Lunch


I’m a day late and a dollar short with the flavor of the week but here it is…zucchini! Granted it’s not really a flavor and not used to describe anything except actual zucchini, but our late-blooming zucchini plants have been producing and I thought I’d share some recipes this week to help get rid of any extra harvests from your garden.

It all starts here: the male flowers grow on skinny stems (left, yellow flower) while the female flower grows on a shorter mini-zucchini (right of male yellow flower.)

A couple of developing zucchini with their flowers closed.

Zucchini has never been my favorite, especially when served as enormous, unappetizing chunks in stir-frys or pasta primavera (it’s like cutting half a cabbage and asking everyone to dig in!) One way I did enjoy it was when my mother would make panko-crusted sticks of zucchini, deep fry it and serve it up with a mayo-shoyu dipping sauce on the side…delicious! But what am I doing with these zucchini plants if I don’t like to eat zucchini? Well, the initial idea was to mainly eat the flowers tempura-style, but I’ve been on a healthier-kick lately so no deep frying in the kitchen, at least for now. But there’s another way to enjoy zucchini on a healthier level, and that’s by making them into noodles!

Zucchini noodles are a great way to use up any extras you have lying around and, like any vegetable, is an extremely healthy addition to your diet. One large zucchini (about 3/4 pounds) has only 52 calories and is packed with fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Folate, and B6, to name a few. Imagine replacing your regular pasta with nutritious zucchini noodles. Not only do you get more nutrients, but you save over 200 calories per meal!!!

Ready for a step-by-step on making zucchini noodles?

If you don’t have a vegetable spiral slicer, you can achieve similar results with a sharp vegetable peeler and a good knife. First, remove the skin from the zucchini. Use the vegetable peeler to peel of wide slices of zucchini, rotating after every two “peels”:

Rotate and slice until you reach the seeds. Stack two or three zucchini slices and carefully slice them into thinner noodle-like strands.

Use these zucchini noodles in place of regular pasta, just add them to your sauce and cook them gently for about 3 minutes to heat through. Enjoy an almost raw Zucchini Salad with Peanut Satay Sauce, or add a handful to your favorite chicken soup.

What’s your favorite healthy way to enjoy zucchini?

Recipe ReDux

This month’s Recipe Redux theme is “Beat the summer heat with no-cook meals!” Two weeks of hot and humid weather made it easy to be creative with cold foods, and using fresh, raw ingredients only made it better. I was already planning on making a watermelon soup for this month’s recipe redux. But it needed more than just the refreshing watermelon. I needed it to hit your taste buds in all the right ways, and I think I found just the way to do it.

This cold soup is incredibly refreshing on a hot day. The tartness of lime, the bit of heat from cayenne, and the fresh greens make this a delicious and nutritious soup or on-the-go drink. To serve it up with a color on each side, I used a piece of foil to make a ‘divider’ and poured the chilled soups on either side, then carefully removed the foil. It won’t be a perfect pattern, but have fun with it!

Refreshing and colorful, this Green Watermelon Soup is packed with vitamins and minerals.

Green Watermelon Soup

Watermelon puree:
3 cups chopped watermelon
1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons agave (if your watermelon is super sweet, you may not need any)
pinch cayenne pepper
pinch salt
1 tablespoon vodka (keeps it from getting too icy)

Add everything to blender and combine on low speed. Transfer to shallow bowl. Chill for 1 hour or until slushy with ice forming around the edges.

Green puree:

2 cups kale, baby spinach, or combination of both, loosely packed (note: you could also use wheat grass if you like, just omit/reduce agave)
1/2 cup slushy watermelon puree
1/4  large apple, finely chopped or grated
1/2 lime, membrane removed & chopped
1 teaspoon agave
pinch salt
3 ice cubes, crushed

Add everything to blender, combine on medium speed to crush ice, about 10 seconds, then combine on low for another 20 seconds or well-combined.

Assembly: transfer watermelon slush to a measuring cup and stir to break up icy chunks so you can pour easily. Tear a small sheet of foil to use as a ‘divider’ to be placed in the middle of your soup bowl. Simultaneously pour red and green mixtures into bowl on either side of foil. Enjoy immediately.



Happy Wednesday! Hope everyone is staying fit and healthy as we continue with “Fun, Food and Fitness” sponsored by the very fit Jenn at Peas and Crayons!

