Monday, June 24, 2013

Meatless Mondays returns!

Summer is a great time for light, meatless meals.  Produce is abundant and screaming to be the star of the show. 

Last week, due to the garden and farm box, I had much produce piling up!  I knew I needed to be strategic and plan meals around what we had, before it went bad.  It breaks my heart when I waste produce. 

So, I spent some time perusing some of my favorite Giada de Laurentiis cookbooks (I have them all; love her recipes!)  a great cookbook called Sprouted Kitchen that a friend loaned me (Sprouted Kitchen is also on my food blogroll), and also my Vitamix cookbook for some new smoothie ideas.

Turns out, I fell in love with all these new dishes I tried.  Hope you enjoy them, too!  I still have some more recipes on my "to try" list, so stay tuned.

Leftover watermelon from Father's Day 
became this refreshing drink*:


Watermelon smoothie: 
1 1/2 cups watermelon chunks, seeds removed
(note: I prefer the seeded variety watermelon, vs. seedless. They have much better texture & flavor. I don't mind cutting around the seeds- it's worth it. Sprouts has them.)
1 kiwi fruit, skinned and halved
1 date, pitted
1 cup ice

Throw in the Vitamix and blend 45 seconds {from the Vitamix cookbook}
*I highly recommend drinking this on a warm day, preferably poolside with a good book :-) It feels like a bit of paradise.  :-)

Farm box heirloom + garden tomatoes 
became this easy and to-die-for soup:


Roasted Tomato Soup
{Sprouted Kitchen} 

2  lb. Ripe Tomatoes (about 4 Large Tomatoes)
1 Medium Yellow Onion
3-4 Garlic Cloves
1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp. Sea Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
1 Tbsp. Chopped Parsley
1 1/2 Cups Low Sodium Vegetable or Chicken Broth
2 Tbsp. Organic Tomato Paste
1/4 Cup Heavy Cream or Half and Half, optional
Fresh Oregano + Basil for garnish, optional

Crostini or Bruschetta slices
Mozzarella Cheese (or other)

Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the tomatoes and the onion into wedges. Use your finger to push out some of the seedy parts of the tomatoes. Spread them on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle the salt, a generous amount of pepper, the chopped parsley and gently toss it with your hands. Tuck the garlic cloves somewhere in a tomato, so they don't burn. Roast on the middle rack for 30-40 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down and reduced to about half their size. Remove and cool slightly. 

Warm the broth and stir in the tomato paste to dissolve. Add the all of the ingredients from the roasting pan into the broth and let it gently simmer for 5-10 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the bowl, or with a food processor or blender. The soup should be smooth, with some texture. If you don't like any texture at all, you could run it through a fine mesh sieve. Return it back to the pot, and add the cream to taste, if using. Taste for salt and pepper.

Serve with some toasted bread, or broil a few slices with a piece of mozzarella on top. Garnish with fresh chopped basil and oregano, if desired.

Farm box corn, + a very ripe mango and avocado 
inspired this flavorful fresh salad:


Grilled corn salad

Not really a recipe, since it can't turn out wrong!

I used:
4 ears sweet organic white corn, brushed with evoo, s&p, and grilled lightly
1 mango, diced
1 avocado, diced,
a tablespoon or two of chopped red onion
a good handful of chopped fresh cilantro
homemade vinaigrette (I like Marie's at Proud Italian Cook) 

Dress the salad lightly, you don't want to mask the flavor party going on here.

{I'm thinking sweet cherry tomatoes would be a great sub for the mango!}

Zucchini and bell peppers 
became this over the top delicious entree:

Giada's Orzo Stuffed Peppers

1 (28-ounce) can Italian tomatoes (I used 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes and 1 15 oz can fire roasted tomatoes, undrained)
2 zucchini, grated
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves (this makes the dish -don't leave out!)
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 cup good extra-virgin olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chicken or veggie broth (I used a combo)
1 1/2 cups orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
6 sweet bell peppers (red or yellow)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Pour the tomatoes into a large bowl and break apart using a pair of kitchen shears or your finger tips (I just used the Vitamix, on very low speed).  Add the zucchini, mint, cheese, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.

Meanwhile, bring the chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the orzo and cook for 4 minutes. The orzo should be only partially cooked. Strain the orzo, reserving the broth.  Stir the orzo into the vegetable mix to combine. Transfer the warm chicken broth to a 3-quart baking dish.

Cut peppers in half length-wise and remove all ribs and seeds. Cut a very thin slice from the base to help the peppers stand up, if you need to.

Place the peppers in the baking dish with the warm chicken broth. Spoon the orzo mixture into the peppers. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle the top of each pepper with cheese and continue baking until the cheese is golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, carefully transfer the orzo stuffed pepper to a serving plate.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

WDW - Raw Chocolate Shake


A chocolate shake that's actually healthy?  Bring it on!

