Monday, August 24, 2015

Mango Lassi

As summer vacation is drawing to a close, I feel this twinge of sadness and a bit of choking anticipation as I know it will soon be time to say goodbye to summer. Warm days soaked in sunshine. Flowers spilling forth from my garden. Fresh veggies grown with sweat and love. Sleeping in until 7:30, an ultimate luxury. Sitting and sipping my coffee instead of gulping it down as I run frantically around the house, constantly looking at the clock. Long outdoor runs, which fill my lungs with the sweetness of bloom and the saltiness of the bay. I reflect on how summer is a time I truly recharge my soul and stock up on energy reserves to get me through the rest of the year. Its crucial. I let the sweetness and tartness of foraged fruits like plums and blackberries, linger a bit longer on my tongue, knowing that the sun kissed sweetness fades just a bit in the freezing and canning process. I also feel gratitude that there is at least another month of warm days, flowers, gardens and two months of outside time, before that nip of frost gets inside my veins. This summer has been a great one. Its surely filled me with self reflection and new goals. 

Sweetness and sunshine can truly be found in this easy and satisfying Mango Lassi Recipe. Im excited to have stashed some frozen mango chunks away in the freezer for a colder day. When things are crazy busy and I need to transport myself to those summer moments or that warm tropical island that I am relaxing on inside my head. 

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe mangos, cut away from pit and scoop out the fruit, careful not to get skin
  • 1/2 cup fat free or low fat plain greek yogurt (I like Fage)
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • lots of ice cubes
  • optional (1 tablespoon+ honey) 
Step 1: In a blender or Vitamix, blend fruit until pureed. 

Step 2: Add ice cubes and blend until smooth

Step 3: Add yogurt, milk and vanilla, blend until smooth

Step 4: If desired, add honey

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Mediterranean Sandwich

This summer I have realized that I eat a lot of sandwiches, regardless of whether it is lunch or dinner. I pack them full of veggies and protein and sometimes serve them with a small side salad or soup and know that I am getting a pretty robust and healthy meal. 

This is pretty much the last remaining post from my grilling posts I started back in July. It uses the same marinade and steps to grill the zucchini, summer squash, eggplant and sweet bell peppers. I grill them ahead of time, let them cool and then store them in an air tight container in the fridge. Or if I want a hot sandwich, prepare them right off the grill. 



Ingredients
~makes about 4 generous sized sandwiches

  • 2 medium zukes, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 small yellow squash, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 medium eggplant, sliced into 1/4" rounds
  • 1-2 colored peppers, washed, cut in half with seeds, membranes and stems removed
  • marinade from my grilling post
  • ciabatta or focaccia bread (focaccia is made with a lot of olive oil, keep this in mind when thinking about the fact that the veggies themselves contain a lot of oil)
  • fresh mozzarella cheese, feta or goat cheese
  • pesto or hummus and/or olive tapenade
  • arugula 


Step 1: Once the veggies are cut, marinade according to the link above

Step 2: Grill the veggies until they are as well cooked as you desire. 

Step 3: Here is where you can get creative and make a number of combinations for sandwiches. Decide what you want as a spread for your sandwich: pesto or hummus with olive tapenade. Decide what kind of cheese you would like. Here are some of my favorite combos 
     Fresh mozzarella with pesto (follow link to my nut free pesto recipe) 
     Feta cheese with hummus and olive tapenade (Trader Joe's offers decent versions of both)
     Goat cheese with fresh dill 

Step 4: Spread the bread with your choice of smear and then layer on the veggies, cheese and arugula. If you want a hot sandwich, stick the sandwich open face under the broiler for a few minutes or grill them in a George Foreman to make a panini. Also great served cold on a hot summer day. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Banh Mi: Vietnamese Sandwiches

Lunch Done Right

This is a post that I intended to get up way back in February. 

I was first introduced to the amazing Banh Mi sandwich when visiting my best friend in Seattle. For five bucks we got the perfect mid afternoon lunch, created by an amazing combination of flavors and textures, picante, salty, cilantro. It was sooooo good! I couldn't believe I had never had one before. 

I got to thinking about how easy they must be to make. Tested my theory and true, super simple. The pickled veggies, called Do Chua, is part of what makes the greatness of the sandwich. So I too was inspired to make my own. Below are the two recipes.





Do Chua: pickled diakon, carrots and cabbage       

Ingredients

Makes about 3 cups

  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 2 teaspoons plus 1/2 cup sugar 
  • 1 1/4 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 2-3 carrots peeled and sliced thinly or cut into matchsticks
  • 1-2 diakon, no larger than 2 inches in diameter, peeled and prepared like the carrots
  • 1/2 green or napa cabbage cut into long pieces
  • 1 hot cherry pepper

Step 1: Place the carrot and daikons in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt and 2 teaspoons of the sugar. 
Step 2: Using your hands, knead the vegetables for about 3 minutes, to release the water from them. When they are somewhat softened and there is liquid at the bottom of the bowl, stop kneading. The daikon should be soft enough that the ends touch but the daikon does not break when bent in half. The vegetables should have lost about one-fourth of their volume. 
Step 3: Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water, then press gently to expel extra water. 
Step 4.  In a 1 quart ball jar, make the brine by combining 1/2 cup sugar, the vinegar, and the water and stir to dissolve the sugar. 
Step 5: Transfer the carrot and daikon, along with cabbage and hot peppers to the jar of brine. The brine should cover the vegetables.Place the top on tightly and gently shake the jar from side to side to assure the veggies have all been coated. 
Step 6:  Let the vegetables marinate in the brine for at least 1 hour before eating. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks. Don't be alarmed if they begin to smell quite pungent. 
Note: You can add a number of veggies to this recipe. Try shallots or salad turnips too. 
 Adapted from vietworldkitchen.com

Banh Mi 

Ingredients 
  • Soft rolls, such as Portuguese rolls
  • cucumbers, sliced
  • 1 jalapeño, sliced thin, seeds removed
  • cilantro leaves, washed 
  • chopped scallions
  • marinated tofu, pork or beef sliced thinly (marinate using my teriyaki or bourbon marinade found under sauces label)
  • Do Chua (pickled veggies) 

Step 1: Marinate and prepare the meat  or tofu accordingly. 

