Vegetarian

Quick & Easy Blood Orange-sicles

Here’s an easy treat that you’ll love, with the warm summer days coming up. I found a couple of blood oranges last week, so I bought them, mainly because I know their season is about over. With the past fews days being so humid here, I thought it might be good to make something frozen and refreshing.

I’ve already made gelato from the last batch, so you have to figure that I came up with something new, or else I wouldn’t be here. I just had to think of what ingredient would go well with them. Since I only had two oranges, I wouldn’t have enough to squeeze one into a frozen dessert. I thought of using just regular oranges to make juice, but I really wanted to keep the blood orange theme going throughout. That’s when I thought of using gourmet blood orange soda.

San Pellegrino blood orange soda

San Pellegrino blood orange soda

This is the one. Of course, another would be just fine.

 

You only need one can

You only need one can

 

Just 2 ingredients and a popsicle mold & 4 popsicle sticks:

1 can blood orange soda
1 blood orange

That’s it!

Simply pour the soda into the molds, leaving about an inch and a half from the top.

Slice the oranges thin

Slice the oranges thin

 

Cut the blood oranges into thin slices.

 

They almost look like stained glass

They almost look like stained glass

The slices look really pretty held up to the light.

 

Add a couple of slices of blood orange into the mold. Put into the freezer for about 45 minutes.

Take the mold out of the freezer and poke the popsicle sticks into the slushy soda…. they should stand up by themselves. Freeze for another 4 hours or so, until completely frozen. Serve.

The orange slices look so pretty

The orange slices look so pretty

What could be simpler!

 

his makes a great afternoon treat

his makes a great afternoon treat

They are also impressive enough to serve to a guest.

 

So refreshing and not too sweet

So refreshing and not too sweet

Enjoy and happy summer!

 

Vietnamese Food, Anyone?

Chayote

Chayote~ they come in white and green

We have a real passion for Vietnamese food, in this house. Usually, we go out to eat it, and if we’re hungry and there happens to be a pho house around, we are almost sure to go in and try it. We usually order the same thing too, just so we can compare and contrast. I go for the green papaya salad, and Monty goes for lemon grass chicken or shrimp vermicelli. We have a couple of favorite places, such as Super Pho, which is one of our favorites. Let me show you a few examples:

Summer rolls are de rigueur for appetizers

Summer rolls are de rigueur for appetizers

I have a real passion for peanut sauce, too.

 

The best green papaya salad… how I love it

The best green papaya salad… how I love it

 

Lemon grass shrimp… get those chopsticks ready

Lemon grass shrimp… get those chopsticks ready

 

As you can see, all of this food looks super-light, healthy and refreshing. Now that you understand that we have a passion for this cuisine, you’ll understand why I’d be interested in learning a bit about learning how to cook some of this, myself.

I’m very lucky in this, on two counts. The first count is that Monty works with someone who grows chayote on his property, and last year he gave us a few. I had no idea what to do with it, so I ended up making a Mexican-stye soup with it. (Chayote sounds Mexican, doesn’t it?) Well, I did learn something, after I cooked that, and here’s where the second count of luck comes in.

I have a very, dear Vietnamese friend name Jess. When she saw my post last year, she got excited because her mom used to make chayote for her—so in her eyes, it’s comfort food! As I’ve found out, it is Mexican, but as it turns out, it is also very popular in Asian cuisine. The good about this food is that it’s very low in fat, cholesterol and sodium. It’s also a good source of niacin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, magnesium and potassium, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, zinc, copper and manganese. That’s a lot of nutrition for a little squash! There isn’t much of a bad about this food, except that it excretes a sticky substance while peeling it,  that can feel a bit odd… almost like the feeling of superglue. The sensation can last a few hours, but I promise that it’s harmless.

