Tag Archives: summer

Smooth Summer Squash Soup

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Call me crazy, but sometimes even in the middle of summer a bowl of soup can be quite nice. I had the most amazing summer squash soup on our California road trip (when it’s 60 degrees in the evening hot soup doesn’t sound as crazy too). Anyway, I loved it so much I decided to try to recreate it when I got home. Plus, my freezer has been stocked full of homemade chicken broth for months.

I know I’ve promised a couple of times on here to share with you my recipe for making your own broths. There are so many health benefits to making stock the way it’s supposed to be made – from leftover bones. The process of slow cooking animal bones for broth pulls minerals, collagen and amino acids out into the broth. Our bodies then use these essential nutrients to rebuild cells and particularly the lining of our intestine – which prevents those food sensitivities that seem to be on the rise these days. I promise to go into all of this a lot more in another post and share with you my stock recipe. I know the image of slow cooking bones in your kitchen may not sound too appetizing, but trust me, the end result is delicious – so much more flavorful and rich than what you’d buy at the store. And so much better for you! It puts store bought to shame… Plus it’s practically free! Can’t beat that. More to come…

Anyway, back to this delicious, smooth summer squash soup. When I got home from our trip I did what I always do when I want to get ideas for a recipe – I started Googling. I am a nerd and read recipes for fun. Sometimes I find one and tweak it to make it my own, or I might combine ideas from two. For this one, I loved Whole Living’s idea to use cilantro stems – something that’s usually tossed. So I pretty much stuck to their recipe with one small change – I subbed in my homemade broth for an added nutritional boost.

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Cilantro Fan or Phobe?
Cilantro (or coriander) is one of those herbs you either love it or you hate it. Cilantrophobes, as haters of the herb like to call themselves, say it tastes like soap or bugs. Turns out their taste buds don’t lie. Cilantro’s smell is produced by aldehydes. You know what else puts off aldehydes? Bugs and soap. Cilantrophobes make the association in their taste-smell memory bank and understandably then just can’t take it. I myself fall in the lover camp. I love adding cilantro to salads, curries and other dishes for a fresh bite of green.

Cilantro (the leaves) and coriander (the seed) are part of the same plant. Both are powerful detoxifiers and natural chelators that helps to draw heavy metals like lead and mercury out of the body. The leaves also have antioxidant and antibacterial properties. These benefits make cilantro a great choice to add to your green juice. Coriander has been considered a healing spice for centuries and long been used in cooking for it’s anti-inflammatory and preservative properties.  If you read the ingredients on your curry powder, you’ll likely find coriander listed there too.

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Squash it to Me
Yellow summer squash is abundant in the summer which makes it great to use in a soup. Before making this recipe I stuck to winter squashes for creamy soups but opting for summer squash, especially this time of year, will be much cheaper and also keep you eating seasonally which is always a good thing. Yellow squash has a lot of water in it (also good in the summer) and has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and blood sugar stabilizing benefits. I love slicing it up and sautéing squash with sweet yellow onion, zucchini and some dark leafy greens. It’s the perfect quick, easy side dish to go with just about any meal.

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Smooth Summer Squash Soup

recipe adapted from Whole Living

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro stems, plus 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 5 medium yellow summer squash (2 1/2 pounds), chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • Sea salt
  • Lime wedges, for serving

Directions

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook onion, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cilantro stems, and coriander and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add squash and 2 1/2 cups chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until squash is just tender, about 15 minutes. Let cool slightly, then season with salt. Puree soup in batches until smooth. (If too thick, thin with a little water.) Adjust seasoning if necessary and let cool slightly. Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve with lime.

