Happy What I Ate Wednesday! I hope you all are enjoying your Independence Day, especially you, Jenn, at Peas and Crayons! Thanks again for hosting another fun-filled episode of WIAW. Our theme this month is Fun, Food and Fitness, and I have a nice way to start it off, as well as a delicious dinner recipe to go with this week’s Flavor of the Week, orange!

Last week I was having fun with new food experiments (like raw chocolate chip cookies) but by the time Friday came along I was ready to take a break from the kitchen and take in some new scenery. After a quick breakfast of coffee and orange date cake we headed up to Ithaca and visited Buttermilk Falls State Park. I was looking forward to this trip for a while and even though there wasn’t much water coming down the falls, it was still beautiful:

Beautiful day at Buttermilk Falls State Park.

The trail takes you right by the creek so you can cool off your hot tootsies!

The trails were nice and shady, but going up numerous stairs in the beginning proved to be a good workout (especially with a bunch of noisy teenagers behind you!) After enjoying the numerous waterfalls, pools, and overall scenic splendor of the park, we headed back to town and popped in to The Mate Factor Cafe & Juice Bar in Ithaca. Unfortunately, they had THE worst espresso in the world. It smelled okay and looked okay, but it tasted like they put half a lemon in it.

THE lousiest espresso in the world.

My tofu-avocado wrap wasn’t bad, though they did go heavy on the Kalamata olives, which made it kinda salty:

Tofu avocado wrap, no onions.

Couldn’t finish it, folded it up like a  little purse and took it home.

We got home early so spent a couple hours doing yard work until around 8:30pm (these long days are awesome!) Dinner was leftover lunch for me and  leftover dinner (below) for my husband:

Saturday night special: spelt crust pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms and fresh basil

In keeping with this week’s Flavor of the Week theme, I wanted to share this recipe for Fish with Orange-Shoyu* ** Sauce I made for dinner  on Monday. I came across a Teriyaki Orange Fish Filet recipe that sounded pretty good, so I just modified a few things, including the name (I hope it’s okay that I did this.)  The fish is simmered in a light sauce of orange and ginger, perfect for the walleye we were lucky enough to get from my sister (her husband’s a great fisherman!) It’s a quick and easy meal, and of course, healthy!

*shoyu = soy sauce. Won’t sound as good if I called it ‘Orange Soy Sauce Sauce’!

**After moving to NY from HI, there are certain words I have to start using in conversation, like ‘soy sauce’ instead of shoyu, ‘flip flops’ instead of slippers, and ‘creek’ (or ‘crick’) instead of gulch. My husband also referred to the continental US as ‘the mainland’ at work the other day, and people were like, “What are you talking about?”

This light, delicate orange sauce is infused with fresh ginger.

Fish with Orange-Shoyu Sauce (modified from Teriyaki Orange Fish Filets at grouprecipes.com)
serves 4

Ingredients:

1 lb fish filets, such as walleye, but use any fish you like
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 1/2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons shoyu (soy sauce)
1″ piece ginger, sliced thinly or grated
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons agave syrup or 2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
4 stalks green onion, chopped (reserve 1 tablespoon for garnish)
zest of 1 orange
4 cups broccoli florets
2 cups sugar snap peas or snow peas

Directions:

Season fish with salt, set aside.

Mix orange juice through agave syrup. Stir in sliced onions and green onion. Add half of orange zest.

In a large frying pan, heat sesame oil over medium heat. Add fish, cook for 1 minute. Spoon half of the orange mixture over fish, letting it simmer before adding more sauce to pan. Cook fish for 2 minutes, turn over and pour remaining orange mixture over fish, adding half of orange zest. Simmer high and cook for a minute then add broccoli and peas. Turn heat down to medium-low, cover and simmer for 3 minutes.

Serve with brown rice and garnish with remaining orange zest and green onion. Enjoy!

These large walleye filets are enough for 4 people…looks like we’ll be having leftovers. :)

Have the rice cooked ahead of time for a quick and easy weeknight dinner.

Low-fat and packed with protein and vitamins, this dish is perfect for a post-workout meal.

What are some of your favorite hiking spots? What’s your favorite post-hike meal? Don’t forget to leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!

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?

Mac n’ cheese fans will enjoy this hearty Three Cheese Spaetzle with sauteed broccoli, mushrooms and bacon.

(*NOTE: there’s actually no German way of saying ‘two thumbs up’, people would say lecker or es ist gut. But having the approval of my husband, my in-laws, and a random German student who came by to buy our bookcase we listed on craigslist made me feel like I got the ‘two thumbs up’ rating (if not more!) Yes, I fed my spaetzle to a stranger who enjoyed it so much he was going to call his mother in Germany to say he had spaetzle in Hawaii!)

So, a new favorite comfort food of mine hails from my husband’s country of origin, Germany. Spaetzle is a noodle dish served alongside roasted meats, tossed with cheese or covered in rich gravy. With a toothsome texture and simple ingredient list, spaetzle (where Spatz means “sparrow”) can be tricky to make the first time around. Some recipes suggest using a spaetzle press or pressing the batter through a colander, but I found this messy and unsuccessful. The best method for me (which requires a bit of patience and practice) is to use a smooth wooden cutting board and the spine of a chef’s knife to cut off small pieces of noodle-shaped dough, scraping it off the board and into a pot of boiling water. The spaetzle will not be uniform (proving to everyone that it is, indeed, homemade) and closer to worm-shaped than sparrow-shapped, but the taste will still be delicious.