Now, I’ll give you another warning: This recipe is not hard and fast, which means if you want to try this, you’ll need a brave heart. I did make this last week for dinner, mainly because I wanted to get a feel for the recipe. Jess tells me that the usual ratio is 2 chayote/1 egg. I was hungry for eggs so I used 2 chayote/2eggs… no regrets here! Today, I made it for lunch, and I truly enjoyed it. It’s very easy to throw together, and delicious. Another warning to the brave: this recipe uses fish sauce. A lot of people are put off by the smell when they first open a bottle, but I promise you that it won’t taste like you think it will. Fish sauce is a very common ingredient in Vietnamese, Thai and Filipino cuisines. Adding the lime and sugar to the condiment really changes the flavor, and give it the “umami” flavor that is so treasured in these recipes.

What I will do is give you the measurements that I used today for lunch. It was all I ate, so consider this two portions, if you are serving something else with it, such as rice or a salad.

Very few ingredients are needed for this

Very few ingredients are needed for this

What you’ll need:

1 Tablespoon cooking oil (I used olive)
3-4 green onions, chopped into long pieces about 2 inches long (you’ll want to use the green ends)
2 chayote, peeled and ends chopped off and discarded (you’ll want to discard the seed, too)
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
¼ teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed  lime juice
2 eggs
Freshly ground black pepper

Prep the fish sauce condiment to have it ready. Simply mix the fish sauce, lime and sugar in a small bowl.

Slice the chayote

Slice the chayote

Slice the peeled and seeded chayote.

 

Add the chayote to the green onions

Add the chayote to the green onions

Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the green onions for a minute or so, then add in the chayote and allow to cook. I liked mine just when it became soft. Add in the fish sauce/sugar/lime condiment and continue to cook for another minute.

 

Add eggs

Add eggs

Drop the eggs in, one at a time.

 

Stir the eggs into the chayote

Stir the eggs into the chayote

Stir the eggs into the chayote and cook stirring, until the whites become solid.

 

Add pepper

Add pepper

When eggs are cooked, add pepper and serve.

 

Serve

Serve

What could be simpler?

 

Makes an easy lunch

Makes an easy lunch

This makes a super, easy lunch or a nice, light supper.

 

Bon appétit!

Bon appétit!

Bon appétit, and thank you, Jess!

 

 

A Taste of India for Meatless Monday

Dal for "Meatless Monday"

Dal for “Meatless Monday”

I’d been thinking pretty strongly of going back to doing “Meatless Mondays,’ mainly because I’m up for another knee surgery. I figure since I have the time to do it, why not get as healthy as possible? Yes, I will have my transgressions, but I am already upping my veggie intake, and plan on finding healthier options for other foods, between now and the next couple of months.

One of the things that I tried a couple of months ago, that I really wanted to try again is red dal. Dal is a split lentil, and a stew is usually made with them, seasoned accordingly to whatever South Asian country they are made in. The last time I made it, I used yellow split peas, and since then, I’ve heard that the flavor is much better using the real thing.

One of the really good things about this recipe is that it’s easy enough for a week night. It comes together very easily, and cooks quickly. It is also very high in nutrients and fiber.

Red dal lentils, turmeric and Bengali Five Spice

Red dal lentils, turmeric and Bengali Five Spice

I really feel like I’ve scored, since I live very close to a store that sells Indian goods and groceries. I had the pleasure of walking in there recently and finding an incredible array of foods I’d never seen before, especially since they also sell a lot of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods. I took a good walk around the shop, nonchalantly looking for the Bengali Five Spice that I was seeking, and realized that I would just have to ask for it. Well of course, it’s known by another name: Paunchpuran. The owner led me to its spot on the shelf.

Paunchpuran is a mix of nigella sativa, cumin, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds and fennel seeds. I have no idea what the ratios are of any of these ingredients to make up this spice mix, so I was quite happy to be able to find it. He also had to lead me to the red dal, and I was also thrilled that he had it available.

While I was in the store, there was a couple shopping, and as I got in line, the man asked me what I was making with the Bengali Five Spice. I told him I was going to attempt making red dal. He smiled and told me that he was from Bengal, and that I would love it. So nice to have such encouragement!

Getting home, I opened the bags of my new goodies. The dal has an aroma like no lentil I’ve even come upon, and the Panchpuran has a delightfully pungent smell.

