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?

Happy Monday! Busy weekend again with more home improvements.  But before I start showing those pictures, I want to share a recipe featuring our Flavor of the Week: basil!

This is one of those herbs that’s supposed to be really easy to grow, but I’ve always had trouble growing them in pots. Either the soil was filled with bugs, slugs destroyed them, or it was just too hot for their roots. I used to always buy huge bunches for $2 in Chinatown and they had both Thai and sweet basil varieties. The Thai basil has darker, thicker leaves and a more “peppery” taste. I made pesto with both varieties, and couldn’t taste much of a difference.

Here is a quick n’ easy no-cook topping for your pasta that can be kept in the fridge for a few days. If you don’t have enough basil, cut it with some baby spinach (they’re milder than the grown-up kind!) Add some cream and warm up before adding cooked pasta, or serve over chicken. Any way you slice it, it’s delicious!


Add more or less basil, if you like (less here.) The lemony creaminess of the pine nuts can shine on its own.

Lemony Pine Nut Pesto
The lemon combines perfectly with pine nuts, but feel free to use pecans, walnuts or cashews. Inspired by Pine Nut Cream recipe from Going Raw by Judita Wignall.

3/4 cups raw soaked pine nuts or other raw soaked nuts
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 garlic clove, mashed and chopped
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup basil leaves, torn
1 cup baby spinach leaves, torn

Add nuts to a food processor or blender and pulse or blend on medium-low until pasty but coarsely chopped. Add lemon juice, garlic, salt, and oil. Blend for a few seconds until combined. Blend in basil and spinach, turning off machine and scraping down sides when necessary. Enjoy on pasta, as a veggie dip, or sandwich spread.

On to home renovations!

KITCHEN: I primed more of the kitchen, as well as the cat’s litter box:

Primed cabinets on the right and wall on the left. And there’s our new fridge!

The cabinet doors went from red to white on the cats’ litter box, Trixie was the first to try it out.

Put a new pattern on the display cabinet:

The original burlap looked dull against a white wall so I replaced it with some fun polka-dots!

Primed the formerly red plant stand and covered the glass top with the same fabric used in the cabinet.

YARD WORK:

The other morning Trixie and I noticed this beautiful purple hibiscus in the back yard:

Looks healthy, but I think it would like more sun.

I’ve seen tons of these plants in red, white, and yellow at Lowe’s but didn’t think anyone would buy one to plant outside…won’t the freezing temperatures kill it? Apparently not!

Purple hibiscus

There were some other trees crowding it out and blocking the sun so I asked my husband to clear the area around it. Now there’s plenty of sunlight to reach the hibiscus, and looking at the newly cleared space is giving me some outdoor ideas…

The whole area behind the hibiscus is now cleared. It would make a lovely sitting area.

I am not much of a flower-planting person but after seeing this hibiscus, I think I’d want to add more color to this part of the back yard…and maybe add an herb garden!

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, everyone! This being my first What I Ate Wednesday (WIAW) post sponsored by Peas and Crayons, I wanted to kick it off to a good start, especially because I’ve been going off my healthy eating path and WIAW is a good incentive to get back on track. I’ve been eating  less healthy greens and eating more snacky stuff this past week and I noticed a HUGE dip in my energy level in the afternoons. Normally I’d see my husband yawning in the afternoon, but this time it was ME who felt tired, lazy and just wanted to drink coffee to help get me through. Although I still made healthy dinners and lunches, I ate less of the good and more of the bad.

I notice how much better I feel when I eat primarily veggies, even better with raw veggies (the Blood Type Diet says a diet focusing on vegetables are beneficial for A-types like me.) I try to do at least 80 percent veggies/legumes/fruits when I prepare my meals, which isn’t that difficult, but I’d like to increase the raw veggie consumption, as well.

To start off, I had a Chocolate Avocado Smoothie  for breakfast. The fruits and veggies are raw, the “seasonings” are not, but it’s a heck of a lot better than a toaster pastry!

Don't let the chocolatey goodness fool you, this shake contains vegetables!

For lunch I ate a ground-up nut mixture that contained carrots, celery, onions, garlic, and seasoning. I’m avoiding wheat products this week, so I wrapped it in lettuce leaves and had it with Gouda cheese:

My afternoon snack were these incredibly indulgent and almost raw Fudgy Espresso Bites (see delicious recipe below):

Instant espresso enhances the dark chocolate flavor of these fudgy cocoa bites.

For dinner I made veggie chicken soup, which is great when you’re trying to clear the fridge to make room for more fresh veggies! I seasoned this batch with Spike:

Veggies, pearl barley and chunks of chicken make this a hearty and flavorful soup.

Dessert was an almost raw Key Lime Avocado Pie:

Tart, light and refreshing!

And now here’s the Fudgy Cocoa Bites recipe, inspired by The Rawtarian’s incredibly delicious Raw Chocolate Cake recipe:

Fudgy Cocoa Bites

Ingredients:

1 cup almonds, soaked 2 hours or overnight in fridge
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, soaked 2 hours or overnight in fridge
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, soaked 2 hours or overnight in fridge
1/2 cup dates, chopped
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (not sure if this qualifies as raw since the alcohol is distilled?)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup agave sweetener (for Ginger Cocoa Bites, please see instructions below and make syrup first.)