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Salmon with Lemon, Dijon and Dill

marinade salmon

Salmon is one of my favorite go-to weeknight mains – it doesn’t take long to marinate, it cooks quickly and as a bonus I can save a dose of my Omega-3 supplements… The main reason I cook it during the week though is it’s not something I usually order out. I’m going to try to say this without sounding like a giant food snob, but most salmon served in restaurants is farm-raised, which means it ate GMO corn and soy, was injected with dye to make it pink and doesn’t have near the Omega-3s it should. It can also be higher in mercury. I sound horrible, don’t I? But you know, when you start connecting the dots between what you put in your mouth and how you feel in your body you take this stuff a lot more seriously! I always say, eat like your life depends on it… because it does! What’s scarier is GMO corn and soy and food dye could one day be the least of our worries if frankenfish become a real thing. Yikes!

So then you can imagine how excited I was to see wild Pacific-caught salmon on just about every menu I opened on our California road trip last month. I must have had salmon four times that week. And holy… was it good. I swear, looking at the ocean while I ate it made it taste even better. When I shop for salmon, Pacific is what I look for because it’s less exposed to mercury so has lower concentrations of the toxic metal that can be a concern in larger fish. I can usually find it at the store either fresh or frozen. Wild is a bit pricer so to help offset the cost you can always opt for frozen which is usually less expensive. That’s typically how I buy my fish anyway. It’s easy enough to thaw and, hello, we live in Texas; most of the fish behind that glass was frozen not to long ago too….

Salmon is one of the best sources of Omega-3 fatty acid, an essential nutrient our body needs to regulate inflammation. Omega-3 is something to be conscious about adding to your diet if you have any sort of pain, stiffness or swelling. People who suffer from joint pain report great results and relief (myself included) from supplementing with fish oil and other Omega-3 supplement sources like cod liver oil and krill oil. It’s also been shown to help reduce the risk  of heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Of course it’s always best to get your nutrients from your food, that’s why I try to have salmon at least once or twice per week. And this recipe is one of my all time favorites. I love the combination of dill and mustard. I know it sounds like dressings for a hamburger but I suppose there’s a reason those condiments just work so dang well together.

This is great with sautéed vegetables like dark leafy greens, squash, zucchini and onion. Or for something a bit lighter you could serve on top of a spinach salad with fresh raw, thinly sliced veggies like carrot, celery and radish. Enjoy!

dill

ingredients

saute salmon

Salmon with Lemon, Dijon and Dill

Ingredients

2 wild Sockeye salmon filets
1 lemon, juiced
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
a couple sprigs of dill, minced
2 tsp dijon mustard
sea salt
black pepper

Directions

To marinate salmon, place salmon filets in a glass container or gallon-sized plastic bag. Combine lemon, olive oil, dill, dijon, salt and pepper and then pour marinade over salmon. Mix well to coat the salmon filets and then set aside in fridge to marinate at least 30 minutes.

When ready to cook, heat a skillet over medium heat. Pour salmon and marinade into skillet and cook salmon 4 minutes on each side.

Serve with sautéed spring vegetables like zucchini, squash, asparagus, peas, etc.

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4th of July Berry & Coconut Yogurt Parfait

parfait top

I couldn’t let one of my favorite holidays go by without making something festive to contribute to the red, white and blue section of the blogosphere. This little treat is almost too simple to warrant a recipe or a post but really isn’t simple just what you need on a holiday that’s all about being outside with great friends and family? Then again, making something a little more challenging is always fun too.

These berry and coconut yogurt parfaits are just sweet enough for a light dessert and look festive without even trying. I’m really wishing all of our kitchen stuff wasn’t in storage right now because I have the most perfect cocktail glasses that these parfaits would look beautiful in. They’d also be cute in little 2 oz shot glasses if you happen to have a collection of those. Otherwise a small glass or clear plastic cup will do – I say glass or clear so that you can see the pretty layers.

Leftovers make a delicious and healthy breakfast too (love it when that happens), especially with some added ground flax and walnuts – one of my favorite yogurt breakfast combos that adds a hearty dose of omega-3s and fiber. Not that this treat isn’t healthy on it’s own. Berries are one of the best sources of antioxidants to protect your DNA, and your skin and hair too. They’re good inflammation fighters as well.

blueberries

strawberries

Side note… On our California Highway 1 road trip last week we pulled over for some fresh-picked organic strawberries at a farm stand after driving past miles and miles of strawberry fields being hand picked by workers. Gotta say, I have a whole new appreciation for how we get these little gems. And my god were they the sweetest, juiciest strawberries I’ve ever had. Ever. I mean it; they were candy. Here I am in front of the “you-can-pick” olallieberries. We didn’t have time for that so we just took the pre-picked berries and hit the road in our Mustang convertible (hence the head scarf).

