raw, straight from the shell. Oh mercy. Spring is glorious.

I have found that my family enjoys garden peas most when they are left alone. Yesterday’s harvest may have yielded enough to cook and serve as a side, but I knew they wouldn’t like them as well, so I just rinsed those puppies and threw them in a bowl – shell and eat at will. But what else to serve? A ravenous 7 year old cannot live on garden peas alone, even if his mother would…

An old standby of mine that was ripe for an update: Avocado Bisque. I first encountered this recipe in the cookbook that came with my VitaMix, the cookbook that my sister previewed for me and annotated. Avocado Bisque earned a Bigg Sis rating of “Great,” and it is. I made a few adaptations to remove the moo and the chick and we enjoyed a lovely and light dinner of Avocado Bisque (with garden peas and dill), whole wheat bread (as evidenced by the crumb that snuck into my soup picture), and a fabulous green salad with garden lettuce. Continue reading

Easy Refrigerator Dills

Alas the beach, and the FABULOUS cake Little Sis made for my birthday, are in the past… back to the grind of work and school (for me) and needing healthy snacks and sides.  I come from pickle people and pickles are a lovely and potentially healthy side or snack, but….. Yes, you know what’s coming next.  You just can’t find healthy pickles very easily.

Little Sis threw up her hands last year over the amount of sugar in processed sweet pickles and after asking you, our wonderful readers, for help and input, she offered up this very fine recipe that replaces those store bought pickles with something very tasty but much healthier.

We enjoy her pickles very much.  In fact I keep a large jar in the frig in which I started the pickles by following her recipe and to which I add another cucumber, another Tbsp of sugar and apple cider vinegar and a pinch of salt 3 or 4 times before following the recipe again.

But what about dill pickles?  They cost a bloody fortune!  So I’ve adapted Little Sis’ approach to dill pickles and although my son thought the results a little too garlicky – the beauty part is that I can change it next time!  In fact I’ve added another cucumber to the jar method without adding any more flavor and this has toned it down more to his liking.

Heck this is so easy, one could have several varieties going at the same time!

This is very much like the original recipe but with less sugar as well as the addition of garlic, dill and pepper flakes.

Easy Refrigerator Dills

1 large English cucumber or 2 medium cucumbers
2 c water
1 small clove garlic, minced or mashed (I used a fairly large clove and it was a bit strong – so use less for less garlic flavor)
1/2 c apple cider
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp mustard
1/2 – 1 tsp dill
pinch pepper flakes

Heat water, garlic, sugar, salt, and apple cider vinegar to almost boiling, or until sugar and salt are dissolved
Let cool to room temperature
Slice cucumber(s) and place in glass bowl or jar with a cover
When liquid is cooler, add the spices, stir and pour over cucumbers.

20140518_152931

Store in the refrigerator and give a couple of hours for flavor to develop.
Keep a sweet and a dill jar going in the frig – makes a great side dish, snack for school or work or on a hot day.  Nothing like a cool pickle on a hot day!

20140518_152850

Make note if you think one taste is too strong and reduce or increase for the next batch!

Although cucumbers are not summer-time cheap yet, I still find this less expensive than pickles….. and with less processing, less sugar and less other ingredients.  A whole lot easier to swallow!!