Most of my meals could be considered on the healthy side, but there’s always room for improvement. I tried increasing my raw food consumption, but in effect I also increased calorie intake by eating too many nuts and soaked grain products! So right now I’m trying to figure out what are some good sources of lean (uncooked) protein. Well, yogurt has been working out so far, so I’m going to stick with that. Most other raw sources are high in fat, so if any one has suggestions, please let me know!

The other morning I was very, very tired, even though I slept earlier than usual (because  I was so tired!)  I didn’t do my morning exercise routine, but this morning I felt better so did my exercises, tried doing a hill run (puff, puff!) and came back to a watermelon lassi for breakfast:

Added 1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder and juice from 1/4 lime (I like it tart.) A few raspberries made it look pretty.

Lunch was a big bowl of cold watermelon soup…with a twist! I am saving the recipe for Saturday’s Recipe Redux, but I can tell you it was just what I needed for that hot, humid day. I can wait to share the recipe, but I can’t wait to share a teeny portion of my lunch:

green stuff??

Come back on Saturday to view the recipe and the rest of the photo!

I let my husband try some of the watermelon soup as a starter for dinner. He couldn’t eat/drink the whole bowl, I think the flavors were too strong? Green? Piquant? As our main course I made panko-crusted tuna tofu patties: 2 cans water-packed tuna, 1/2 cup medium or firm tofu (more, if you like,) 1 tablespoon white miso paste, 1 teaspoon Spike seasoning, 1/4 cup chopped onion, 1/2 cup shredded carrrots and a  dash of pepper. Squish tofu and tuna together with your hand, mixing well. Stir in rest of the ingredients. Divide into 8 balls, smash lightly to make patties (don’t make too flat, they’ll fall apart.) Coat in mixture of 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Coat with panko, crushed corn flakes or crushed corn chips. Fry in hot oil on medium heat until browned on both sides. Serve on buns, with rice, or on a salad:

You can see the big shreds of carrot in the mashed patty on the bottom and the delicious crispy panko coating on the top patty.

My friend Suzi asked me about watermelon sorbets, which I never made before (no ice cream machine.) I tried making one this morning, but since I didn’t add a lot of sugar, the texture just wasn’t the same. Xanthan gum helped to thicken it up and the vodka kept it from turning into a bowl-shaped block of ice, so rather than forcing it to become something else, I just ended up calling it a slushie.

It may look a bit underwhelming, but I urge you to try this recipe. The addition of cayenne and salt amplifies the lime and rounds out the sweet-sour-salty combination nicely. It’s not spicy and if you want to share with kids, simply omit the vodka.

Refreshing Watermelon Slushie
makes about 12 ounces 

1 1/2 cups mashed watermelon, about 2 cups chopped
zest and juice of 1/2 lime (zest first then cut lime in half)
1 tablespoon natural sweetener such as honey or agave (I used the hollowed-out lime rind as my ‘measuring cup’)
1 tablespoon vodka (used the same ‘measuring cup’ as above)
dash of cayenne
incredibly tiny pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum (helps thicken it up)

Directions:

Add all ingredients to a blender and mix on low speed until combined. Pour into a shallow bowl or dish and freeze for 1 hour. Stir, breaking up frozen chunks around the edges, and freeze for 2 hours more for slushy consistency.

The lime makes it refreshing, but cayenne and salt adds another dimension to this refreshing, low-sugar version of a classic summertime treat.

Going back to what I was talking about earlier in the post: what are some good sources of protein that are low in fat? How about veggie sources? How do you like to prepare them? I’m looking for more sources, so any suggestions would be most helpful!

Has anyone been having a crazy hot & sunny week like we’re having in Upstate NY? I’m glad for the sunshine, but doing yard work is more difficult with the heat, as well as the bugs that keep attacking me. My sister also gets a ton of bug bites and calls them “noseeums,” because you really can’t see what the heck is biting you!

Checked the thermometers around 4 o’clock in the afternoon: one on the south side of the house says 95, the one facing west says 105, and another is 120! I felt more sorry for the cats, especially Wolfie, who’s more equipped for cooler weather (see below pic.) I waited until the sun was behind some trees to do some weeding and redo the stones by “the gateway”:

Wolfie, guarding his catnip plants.