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coconut yogurt

These parfaits use coconut yogurt which is a fantastic alternative to traditional yogurts for those that can’t tolerate dairy or are trying to avoid cow’s milk products. It’s  sweeter and a lot less tart than dairy yogurts too which makes it good for desserts. I buy the So Delicious brand and opt for plain. Then you can flavor it however you want with fruits like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cherries or peaches. It’s much fresher tasting that way and you can skip the added sugar and natural flavorings.

So there you have it – what just might be the simplest dessert for the 4th. I hope your Independence Day is as sweet, juicy and full of life as these little treats. Happy 4th!

parfaits

4th of July Berry & Coconut Yogurt Parfait

(Serves 4)

Ingredients

1 pint coconut yogurt
1 pint blueberries
1 pint strawberries, chopped

Directions

In a small glass or plastic cup, place a layer of berries (you can do either just strawberries or blueberries, or mix them together) then top with a layer of coconut yogurt. Then add another layer of berries and top with yogurt. Continue alternating layers until you reach the top and make the last layer of berries.

 

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Turkey Tacos

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As much as I love to cook, this time of year I just want to fix something quickly so we can get on to more fun things… like going for a walk, relaxing on the patio or planning our California road trip we have on the calendar in June. Summer (especially these early few weeks before it really heats up in Texas) is no time to be slaving away in a kitchen. That’s why there are grills. And gorgeous fresh produce that’s even better raw.

These turkey tacos are a perfect summer dinner. They’re quick – like 15 minutes quick. And using romaine instead of tortillas give them an even fresher, crisper taste. Top them with your favorite fixins. We usually keep it simple with fresh avocado, cilantro and tomato. You could always go even more low maintenance with your favorite store-bought salsa. Or take it to a whole new level with your own salsa creation…maybe something with mango or peach?

In the name of keeping things simple for summer, I’m making this one short and sweet…and going for a walk. Happy Summer, everyone!

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Turkey Tacos

Ingredients

1 tbsp virgin coconut oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp chili powder
1 lb organic ground turkey
1 head romaine, leaves seperated
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 tomatoes, diced
1 avocado, diced
1 lime, cut into wedges

Directions

Heat skillet over medium heat and add coconut oil. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and spices; stir and cook another minute. Add ground turkey and cook until cooked through and lightly browned.

To serve, spoon turkey into romaine leaf and top with tomato, avocado and cilantro. Finish with a squeeze of lime.

 

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Red, White & Blueberry Salad

red, white and blueberry salad

Happy Fouth of July, everyone! I just couldn’t let the holiday go by without contributing something red, white, blue and edible. Now, I realize there’s just no topping last year’s American flag tart (gluten-free and dairy-free), so I didn’t even try with the desserts. I decided to go in a completely different direction instead… salad. Before I go any further, let me explain my philosophy on salad. It’s simple: Lettuce alone does not a salad make. A salad should be packed with all sorts of different flavors, textures and colors. It should look exciting, fresh, beautiful… almost like art. The taste should of course match. And the process should be fun! No more boring old lettuce and dressing salads. Blah. OK, I’ve said my piece.