If you’d like to try this, this is what you’ll need:

1 cup red lentils
3 cups water
3 plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 medium white onion, (yellow will do) finely chopped
1/2 cup carrots, finely diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 teaspoons Bengali Five Spice mix
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
juice of 1 lime
cilantro, stemmed and chopped for garnish

———————————————————–

Drain the dal, after rinsing

Drain the dal, after rinsing

Rinse the dal in a sieve and rinse thoroughly with water. Set aside.

In a lage pan, sauté the chopped onion in the coconut oil, until it’s tender and translucent. Add in the chopped carrot and cook for about 5 minutes. Next, add pressed garlic and cook for another minute. Add the Bengali Five Spice, stirring to combine and cook that addition, for about 5 minutes.

Add the water, the dal and the bay leaf and bring to a boil. Allow to gently simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Score the tomatoes

Score the tomatoes

While the dal is simmering, prepare the tomatoes by peeling them. This keeps people from getting those obnoxious little bits of rolled up tomato skin in their teeth. There is an easy method of doing this. Put a small pan of water on to boil. Cut off the core end of the tomato, score the skin in a couple of places, then plunge the tomatoes (I do them one by one) into the boiling water for about a minute. Then pull them out and allow them to cool slightly.

The skins will peel right off

The skins will peel right off

Voilà! The skin comes off super easily.

 

Add the tomatoes, turmeric and lime at the end

Add the tomatoes, turmeric and lime at the end

Maybe 15 minutes before it’s ready to serve, add in the turmeric, lime juice and tomatoes. Salt to taste.

 

Serve, and get your India on!

Serve, and get your India on!

This goes well served with naan bread or jasmine rice.

 

We like this with naan bread

We like this with naan bread

 

Garnish with a sprinkling of cilantro

Garnish with a sprinkling of cilantro

This recipe is also easily doubled, and I did just that, because I know there is a real lentil lover in the house. It makes great leftovers for lunch, too!

 

Bring on the marigolds!

Bring on the marigolds!

 

Frozen Watermelon-Strawberry Pops for the Coming “Dog Days”

The “dog days” of Summer are almost here, and we’re all sure to be hot and in need of some humor. Here’s a treat that will not only refresh and rehydrate, but it also has a lot of visual appeal for kids and adults, alike.  The visual part makes a real, fruit popsicle look like a watermelon. These will take a little bit more time than simple frozen fruit juice in a mold because of the different layers, but a little bit of extra delight seems worth it, to me. One of the nicest things about these pops, is the fact that the contain no added sugar. For once, hears a treat that’s truly healthy!

Summer refreshers

Summer refreshers

You'll also need mini chocolate chips, coconut, popsicle molds and sticks

You’ll also need mini chocolate chips, coconut, popsicle molds and sticks

The following makes 8 watermelon pops, but this is easily halved. You’ll need:

2 cups of watermelon chunks

6 strawberries, hulled and quartered

2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips (we want these to look like watermelon seeds)

½ cup coconut water

4 teaspoons (approximately)  flaked coconut (I’m using and unsweetened, reduced fat, organic coconut)

2 kiwi fruits

 

You’ll also need popsicle molds, popsicle sticks, aluminum foil, and an immersion blender.

Put the watermelon and strawberries together into a bowl

Put the watermelon and strawberries together into a bowl

Remove the black seeds from the watermelon and place the chunks into a medium bowl along with the strawberries.

Purée with a blender

Purée with a blender

Process with an immersion blender, until all the chunks are liquified.

Pour into molds

Pour into molds

Pour the mixture into the molds, leaving abut an inch from the top of each mold.

Cover with foil and poke the sticks through

Cover with foil and poke the sticks through

Wrap the tops of the molds with foil and poke the popsicle sticks through the center. Put the molds into the freezer, pulling them out after an hour to an hour and a half, or so. You may need to check a couple of times. (The mixture should be slushy, but not frozen solid).

Add 1/2 teaspoon of chocolate chips to each mold

Add 1/2 teaspoon of chocolate chips to each mold

When it reaches that point, add a ½ teaspoon of the mini chocolate chips into each mold, and gently stir them around with the stick. The mixture should be slushy enough that the sticks won’t need the foil.