The basic spaetzle recipe is from one of my favorite publications, Cooks Illustrated. I’ve added my own blend of cheeses and topping to make this a nice, one-dish meal. As long as you got the basics dough recipe down, everything else should fall into place beautifully.

Three Cheese Spaetzle with Broccoli, Mushrooms and Bacon
serves 4

Noodles:
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup whole milk (I also used 2/3 cup lowfat milk and 1/3 cup cream)
2 large eggs

Cheese sauce:
1 1/2 cups shredded Gouda
1/3 cup shredded Asiago cheese*
1/3 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese*
*or  use 2/3 cup of any hard, salty cheese

Topping:
6 strips bacon, extra fat removed, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cups broccoli florets

To make spaetzle:

Batter will be thick; let it rest while you bring water to a boil. (This batch in the picture is only half a recipe.)

Whisk the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the milk and eggs together. Slowly stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture until combined, then whisk briefly until smooth. Cover the bowl and let the batter rest for 15 to 30 minutes (do not let the batter rest any longer.)

While the batter rests, bring 3 quarts of water to boil in a large pot and stir in 1 tablespoon salt.

Process about 1/2 cup of the batter into the water by cutting the batter from the cutting board into the boiling water.

They look more like squiggly worms than Spatzen, but oh well!

Boil the spaetzle until it floats, about 1 minute.

Using a slotted spoon or strainer, transfer the spaetzle to a large pan and cover to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining batter.

To make topping:

In a separate frying pan, cook cut bacon over medium heat for 3 minutes. Transfer to paper towels. In same frying pan, cook mushrooms for 5 minutes. Add bacon and broccoli florets, cook for 3 minutes, turn off heat, cover.

Meanwhile, heat spaetzle on medium. Stir in cheeses until melted. Top with broccoli, bacon and mushrooms and serve.

Guten appetit!

Comfort food at its best!

Mini Turkey Bean Burgers - skip the buns and eat it salad-style. Sammy looks on wistfully.

Whenever we’d get together with friends for a barbecue or potluck, I’d usually bring one of my favorite easy-to-make dishes: turkey burgers. For those who may have had bad experiences in the past, I would like to reassure you that delicious turkey burgers do exist, and, with the right seasoning, anything is possible!

Basic Turkey Burger Mix

1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
1/3 cup diced onions, sauteed with 1 or 2 garlic cloves (omit for Turkey Bean Burgers)
1 piece of bread, cut into small cubes
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil or ghee
Add-in seasoning (below)

Directions: In a bowl, add sauteed onions, garlic, bread cubes, and salt, if using. Toss with fork to distribute evenly. Add the oil or ghee, toss with fork to mix well. Crumble raw turkey into bread & onion mixture and add in one of the seasoning options below. Mix gently until combined. Refrigerate for 2 hours before cooking.

Asian Style Turkey Burgers (most unique) – Omit salt from basic turkey recipe. Add 1 tablespoon nampla (fish sauce); 1″ piece ginger, peeled and grated; 1 stalk lemongrass, white part chopped finely (discard the green part or save to make tea); 1 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes . You can serve this with a cole slaw tossed with nampla, fresh lime juice and cilantro.

Indian Spice Turkey Burgers  – 1 tablespoon Indian seasoning mix such as Garam Masala or your own special blend. I like to use  “Chef Johnny’s Korma Powder” from the cookbook, Eat, Taste, Heal. It’s a fragrant blend of cumin, coriander, cloves, cinnamon, fennel, fenugreek, mustard, cardamom, poppy seeds, ginger and tumeric.

Italian Seasoning Turkey Burgers – 2 teaspoons basil, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes or 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning. Add 1/3 cup finely diced or shredded Parmesan cheese.

Bean & Turkey Burgers (my favorite) – 1 cup cooked & drained beans (I use a black & pinto mix), 1/4 cup finely chopped celery, 1/4 cup finely chopped & sauteed onion, 1 teaspoon chili seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Mash everything with a potato masher or mix in a food processor or blender just until beans are smashed and mixture is still chunky (if you over-blend, it’ll turn into a refried bean paste consistency. Still tasty, but the texture will be very different.)

Don't let the name fool you, no fearsome creature hides in this bottle. Just a clean, crisp (yet soft) Chardonnay.

In addition to food, I also enjoy trying all kinds of low-budget wine. Normally my husband and I are red wine fans, but we also occasionally enjoy an unoaked Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blancs, dry Rieslings or sparkling wines.

We picked this out randomly (and based on price,) and the 2008 Dragon’s Hollow Chardonnay from China was pretty much what we like in a Chardonnay:

1) NOT oaky
2) clean
3) delicious with or without food
4) cheap

Simple criteria, but isn’t this all anyone really wants in a good wine? :) It’s pretty clean and a little on the light side, but also has red apple and soft vanilla-ey characteristics. At around $8 a bottle, this was an incredible bargain. And aside from what I use for cooking, it is my first Chinese wine!