Back in the early days of this blog, I wrote a post about how to make a truly satisfying salad. If the idea of making something without a recipe totally freaks you out, I have lots of tips, tricks and how-tos for you here.

salad prep

So, this salad just so happens to be what’s for lunch today. You’ll have to pardon the bowl. If I was planning ahead I would have put it in something a little more photogenic than the plastic container I use to cart my lunch to work pretty much every day. Not the prettiest, but it sure is convenient, and even has a seperate contraption in the lid for dressing (Martha Stewart does it again!). I digress…

What makes this festive are the strawberries and blueberries of course. It just wouldn’t be the Fourth without those guys. And to get some white in there I’ve added radishes and hemp seeds. Not familiar with hemp? Here’s what it looks like in seed form…

hemp-hearts

Hemp seeds (also called hearts) are an excellent vegetarian source of protein. They’re easily digested and absorbed; high in important nutrients like iron, magnesium, essential fatty acids; and a fantastic source of fiber. Hemp seeds are a great pantry staple to keep on hand to turn any salad into a complete meal. Here they’re totally optional. If you want to make this salad to bring to a BBQ or 4th of July picnic, you can take em or leave em.

Also, you’ll notice the recipe below doesn’t say exactly how much of everything to use. Just go with amounts that seem right to you. You really can’t go wrong. I’ve never heard anyone complain of a salad having too much avocado or fruit.

Whatever your plans are for the 4th I hope yours is a fun and relaxing one, complete with good company and great foods. God Bless America. 🙂

salad

Red, White & Blueberry Salad

Ingredients:

mixed greens
red onion, thinly sliced
radish, thinly sliced
avocado, diced
strawberries, chopped
blueberries
basil, thinly sliced
hemp seeds (optional)
extra virgin olive oil
lemon
salt & pepper

Directions:

In a bowl combine greens, onion, radish, avocado, berries and hemp seeds. To make the dressing combine EVOO and lemon juice (2:1 ratio) and add a little salt and pepper. Drizzle over salad and toss.

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Zucchini Hummus

Wondering what to do with that giant zucchini growing in your new garden? Well, have I got something for you…

Photo courtesy of Slashfood

Photo courtesy of Slashfood

How about a dip?

Let’s first redefine the phrase “veggie dip.” What once described a dip you dipped veggies in is now the dip itself. Or I guess we could call it a veggie veggie dip. Or veggies with veggies. Or veggies2. OK, I’ll stop now. Sorry, I just get really excited when I’m able to eat/serve this many veggies without anyone even realizing it. So sneaky.

Zucchini is standing in for chickpeas here. All of the other traditional hummus ingredients are the same; we’re just subbing in a vegetable for a bean. The zucchini makes for a much lighter dip too – nice and cooling for summer. And since zucchini has a lot of water in it already, it doesn’t need nearly as much liquid or oil to get that smooth, creamy consistency.

ingredients in food processor

blended hummus

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zucchini hummus dip

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong in my book with your standard homemade chickpea hummus. But if you want to change it up, sneak some more vegetables into your routine, or tackle that monster zucchini that’s growing zucchini of its own in your backyard, here’s something for you to try…

Zucchini Hummus

Ingredients:

2 zucchinis, chopped (or one really big one)
1 clove garlic
½ cup tahini
1 lemon, squeezed
½ tsp salt
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

In a food processor, first pulse garlic to mince. Add zucchini, tahini, lemon juice and start to process. While the mixture blends in the processor, stream in olive oil through hole in the top, then add salt. Process until completely smooth. Taste for yourself and feel free to adjust to your liking with extra oil, salt or tahini.

Transfer to a bowl and dip to your hearts content with carrots, celery, cucumber, snap peas… or heck, even zucchini!

If you want to change it up, you can also add spices like cumin or paprika. Or to put a different spin on it, add roasted red peppers, fresh basil or Kalamata olives.

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Banana, Peach & Peanut Butter Smoothie

It may not sound like your traditional fruit smoothie combo, but just trust me on this one… You’ll take one sip and think “OMG, this is breakfast?!” Banana and peanut butter – there’s no surprise there. And when the classic combo is frozen and blended it’s creamy, rich deliciousness. For breakfast.

As for the peaches, they’re just too good right now to not put them in everything. I’m slicing them up and adding them to salads, salsas and, like here, smoothies. Buy some peaches on sale, slice them up and put them in the freezer to blend up with your other favorite fruits. I like: blueberry + peach…. mango + peach… or peach + peach.

