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

Happy What I Ate Wednesday! Jenn at Peas and Crayons is continuing our “Summer Staples” theme, and with the abundance some of you home gardeners may have, one summer staple is a vegetable that can be eaten raw, baked, fried, sauteed, and juiced: zucchini! As mentioned in yesterday’s Flavor of the Week post, zucchini is not my favorite veggie, so I am coming up with ways to make this extremely nutritious veggie more appetizing.

This morning’s breakfast was an experiment with zucchini muffins. The last time I tried making a chocolate zucchini cake it was horrible and actually had a fishy taste! I don’t know what happened but I never want to make another chocolate zucchini cake for a long, long time. So I decided to make breakfast muffins…with the chocolate sprinkled on top! The texture of the muffin is light and spongy, it’s moist, and has enough sweetness from both the brown sugar and chopped dates sprinkled throughout. Having chocolate chips on the top rather than stirred in the batter makes the muffins look like they’re bursting with chips, and you can easily make some plain ones by leaving them off:

Zucchini muffins, with and without chocolate chips

My lunches have still been the same fruit salads with yogurt:

Recycled picture, but all my fruit salads look pretty much like this!

This dinner was from a couple weeks ago. It’s steamed rice, venison burger, and a fried egg, all smothered with homemade giblet gravy. For those of you not familiar with Hawaii cuisine, this is what’s called a loco moco:

Venison Loco Moco with veggies

You can add steamed veggies, mushrooms, onions and it’ll still be a loco moco. Just start it off with rice, a burger patty (veggie is ok!,) a fried egg, and gravy. If you have homemade gravy, it’s even better (quick gravy: heat up 2  tablespoons oil in a frying pan on medium heat, add equal amount of flour, stir for a few minutes until light brown. Slowly add 1/2 – 3/4 cup chicken or beef broth and stir quickly with wooden spoon. Simmer for 5 minutes, add 1/4 cup white wine, simmer another couple minutes until desired thickness. Add salt to taste, serve.)

Here’s the recipe for Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins. Shredded zucchini adds moisture and bulk and helps to cut down on the amount of oil used. Spelt flour gives it a more grainy texture and is good for people who have a wheat intolerance (note: spelt does contain gluten, so make adjustments if you are on a gluten-free diet.) I picked the zucchini this morning and started making the muffins about ten minutes later, can’t get fresher zucchini than that! :)

Wheat-free zucchini muffins, with or without chocolate chips

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins
Reserve any leftover liquid or shredded zucchini, there’s lots of vitamins and minerals!

1 large zucchini
1/2 cup pitted and chopped dates (about 10)
1 1/2 cups spelt flour (wheat flour or gluten-free flour blend OK)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher salt (3/4 teaspoon table salt)
1 egg plus 1 egg white
1/2 cup oil (note: melt coconut oil, if using)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (note: Ghirardelli has gluten-free chocolate chips, Nestle does not)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pans with paper liners or grease with nonstick spray, set aside.

Peel outer skin off zucchini, discard. Using small holes of a box grater, shred zucchini. Place in basket strainer over measuring cup or bowl, pressing gently with spatula do squeeze out more liquid. You should get 4-5 ounces of zucchini juice. Soak dates in zucchini water, leaving strainer over the bowl/measuring cup, set aside.

Drink this later, it’s good for you!

In a bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in center, add egg and egg white. Beat with a fork or wire whisk, add oil and beat until combined, stirring in flour a little at a time. Add 3/4 cups shredded zucchini (you will have some leftover, save it for a smoothie!) and stir to combine. Drain soaked dates and add to batter, stirring well to combine (reserve liquid for your next protein shake or smoothie.)

Pour about 1/4 cup batter into prepared muffin tins. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top.  Bake for 15 minutes, cool for a few minutes before enjoying.

What’s your favorite home-grown veggie? How about your favorite farmer’s market find? I’d love to hear from you!

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?

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.