This shake is so amazingly delicious.  It's like a frappucino that got a successful, healthy makeover.  :-)

Here are the wonderful ingredients:

Raw milk.  I'm a raw milk lover.  Here's a little rundown on the differences between raw and pasteurized/homogenized milk.   You can certainly substitute another milk for the raw milk in this recipe, but keep in mind if you do then it probably won't be raw or as nutritious.  I buy Organic Pastures brand raw milk at Sprouts, and I've also seen it at Lassen's.   Each cup contains 8 g. of protein and 30% of my daily recommended calcium.   If you don't have access to raw milk, I would suggest homemade almond milk or diluted canned coconut milk for this recipe.

Frozen banana.  I always throw whole, unpeeled, overripe bananas into the freezer (I keep them in a Ziploc bag).  That way, when I need one for a smoothie, I simply grab one, run it under some warm water, then carefully cut off the peel and chunk it up.

Cacao Powder & Nibs. You can get the raw cacao products online, at Sprouts, or at Whole Foods.  Cacao is basically unroasted (uncooked) cocoa beans.  The powder is similar in texture to unsweetened cocoa powder.  The nibs remind me of finely chopped espresso beans.  Cacao is a top source of antioxidants, and contains an abundance of iron, magnesium, and calcium (so important for us women!), as well as many essential vitamins. 

And we all know that chocolate puts us in a good mood, right?  Actually, there is some science behind that -- cacao contains theobromine and phenylethylamine which are proven mood enhancers!  If more people ate chocolate, the world would be a much happier place. :-)  Start with this shake.

For one serving, in a Vitamix or strong blender add:

1 cup raw milk
1 rounded tablespoon each of cacao powder and cacao nibs
1 large frozen banana, cut into chunks
ice to desired consistency  (1/2- 1 cup)

I like to blend everything together except the cacao nibs, which I like to add in once everything is well-blended.  I like to keep a little texture in the smoothie, so I just blend the nibs slightly at the end. 

A touch of cinnamon or vanilla is really nice in this shake, too.  
I plan on making this shake a lot this summer!  I won't even feel guilty having it for lunch.

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Friday, June 14, 2013


Rich was so sweet to plan a little getaway for us to celebrate/recouperate the wedding being over and the Master's Kids year finishing.  And also a little late anniversary celebration since our anniversary fell two days before the wedding.  He booked us a couple nights at the Cambria Pines Lodge, a place we had been once before and loved.

On the way there, we stopped for lunch in Ventura at a little gem of a restaurant called Cafe Nouveau.  One of their specialties is this ahi-avocado roll.  It has rare ahi, avocado, and an amazing sauce, all wrapped up in a flour tortilla and deep fried. As you've probably figured out, I can never get enough ahi tuna!  Love the stuff.  I love that they serve the roll  beautifully presented on a bed of crisp sauteed veggies.


 We took our time getting up to Cambria.  It's such a beautiful drive.   Here's the front of the hotel - so cute and charming.  Our kind of place.


Panoramic shot below (Rich taught me how to do this on my iphone)



The grounds are beautiful and it is delightful to walk the gardens.

There are different types of rooms at the lodge.  We prefer the free standing cottages.  You get a large living room and bedroom, each with a fireplace, plus a large bathroom with an open tub to relax in. We also had our own private patio that had two adirondack chairs overlooking the rustic property.



There is a fantastic nursery nearby called Cambria Nursery.  It is a must-see!  There is a darling gift shop in a large house on the grounds,  plus the landscape is beautiful and inspiring.  We probably spent over an hour there.  It is just a short walk from the lodge.


Breakfast was included with our room.  For lunch we went to the Main Street Grill  which was highly recommended by my foodie friend, Alik.  She told me exactly what to order and we were not disappointed!  This salad that she raved about was very fresh and had pine nuts and a delish dressing.


Next, she said we had to try their dry rub beef ribs.  She warned us to get there early as they sell out.  Honestly, neither of us are really a fan of this kind of thing...kind of primal, you know?   But we obeyed her command.  Anyways, in the end we didn't leave a bit on these bones.  They were that good. 


But here was the show stopper: their tri tip sandwich, which came on a garlic bread bun (brilliant -YUM) and had a killer house barbecue sauce.   I, who usually view meat as a condiment to my meal, wolfed down a sizeable half of this fat sandwich.
Not that we were hungry or anything after that lunch, but a piece of Linn's olallieberry pie is always a good idea around 3:00 p.m.   We actually drove out to their original farm store (10 minutes down a windy country road) and enjoyed our mini-pie on the shaded patio with a view of all the olallieberry bushes.  Later that night, after dinner, Rich insisted we go to the Linn's restaurant in town for ANOTHER piece of pie.  Who was I to argue?  (It's that good!)