I usually blend in a tablespoon of ground flax seed to add fiber along with antioxidants and a dose of omega-3 fatty acid, which helps to reduce inflammation in the body. The ground flax blends in easily to where I don’t even notice it. All I taste is the next best thing to ice cream… for breakfast.

Ingredients:

1 banana, sliced and frozen
3 slices of frozen peaches
1 tbsp organic peanut butter*
1tbsp ground flaxseed
1½ cup almond milk

*look for organic, fresh-ground peanut butter that’s made just using peanuts – no sugar.

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in blender (I use the magic bullet) and blend until smooth. Add almond milk as needed to reach desired consistency.

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American Flag Fourth of July Tart – Raw, Gluten-free, Dairy-free Dessert

The fourth of July just isn’t complete without something edible fashioned into an American flag. This is one of the few things required for the holiday, I think — Flag dessert, fireworks, and little kids in ridiculous red white and blue outfits. God bless America. Growing up, we’d make this — well not exactly this… it was the more traditional version out of angel food and Cool Whip. Since for me these days Cool Whip and traditional cake are out, I have to get a little creative. But I think I’ve found something 10 times better.

I bring you the raw tart… It’s made of nuts, dates, fruit, honey, coconut oil and salt. That’s it. Good for you ingredients, in their 100% raw, uncooked state. No heat exposure means the nutrients stay in tact, as well as the enzymes, which make the food easier to digest. No heat also means no heat for you – raw foods are cooling for the body. Just what we all need when it’s 100+ out there! Health talk aside, this dessert really is truly delicious. If you’re gluten-free, dairy-free, with this you’re not missing a thing. In fact, it’s even better – with higher quality ingredients, the way they come together so uniquely, the final product is greater than the sum of its parts. There’s nothing better than discovering something that’s gluten-free, dairy-free and tastes even better than the traditional version. I love that. I always think, if I never had to branch out, I might never have discovered the amazing things you can do with nuts. Even for folks who don’t need to avoid wheat or dairy, this is a real dessert.

So here’s what you do. ..I took a lot of pictures so I thought I’d use them to walk you through the process…

Start by soaking the cashews. Give them about four hours or so, then drain the water and rinse them. Soaking softens them so they’ll blend more easily into a creamy consistency. Soaking also makes the nuts easier to digest.

For the crust, you can use just about any combination of nuts. I used macadamia and walnuts. But you could go for almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, etc. depending on what flavors you want.

Put the nuts in the food processor and process until finely ground. Then add the dates (be sure to remove the pits first) through the processor’s feed tube while the machine is running. At this point, you can add the vanilla and salt as well. Process until you have an evenly blended gooey mess.

Now, transfer the gooey nut-date crust mixture into a greased (with coconut oil) tart pan and press the mixture down evenly to form the crust. I recommend getting in there with your hands to press the mixture into the corners and grooves and get it nice and even. You can use plastic wrap or baggies on your hands to keep clean… and sanitary.

Now you’re ready for the filling. Combine the cashews, honey, lemon and coconut oil in the food processor and process until smooth. Let the processor run (3-5 minutes or so) to get a creamy texture that’s not gritty. You may need to add a little water to thin it out and get the desired consistency.

Here’s how it should look when it’s done… Taste it to make sure it’s smooth — it should be light and creamy, not gritty. I love the lemon in this…

Pour the cashew cream filling into the tart pan and smooth evenly over the crust. A rubber spatula works well to spread the filling and get into the edges and corners.

Now comes the fruit. Yum, blueberries — so so good and so so good for you. A rule of thumb… the greater the potential to stain your clothes, the better it is for your body. So eat up!

Chop the strawberries into small pieces to form the stripes. I cut them in half long-ways and then sliced them in slivers, like this…

Start with the stars and make a square with blueberries in the upper left corner. Then fill in. For the stripes, layer the strawberry pieces to form straight lines across. The American flag starts with red at the top, so make a line with strawberries and alternate with white space.

Cover with plastic wrap and place in freezer for at least four hours to set. Before serving, remove from tart pan and allow to thaw at least 20 minutes.

