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

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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.