Happy WIAW! Jenn at Peas and Crayons is over the moon now that her husband, Paul, is back form deployment (hooray!) But she still had time to serve up gorgeous food photos, and even one of her ferret! Check out her blog to see the happy couple, happy food, and a bunch of happy bloggers sharing their midweek treats!

Summer staples from last week included some zucchini that have been producing nicely in my garden, and this week I’d like to include yet another prolific producer–cucumber!

I love the taste and crunch of a fresh cucumber, and if you also like yogurt then yesterday’s Easy Tzatziki recipe is right up your alley. Vanilla Cucumber Smoothie might sound like some kind of body cream, but it’s a real, drinkable smoothie that has the clean, refreshing taste of cucumbers and the smooth sweetness of vanilla. I had one for breakfast, and it was a delicious and light post-workout snack:

Vanilla Cucumber Smoothie

Refreshing, packed with nutrients, and low in fat, carbs, and calories–just around 250 for 30 ounces of deliciousness (this glass is only 12 oz…refills!)

Lunch was another fruit & veggie yogurt bowl:

Cucumber, apple, pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, and fat-free Greek yogurt mixed with vanilla protein powder & cinnamon. Celestial Seasonings Imperial White Peach tea.

Dinner was leftovers from the previous night, chicken tikka with biriyani:

Another good source of low-fat protein: chicken, yogurt marinade, brown rice and split yellow peas.

Dessert was an assortment of sweets, including some Dutch cookies sent by my husband’s grandma from the Netherlands (thank you, Omi!) We couldn’t eat everything, but it’s just nice to look at a bunch of assorted cookies:

Clockwise, top, L-R: spekulaas (traditional Dutch cookie, tastes like Xmas,) stroopwafel (“syrup waffle”,) roomboter bitterkoekjespencee (thick cookies filled with buttery, pasty filling,) Riesen chocolates, vanilla oreos, roomboter Fondantsprits (butter shortbreads,) fudge coconut oreos, Amarettini koekjes (tastes like almond cookies,) and gezouten drop (salted licorice.) Served with rooibos thee!

This smoothie recipe can be adjusted to your taste, and is yet another great way to use up all those extra cucumbers and zucchini piling up in your fridge. The mild flavors of the veggies add freshness, plus they provide fiber for bulk. The banana also helps thicken it up and gives it some sweetness. The vanilla protein powder gives it the creamy, vanilla flavor.

Vanilla Cucumber Smoothie
A thick layer of foam forms at the top, just stir gently to incorporate all the yummy goodness!

Ingredients:

12 ounces cold water
4 ounces almond milk (or milk, soy moo, more water)
1 1/3 scoops vanilla protein powder, or your favorite flavor protein powder
2 handfuls baby spinach leaves, rinsed and squeezed out
4″ cucumber, sliced thin
4″ zucchini, sliced thin (more cucumber is okay, too)
1/3 ripe banana, sliced
ice cubes (optional)

Directions:

In a blender, add water, milk, protein powder. Blend on low until combined, about 10 seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients except ice. Blend on medium to medium-high until veggies are chopped up, 15-30 seconds. Add ice cubes and blend on high for 10 seconds until crushed. Makes about 30 ounces.

Vanilla Cucumber Smoothie-2

The bulk from the veggies makes this shake thick enough for a straw to stand up

Any favorite post-workout smoothies? What’s the greenest smoothie you ever tried? :D

The flavor of the week is back! Introducing the second most prolific plant in my garden (next to weeds)…cucumber!

This was the healthiest plant of the three. Had to push it back from the stone walkway using tomato cages and a block of wood.

Moved the vine from the ground onto the brick wall so it won’t fall prey to the weed whacker again.

Spikes on some cultivars provide a formidable defense against hungry predators…unless you’re wearing gloves!

These cucumbers, called “Straight 8,” are ready to pick when they’re about 8″ long. They’re crisp and have big seeds, but are so fleshy that I just gouge the seeds out and still have plenty of cucumber left. I eat them with my fruit salads, with tofu soaked in shoyu and ginger, and pickled some in Korean gochujang hot sauce for a lazy kimchee recipe.

But one of my favorite ways to eat cucumber was introduced by my father-in-law a few years ago. He would make grilled chicken with this delicious, creamy, garlicky tzatziki sauce. I had the hardest time pronouncing it but an easy time eating it! In addition to the incredibly creamy texture, the fresh garlic and lemon adds a delicious mouthwatering savoryness that can be eaten guilt-free: zero fat calories, low in sugar, and tons of protein!