Instructions:

After soaking all the seeds and nuts, drain thoroughly. Add to food processor and process until finely ground. Add dates,  cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt. Process until mixed thoroughly and date pieces are chopped fine. Slowly drizzle in agave (or open the top and pour agave in, this way there’s less syrup stuck to the bottom) and process until mixture forms a ball.

Form dough into teaspoon-sized truffle bites, press into mini muffin tins or candy molds. Dust with extra cocoa powder if desired. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up then remove carefully. (I’m not sure what the longest is you should store them for, but I’ve had mine in the fridge for a couple weeks and have been nibbling on them daily.)

Ginger Cocoa Bites: (I got the ginger syrup recipe from The Veggie Nook’s Lime Cornmeal Pancake recipe, but instead of maple syrup I used agave…and added a LOT of ginger! This is so delicious I keep a stash of this handy. Thank you, Gabby!) Ginger syrup –  In a small pan on the stovetop, heat the 1/4 cup agave with 1 tablespoon thinly sliced and chopped ginger. Simmer on LOW HEAT for 3 minutes to reduce the spiciness of the fresh ginger. Turn off heat and cool the syrup while you combine the rest of the ingredients. Drizzle agave syrup and ginger pieces into mixture, process until mixture forms a ball and form into truffles or press into molds.

Espresso Cocoa Bites (my favorite!): add in 1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso granules or 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons instant coffee granules and 1/4 teaspoon stevia with cocoa powder. Form into desired shapes, sprinkle with just a pinch of espresso or finely ground coffee granules.

Peanut Butter Cocoa Bites: add 2 tablespoons smooth or creamy “no-sugar” peanut butter before adding agave.

Gluten free, dairy free bite-sized pieces of rich chocolate flavor with an incredible fudgy texture.

Enjoy your Wednesday, and eat well!

Because of the sauce ingredients this dish is not 100% raw...but oh, so close!

Just when I thought spring has sprung, the weather started getting chilly again. It rained last night and drizzled a bit today, and the creek next to our house was flowing along nicely. The snow missed us, but it looks like it’ll be pretty cold and rainy for the rest of the week. I started making some cozy comfort foods over the weekend but now it’s time to search for more recipe ideas that’s not only filling and warming, but healthy, as well.

I’ve been wanting to try some zucchini “noodles” for some time. This is nothing more than very thin-sliced zucchini that is eaten raw and in place of regular noodles, but it’s higher in vitamins and minerals, easy to prepare and there’s no cooking involved! I wanted a creamy sauce to go with it, so I searched online for a dairy-free alfredo sauce, but when I was slicing the zucchini, for some reason I just thought, “I want satay sauce!”

I love peanut butter and peanut butter-based foods, sweet or savory, they’re all delicious to me. Satay is Thai-style grilled meat skewered and cooked over hot coals. It is accompanied with a peanut dipping sauce made with peanut butter and can include a combination of coconut milk, soy sauce, or fish sauce. This peanut sauce recipe is based off the one in The Best International Recipe Cooking Light cookbook. I still had it nearby when I made their moussaka the other night, so I flipped it open and found just what I needed.

Here are the ingredients for the sauce:

L-R: Coconut milk, raw sunflower seeds, lime, patis or nampla (fish sauce,) garlic, Sriracha, peanut butter, sugar.

This Native Forest brand of coconut milk is really good. Chaokoh used to be my regular brand, then I tried this  (on sale) and noticed how much fresher the cream tastes. The Asian markets will have the coconut milk, fish sauce and Sriracha, a popular Thai hot chili sauce that is thick like ketchup but hot like Tabasco (very different flavor, though.) If your market carries ethnic foods, you’ll probably find those ingredients there.

To make the zucchini noodles you can use a vegetable spiral slicer. If you’re like me and don’t have one, 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.” The zucchini was slippery, so be careful and place it on the cutting board, holding it with one hand as you cut off slices with the other.

Slice them thin like noodles then place in a bowl. I was worried they'd get brown (like apples) but they stay nice and creamy white.

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

I wanted something satisfying but not heavy, and this really hit the spot! And it didn’t feel like I was eating a regular salad at all. The zucchini noodles were more filling than I expected, and the savory peanut sauce was rich and velvety. I served this at room temperature and it was just right for what I wanted: a healthy, creamy, satisfying dinner with a good dose of raw veggies. More importantly, my husband also enjoyed his super-size helping of fresh veggies! There’s enough sauce for four servings, so feel free to double the salad mix, or save the leftovers for the next day. Just be sure not to store the salad and satay sauce together, it will make the veggies soggy.

Zucchini Noodle Salad with Peanut Satay Sauce

Salad:

1 zucchini, cut with a vegetable spiral slicer or sliced into thin “noodles”
1 carrot, julienned (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup shredded cabbage
1 cup chopped celery

 Toss all ingredients in a large bowl, set aside.

Peanut sauce:

3/4 cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked for 2 hours, drained
1/2 cup no-sugar/no salt peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
juice of 1/2 lime, about 1/4 cup
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon Sriracha
1 teaspoon sugar (use 1/2 teaspoon if using peanut butter with sugar)

Blend all the ingredients  until smooth, sauce will be thick. Add more Sriracha and sugar to taste.

Scoop 1 cup of sauce into zucchini salad mixture, toss well to coat. Garnish with cilantro, serves two.

Drizzle Sriracha on the plate if you need some extra heat.