Cambria is such a great destination.  The town is ultra charming - you can peruse garden & antique shops, and they have some really great restaurants.  I highly recommend  Linn's and Robin's as great places for dinner.  And, you are just a hop, skip, and a jump from Hearst Castle and the breathtaking California coastline.  There are a lot of places you can choose to stop at on the way:  Ventura, Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, & Pismo Beach.

We hit Ventura on the way home for two last great food finds.  First, we went to a place our friend Kai has been telling us about, Snapper Jack's.   This place is money!  The fish tacos come in a crispy flour tortilla and their salsa bar is amazing.  We spent a mere $6 for lunch and it was awesome! 



Lastly... for me, no vacation is complete without a good ice cream cone.  And I mean a GOOD one.  It has to be super premium for me or it's not even worth it.  And it needs to be on a sugar cone. ;-)  Kai steered us rightly to McConnell's, also in Ventura, which was pure ice cream perfection. 



Brazilian coffee chip and vanilla coconut chocolate chip.  SO good.  They let you do a "split scoop" so you get two flavors.


Sadly, the whole time during our trip, a heavy gray cloud hung over us.  Our dear black lab, Olive, was sick when we left.  Hoping she would improve with meds, we left her to the care of Emma and Drew (who had just come in from his honeymoon).  Unfortunately, she got worse and worse, so we decided to cut our trip short to be back home with her.  She ended up passing away about 8 hours after we came home.  Originally, our vet thought she had some sort of infection (she had a high fever), but further tests showed an enlarged heart and a failing liver and the meds couldn't help that.  This seemingly came right out of the blue and she died just 5 short days after falling ill.  She had always been the picture of vibrant health and spunk.  She was even energetically playing fetch just the day before she got sick. 

Here is a photo of her sweet face just a few hours before we lost her.  What a sad little face.  :-(  How I cried and cried over this dog!  She was really the perfect dog- she loved us to pieces, was lots of fun, and never got into any trouble.   She was much loved and will be missed.  :-( 


I will always remember how much she loved her "beach vacation" in Carpinteria each year.

There is a dog friendly beach next to the campground and she loved to play in the waves!



Goodbye, sweet girl. :-(

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Saturday, June 8, 2013

The wedding pics are up!!


It is with great excitement that I announce that our amazing photographer Tracy Dodson has put up Drew and Stephanie's wedding pictures!

                                                       Click here to see them!

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

WDW - Seared Ahi Salad

We had this delicious salad in Maui a few years ago, and since then I've enjoyed recreating a variation of it at home.   If you love raw or seared ahi tuna as much as we do, you will love this salad!  Rich and I are head over heels in love with this salad.

I like to start with a butter lettuce or red leaf.   Then I add a variety of ingredients -  this time it was thin cucumber slices, mango chunks, strawberry slices, chives, and avocado.   I usually add candied walnuts, but I was out.   Fresh cilantro is really nice if you have some, and I like to use red bell peppers in place of the cucumbers sometimes.

The dressing is basically a variation of the Islands China Coast dressing recipe.  It is so amazingly tasty, but the bummer about it is that it contains mayo (soybean oil, blech).  I would love to find a way to make it without the mayo - so far I haven't been pleased with alternatives like yogurt or sour cream.  The original recipe calls for garlic powder but I kick it up with fresh garlic instead and fresh ginger which really makes it special.  Add a little wasabi powder or cayenne  if you like that kind of thing (I do).

The ahi couldn't be simpler.  I prefer to buy mine frozen from Sprouts.  It's very reasonable in price, wild caught, and always tastes very fresh.  All I do is rub the thawed fish with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.   You can also rub a jerk seasoning on the fish - that is how it was made in Hawaii and was awesome. I use a very hot cast iron skillet and just plop the fish in for a quick sear on each side, 1-2 minutes tops.  I just let the fish cool a bit, then slice or chunk with a very sharp knife.

Now that it's summer, I know we'll be eating main dish salads often.  This one will be in regular rotation!

Seared Ahi Salad
serves 2

6 cups salad greens
1/2 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced (or red bell pepper)
2 tbsp. chopped scallions or chives (thin red onion slices work well too)
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro (optional)
1 mango, cubed
4 large strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup candied walnuts or pecans
1 avocado, cubed
1 piece ahi tuna (about 1/2 lb.), seasoned with olive oil, salt and 
   pepper, seared 1-2 minutes in a hot pan, and sliced

Islands China Coast Salad Dressing (my variation)

1/3 cup Best Foods mayonnaise
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 garlic clove, minced

1-2 tsp. freshly grated ginger
a pinch of wasabi powder or cayenne pepper (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a small food processor. 

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