I ate twice this much tzatziki, goes well with everything on my plate!

It’s another way to enjoy yogurt and a solution to getting  rid of all those extra cucumbers lying around. I just might have to let my in-laws give this a try…and maybe get zwei daumen nach oben!

Easy Tzatziki
serve with grilled chicken, raw veggies, raw zucchini noodles, or use as a veggie sandwich spread.

Ingredients:

1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon dried dill
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
1 cucumber
1 1/2 cup Greek-style nonfat yogurt

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine garlic, salt, and dill. Stir in yogurt, lemon juice and zest. In another bowl or on a cutting board, using a box grater shred cucumber using large grater holes. Grabbing a handful of shredded cucumber, squeeze out excess liquid, reserving for later use (or drink it down!) Add squeezed & shredded cucumber to yogurt, stir to combine. Repeat with remaining shredded cucumber. Adjust seasonings to taste, store in refrigerator covered with plastic wrap until ready to serve. Makes about 2 cups.

“say it with flowers”

Peonies are one of my favorite flowers, and I only really got to see them in real life a couple of years ago when I picked up my beautiful wedding bouquet. Pink-hued roses, tulips and peonies made up this fragrant cluster which felt to me like five pounds worth of flowers! Since moving into our new home, we’ve been surprised with all kinds of flowers blooming around the property, including peonies.

Flowers aren’t the only things that have been thriving on our property (thank goodness!) My lettuce plants have successfully avoided the hungry rabbits and so far I harvested 5 heads. It was time to fill in the bald spots with some new plants, so I added some purple cabbage in between the kale (far left,) reddish-colored lettuce and a cucumber vine in the upper row, and planted a Roma tomato right next to the basket hanger (base of that skinny post in the bottom left corner):

Just the upper section with new plants was watered, we had lots of rain this week.

another 100 days and I’ll be eating home-grown purple cabbage!

Weeding and planting the new veggies made me kind of hungry, so I decided to make an Ultimate Salad for lunch! Although the only ingredient that came from my garden is the two types of lettuce, you gotta admit this salad definitely looks garden fresh! If all goes well, in a few months I should have another four ingredients from the garden: strawberries, tomatoes, cucumber and cabbage:

The ultimate salad with 14 fabulous ingredients: lettuce, cabbage, carrots, celery, cucumber, cauliflower, apples, grapes, strawberries, dates, tomatoes, avocado, sprouted  sunflower seeds and goat cheese.

My husband likes to have some meat with his meals, so I made him a protein-packed tuna fish-stuffed tomato with a cucumber rosette:

A simple and beautiful gluten-free alternative to a plain ol’ tuna fish sandwich

Earlier this week I received more goodies from my family. My mom made a beautiful drawstring bag from some very special fabric (I will post more on this on Monday!) and my Uncle Paul got me this incredible gourmet bag of peaberry Kona coffee (update 6/17: I initially thought my dad got the coffee, but after reading the post he told me it was Uncle Paul who picked this up for me. Thank you Uncle Paul!) I’ve had 100% Kona coffee before, and not all coffees are the same (Sugai coffee farms also has good quality coffee beans) but this is the first time I’ve ever tried any kind of peaberry coffee:

Hualalai (pronounced “who-ah-lah-lie”) and Mauna Loa are the two volcanoes where Kona farmers grow their world-famous coffee

Peaberry describes the shape of an unfertilized seed in the coffee fruit. Instead of the seed forming two halves that make a whole (think of peanuts, cashews and pistachios that can be split equally down the middle) the fruit has one “pea shaped” seed.

Since the seed shapes are so different, coffee growers sort the peaberries out so as not to have uneven roasting in their batches. Because of this extra labor as well as the belief that a peaberry yields a more evenly roasted bean (thus a more delicious flavor,) peaberry coffee is more costly and often more valued than the other 95 percent of the harvest.

I brewed a cup of Kona peaberry and thought it was a very good coffee. It was flavorful, mild and smooth, and I didn’t need to add any sweetener! It’s such a nice gift from my parents uncle I’ll have to save the rest for Sunday brunches! Have a nice weekend, everybody, and eat (and drink) well!