So there you have it — The raw gluten-free, dairy-free Fourth of July American flag tart. Now all you need are some sparklers and that Old Navy t-shirt…

If you end up giving this a try, I’d love to hear how it turns out. Or if you change it up in any way, please share your variation with us in the comments.

To all, I wish you a very happy and safe Fourth of July holiday.
God Bless America.

American Flag Tart

Ingredients:

For the crust:

  • ½ cup Macadamia nuts
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • 1 cup dates, pitted
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • Pinch sea salt

For the filling:

  • 1 cup cashews, soaked
  • ¼ cup honey
  • Juice 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil

Directions:

Put nuts in food processor and process until finely ground. Add dates through feed tube while processor is running. Also add vanilla and salt. Process until evenly mixed and gooey.

Grease a rectangular (or square) tart pan with coconut oil.

Pour crust mixture into tart pan and press evenly to form crust.

Combine all filling ingredients in food process and blend until smooth. Note: allow processor to run for 3-5 minutes to get a smooth consistency that is not grainy. You may want to add a little water to get desired consistency.

Pour filling into tart pan and smooth evenly over crust.

Now you’re ready to make the flag. Wash the berries and chop strawberries into small pieces. Make a square by lining blueberries in the upper left corner. Next, start the stripes – red, then white – by lining strawberry pieces to form lines.

Cover with a layer of plastic wrap and place in freezer to set, at least four hours. When you’re ready to serve, remove tart from pan and allow to thaw 20-30 minutes before enjoying.

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Arugula with Peaches and Goat Cheese

This salad was actually the product of a clean-out-the-fridge dinner before heading out of town last week. It turned out to be quite a masterpiece if I do say so myself and I can’t wait to make it again. I love the combination of peppery arugula, sweet peaches, punchy goat cheese and crisp almonds. Add some grilled chicken for a more-exciting-than-your-every-day lunch.

What you need:

Arugula
Peach
Goat cheese
Sliced almonds
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
salt
pepper

What you do:

Start by making the dressing. Combine 1 part balsamic and 2 parts olive oil. Grind in a little salt and pepper, whisk together and set aside while you build the salad.

For the salad, top a bed of arugula with sliced peaches, crumbled goat cheese and sliced almonds. Give the dressing another whisk before drizzling it over the salad, then toss, plate and serve.

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Goodbye-Summer Couscous

The last official day of summer is Monday. 😦 Tear. I really can’t believe it. Where did you go, summer? Come back … I’m still pale!

I’m not prepared for it to start getting dark at 6 p.m. And I’m really not ready to say goodbye to my loves: strawberries, peaches and, oh it breaks my heart, ….tomatoes. I know I’ll get over you when I have a sweet potato or some winter squash. But for now I’m sad. It’s like realizing Christmas is over, or knowing you have to wait a whole year for the next season of “Lost.”

So here’s one last tomato fix. When I followed the recipe for this lemon-basil couscous it had way too much onion and lemon. So here’s a scaled back version. I also swapped in cherry tomatoes because I love the red and yellow mix. And they’re just cute.

lemmonbasil couscous

Here’s what you need:

1 cup (or package) whole wheat couscous
1 cup water (1-1 ratio to couscous)
1 can garbanzo beans (chick peas)
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup lemon juice
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Here’s what you do:

To prepare the couscous, boil 1 cup of water with 1 tsp salt in a medium pot. When the water comes to a boil add 1 cup (if making more, adjust water to 1:1 ratio) couscous, remove the pot from heat, cover, and let stand 5-10 minutes. When the couscous is done all the water will be absorbed and you can fluff it with a fork. Stir in a few drops of olive oil to prevent the grains from clumping.

Transfer couscous to a large bowl and mix in all the other ingredients: garbanzo beans, red onion, tomatoes, basil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Put it in the refrigerator to chill at least 1 hour before serving.

This yields a big bowl’s worth so you can make a lot, store it in the fridge and have it for a few days.

So long summer, until next year….

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