Straighten the sticks in the molds

Straighten the sticks in the molds

Straighten the sticks and put the molds back into the freezer until they are frozen solid.

Next step is to make the “white layer” of the rind. This will be a thin layer made up of the coconut water with ground coconut mixed in it.

Coconut water & coconut

Coconut water & coconut

I poured the coconut water into a lipped measuring cup, to make it easier, but really any small bowl will do. You can use any brand you like, and I chose the one with the tiki on it.

This is the "white layer" of the rind

This is the “white layer” of the rind

Spoon a tablespoon of the coconut water into the top of each of the molds. Then spoon a half teaspoonful of dried coconut into the water in the mold. With the tip of a knife or another popsicle stick, carefully distribute the coconut in the water. When all molds are done, place back into the freezer until that layer is frozen, too.

The last step will be the “green layer” of the rind.

Spoon out the kiwi into a bowl

Spoon out the kiwi into a bowl

Cut the kiwi in half, remove the white core with a knife, and scoop the pulp into a small bowl or cup with a spoon.

Mash the kiwi with a fork

Mash the kiwi with a fork

Mash the kiwi with a fork, removing the lumps as much a possible.

Fill the last part of the mold cavity

Fill the last part of the mold cavity

Continue until all are filled

Continue until all are filled

Spoon the kiwi into the top portion of the mold, continuing until all molds are filled.

Freeze one more time

Freeze one more time

Freeze the pops until the kiwi is firm, then cover tops with aluminum foil until ready to serve. This will help them from drying out and getting freezer burn.

Serve. These are great on a hot, summer afternoon!

Delightful to the eye, as well as the taste!

Delightful to the eye, as well as the taste!

 

Truly healthy and natural

Truly healthy and natural

 

Imagine them at your next pool party…

Can you resist?

Can you resist?

 

 

A Great Stuffing for a Giant Zucchini

I love zucchini. I have a lot of memories of eating it fresh from the garden, because my grandmother grew it in her backyard.  It is a favorite summer veggie, because it’s plentiful, easy to fix and nutritious. Here’s a fun and delicious side dish, using the beautiful zucchini that is showing up now at the farmers markets. In fact, we got a really big one last Saturday.

BIG zucchini

BIG zucchini

This recipe serves 6, and that’s what the ingredient list is geared for, (especially if you’re having guests for dinner, and this recipe is perfect for that) but I cut it down just for the two of us. If you like Italian food, this recipe is well worth a try.

3 large zucchini, cut in half lengthwise

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup chopped onion

3 cloves garlic, minced

8 oz. baby bella or white mushrooms, chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

2 cups bread crumbs

1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

¼ cup parsley, chopped fine

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

1½ cups Parmesan cheese, divided (or any Italian cheese)

½ teaspoon salt

———————————————————————————————————————————

Preheat oven to 350º F. Lightly grease (or spray with cooking spray) a 15-x-11-inch baking dish.

Make a boat by scooping out the inside

Make a boat by scooping out the inside

Using a melon baller or a spoon, remove pulp from zucchini, leaving a ¼-inch thick shell. It helps to carefully score around the circumference of the zucchini with a knife, before spooning out the pulp. Place zucchini “boats,” cut-side up in a prepared baking dish, and set aside.

Chop the zucchini "scoopings"

Chop the zucchini “scoopings”

Finely chop the zucchini pulp. In large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and zucchini pulp; cook for 15 minutes, or until zucchini is tender and most of the liquid has evaporated.

Chop mushrooms and bell pepper

Chop mushrooms and bell pepper

Combine mushrooms and peppers with zucchini mixture

Combine mushrooms and peppers with zucchini mixture

Add mushrooms and bell pepper; cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add bread crumbs, 1 cup of the cheese, sour cream or yogurt, thyme, parsley and salt, stirring to combine.

Stuff the "boats"

Stuff the “boats”

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Divide mixture among zucchini shells, making smooth, rounded mounds. Bake for 30 minutes.

Sprinkle with remaining  cup of cheese. Return to oven and bake for another 5 minutes.

Serve

Serve!

Stuffed zucchini

Stuffed zucchini

Great served with pasta

Great served with pasta

Serves 6.