Step 2: Slice a small wedge out of the top of the roll or cut a slit into the side of the roll, but not all the way through. 

Step 3: Place the tofu/meat in the roll, layer with the pickles, cucumbers, jalapeño, cilantro and finish with the scallions. 

Step 4: Eat and savor that flavor and how you just created an awesome, simple healthy lunch! 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

This has been one of those Maine summers that totally makes you fall in love. The weather has been perfect. Warm sunny days, sapphire skies filled with cotton candy clouds. On the water, the light shines so brightly, it makes each wave and ripple look as though they are crested with silver. 

I got a week to myself for the first week of August, while Zsuleikah was getting some good grandparent bonding time. I was really looking forward to some solitude and quiet. My first night solo, I headed up to Eustis, to sleep lakeside in Cathedral Pines Campground on Flagstaff Lake. It had been years since I had been up that way, and don't think I ever realized how incredibly beautiful it is. There had just been a rain storm earlier in the evening and fog was creeping its curling tendrils through the blue mountains and over the gray glassy lake. Daylight was closed with an incredible line of fire squashed between the cloud layer in the sky and the steadfast mountains. Reflecting pinks and purples on the water. As night creeped in, I built myself a fire to take off the chill of the dampness.  The blue moon rose quietly over the island speckled lake, as a loon family called back and forth to one another and the water lapped the sandy shore.

The next morning, I greeted the world with the rising sun, soaked in the peaceful morning and packed up camp to head to Mount Bigelow. Beauty surrounded me from the start of the trail. A bubbling brook seeping into Stratton Brook Pond, green mountains behind, green grasses reaching to the blue sky. My feet hit the ground and I began to clip along the Firewarden's Trail. About a mile and a half from the top, large moss covered boulders
positioned as stairs invited me to the summit, teasing me with tiny glimpses through the trees of the views that were awaiting me. When I reached the top of Avery Peak, my tired quads enjoyed resting on the windy mountain top, surrounded by a 360 degree view of Sugarloaf Mountain, Little Bigelow, Crocker Mountain and Flagstaff Lake. I continued on the trail toWest Peak, through miniature fairy forests on to South Horn and North Horn, eventually winding my way down to Horn Pond, and the rest of the way down the mountain. It was a little slice of 15 mile alpine heaven. It took me exactly 8 hours, reaching the car at 4:45 tired and accomplished. Before ending the day on the couch with two movies, I spent dusk meandering through my parents enormous garden with a cold beer in my hand, munching on green beans and peas, before finally grilling up some zucchini and tomatoes and tossing them with garlic, fresh basil and cream cheese into a huge bowl of pasta.  


I spent much of the next day harvesting food from my parents enormous garden. Cilantro, zucchini and squash, lettuce, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries. Before heading back to Portland with a cooler full of veggie loot, I picked an enormous bouquet of Queen Anne's Lace, Black Eyed Susans and Golden Rod. 

If you grow a garden like I do, then you are probably asking yourself during this time of year, "what do I do with all this zucchini?" My squash is just starting to come in, but I know it is a matter of days before I start asking that question.  Its the plant that once it starts, it just keeps on giving. I'll get back to the zucchini in a minute, but first want to share a bit this summer's experience in Maine.I make a lot of dishes using zucchinis. I love a Zucchini and Tomato Melt on a hot day. Zucchini Egg Casserole, Zucchini Enchiladas with Salsa Verde. And of course, if you have seen my posts about grilling, grilled zucchinis are super versatile. Since we also have a sweet tooth in our
household, baked zucchini goodies are also a favorite. I had always been used to traditional zucchini bread, which I love too. Then my friend Claire introduced me to these delicious chocolate muffins. She was always whipping them up as a treat in the summer whenever we were over. When I finally asked for the recipe, I was excited to see that aside from the amount of sugar, they were fairly healthy, made with a whopping two cups of zucchini and whole wheat flour. 


Ingredients 

  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips (regular fine too)
  • 2 cups grated zucchini, drained (if its super watery, drain well, a tiny bit of water will keep muffins moist) 
  • Non-stick spray for muffin tins if not using paper liners
Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare muffin tin (spray if not using paper liners) 

Step 2: Whisk together dry ingredients (first six ingredients on list)

Step 3: In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar, then oil and vanilla. Beat slowly to combine. 

Step 4: Add dry ingredient mixture to wet ingredients, mix until just blended. 

Step 5: Add zucchini and chocolate chips, mix until just combined.

Step 6: Spoon into prepared cups 3/4 full. Bake 15-20 minutes. You can check for doneness by inserting a toothpick, if it comes out clean they are done. Or if the top of the muffin is just barely sticky and springy, it is done. Let cool completely on a baking rack.