Last month we got an unfinished wooden picnic table that started looking pretty yucky after a few days in the rain. It needed some color, even a neutral color would be an improvement. I had the hardest time deciding on a paint color at the store when Fate stepped in (or was her name Karen?) and put a few gallons of “reject” paint on the clearance shelf. A $36 can of exterior paint marked down to $8? Works for me! I painted the picnic table gray, then dry-brushed and damp-sponged it with white. I think it turned out pretty great!

A little neutral color goes a long way

– This also turned out to be a good background for my photos. Here you can see the white over gray brush/spongework:

Peony in silver vase

Peonies in silver vases

I was planning to make some curry for dinner (following the “Flavor of the Week” theme) but it was so incredibly hot, I needed something cool and refreshing. There was some leftover quinoa, veggies, and chicken that needed to be cooked so I made a miso-based sauce with a healthy squirt of fresh lemon juice for this pretty tasty quinoa chicken salad:

A light, refreshing salad that’s also filling: quinoa, tomatoes, water chestnuts, chicken, green onion and a dressing made with miso paste, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and lemon juice.

We also had some kale massaged with salt, lemon juice and sesame oil. Delicious!

What are some of your favorite summertime salads?

There are 18 glass jars of spices sitting on a rack next to my stove, plus another two and a half dozen mismatched bottles I keep with my baking ingredients, and about a half dozen plastic baggies of herbs and spices tucked away in the cabinet. On a weekly basis I use only a handful of these spices and the rest are individual ingredients, when combined, make one of the most fragrant blends on the face of the earth: curry seasoning!

We grew up eating a curry that my mom would make with huge chunks of beef, potatoes, and McCormick curry spice. I have to admit that it wasn’t my favorite dish as a kid, but as I grew older I found out there were other kinds of curries besides the one we had at home, and in more colors (and flavors) than green!

There’s Japanese curry, a rich brown gravy that uses beef stock and tastes great with udon (thick rice noodles) or on top of steamed rice. There are the coconut-based Thai curry dishes in red (hot,) green (hot) and, my favorite, yellow (not as hot.) And there are the various herbs and spices that make up Indian curry seasoning (take a whiff, it’s just like aromatherapy!)

A popular and tasty Japanese curry, S&B (image source: http://www.foodpakexpress.com)

My favorite Thai curry, but I cannot find it around here: Mae Ploy yellow curry paste (image source: http://www.amazon.com)

Curry seasoning is so versatile, you can use it in anything from omelets to burgers. Making your own dry seasoning blend isn’t as difficult as it seems, but you will need about ten different herbs and spices, as well as a coffee grinder. Once you make your own curry seasoning, you will find it difficult to go back to the pre-ground, prepackaged blends from the grocery store. And with your ready supply of spices you’ll be able to try new kinds of blends, and maybe even make your own authentic recipe! Check out www.myspicesage.com for a complete selection of seasonings, teas, freebies, recipes, and great prices on spices.

Here’s what we had for dinner: turkey bean burgers! I added a tablespoon of Indian curry powder and 1 1/2 teaspoons of Kosher salt to the mix, plenty of flavor packed into these tasty little sliders:

Spice up your sliders with a spoonful of curry seasoning

In addition to the burgers, I also spiced up the burger topping, which can also be a side dish, sandwich filling, or topped with chopped tomato and wrapped in lettuce leaves for an easy meal on the go!

Below is the recipe for the quinoa-sweet potato topping. The quinoa and sweet potato were already cooked so throwing this together is super fast and easy. Got extra sweet potatoes? Try my sweet potato haupia pie recipe, it’s gluten-free and delicious!

Quinoa and Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Indian Curry Seasoning

Ingredients:

1 roasted sweet potato (poke potato w/fork all around, then bake in 400 degree preheated oven for 20-30 minutes. Cool, peel off skin and use the mushy insides.)
1 teaspoon Indian seasoning, such as Garam Masala
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 to 1 1/2 cup cooked quinoa

Directions:

Mash sweet potato with seasoning and salt, stirring well. Add quinoa, adjusting amount to your liking. Serve as a burger topping, salad topping, sandwich filling, or top with chopped tomato and wrap in lettuce leaves. Enjoy!

Top with chopped tomatoes and fresh herbs for a quick and easy vegan dish.

So what’s YOUR favorite curry dish? Do you prefer it home made or at a restaurant? Do you eat it with rice? Potatoes? Roti? Share your curry experiences here, I’d love to hear from you!

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