Sunday, August 23, 2015

Oodles of Zoodles with Avocado Basil Pesto and Farmer's Market Tomatoes


Are you in on the spiralizer craze?  With enough machines and gadgets in my kitchen, this is one craze I was going to let pass me by.  Who needs to clog up even more valuable counter space with another big gadget?

But after a spontaneous substitution of Zoodles (spiralized zucchini noodles) in place of pasta at a local restaurant, I'm unquestionably hooked.  Losing the pasta carbs and adding even more vegetables to my veggie dish was good enough, but the glorious texture of the par-cooked zucchini noodles pushed me over the edge.  I totally get the craze and I simply MUST have a spiralizer!

As timing often works when it needs to, days later OXO sent an offer to to try their new Hand-Held Spiralizer .  Hmmm... hand-held??  Not cluttered counter space?  And does the same job as one of those bulky spiralizer machines bringing glorious spiralized zucchini (and beets... would those be Boodles?  and carrots... Coodles?) with the twist of a hand?  If I didn't know better, I'd say OXO had read my mind.

Seriously only a few inches tall and with an equally small circumference (but perfectly sized for even large zucchini!), the OXO Hand-Held Spiralizer fits in my gadget drawer yet spiralizes like a workhorse.  Add to it the fact that the spiralizer is BPA-free AND dishwasher safe, and I think I just may have a new favorite gadget.

But would my family like spiralized foods as much as I do?  In a word... yes.  Well, except for the "Boodles" (beet noodles).  Apparently I am the only one with a taste for beets no matter the shape (I promise that recipe including beets, balsamic, goat cheese and sugared walnuts is coming for beet lovers like me!), so today we bring you a new family favorite... Zoodles with Avocado Basil Pesto and ripe summer tomatoes, a bowl of fabulousness bringing together many of our all time favorite ingredients (avocado anyone??  ;).

I'll admit it took a bit of convincing, but when a carb-loving kid hesitantly takes a bite of a dish filled with only vegetables, turns your directions and utters, "Glorious... simply glorious.", a mom can't help but smile.

Thanks also to OXO for making me smile and reading my mind to making my spiralizing dreams come true with the twist of a hand (and not clutter on my counter).  I see twirly carrots, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, beets etc,. etc., etc., in my future!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Grilled Corn California Mexican Quinoa


Grilled Corn California Mexican Quinoa

Homework... I thought it was a thing of the past.  But faced with an end of semester Spanish ll project including "creating a recipe with origins in a Spanish speaking country, photographing it and researching the ingredients" I volunteered to help when Liv needed to finish an ACT practice test.  (This has been the summer of extra "get-ahead" work for this girl...)  Recipes, photos and ingredient research, all kind of right up my alley.

Living in San Diego just 52 miles from the Mexican Border where Mexican food is akin to life itself, Mexico became our Spanish speaking country of choice.

Grilled Corn
Now for ingredients... corn?  Historians believe that people living in what we now call Central Mexico developed corn over 7,000 years ago.  Known as Maize, the corn didn't look, exactly as it does today, but the cobs with small kernels farther apart became a crop the Indians of South as well as North America heavily depended upon for much of their food.

As important as corn was to the indiginous Mexicans, so were beans, and you will find much of Mexican food based on these two ingredients.  Apparently neither food on it's own provides a full complement of amino acids needed for protein synthesis, however put the the two together they do.

More recently, cilantro and lime have become known a quintessential Mexican ingredients.  While they may not have thousands of years of history in the country, it's said that the conquistadors brought coriander seeds, cilantro, to Mexico in the 1500's.  And as for limes, Mexico has been the largest exporter of the fruit since at least the 1950's.


Next we have my beloved avocado.  Said to be a native of Mexico, the fruit is believed to have originated in the state of Puebla, Mexico where the oldest avocado artifacts have been found - dating back to 10,000 BC.  Today though, California produces over 90% of the cultivated avocado crop.

Grilled Corn California Mexican Quinoa
Jalapeño... it's name taken from the Jalapa, the capital city of Veracruz Mexico, the jalapeño is the most widely grown chili in the country and has a history dating back to the Aztecs who smoked the chiles to preserve them.

And lastly quinoa.  While not exactly from Mexico, quinoa originates from the mountains of Peru and Bolivia - which are both Spanish speaking countries and therefore fit our homework bill.

And there we have it.  A dish filled with modern and historical Mexican ingredients which are also popular in California and considered quintessential Mexican Cuisine.  Mix them all together and we simply have what I call "dinner".  The leftovers??  We call them "lunch".  My homework here is done.

Grilled Corn California Mexican Quinoa

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Coconut Lime Cashew Cream (Crema)


What's a taco without crema??  That luscious, creaminess that brings all the flavors together and also kills the heat when spice gets a little out of hand.

Crema became one of the most missed things when my son turned lactose intolerant, and for years we've just gone without.  But home for the summer, he asked if we could try to recreate one of his favorite recipesGrilled Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa, with some sort of dairy-free alternative.

My son's all time favorite dish... Grilled Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa
We've tried before, and while the tacos are always a treat, they just aren't the same without the crema.  I've stressed over the fact that I just haven't been able to come up with a satisfying dairy-free version, but turning to some of my favorite vegan books the time had come to give cashew cream a try.

Not one to always plan ahead I found a few recipes that didn't require soaking the cashews (so long as you have a handy dandy high powered blender - we have a Blendtec ).  

Following recipes including almond milk and cashews, the crema was okay.  Satisfactory in that it did the trick, brought that creaminess to the taco, but didn't add much else.

And then we tried coconut milk.  Oh my heavens!!  Beyond satisfactory, Coconut Lime Cashew Cream totally rocks!  A little tropical in flavor, but not overly coconutty, the coconut added a dimension that brought the whole taco together and had us spooning on just a little extra on, well, on everything.

Just a few ingredients and a blender and you're set... dairy-free lime crema that will leave your dairy eating friends totally jealous.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Strawberry Banana Popsicles (Shhh... no sugar added!)


Seems the rest of the country is turning to thoughts of back to school and fall, but here in San Diego summer is just getting going.  Our weather has been a bit strange this year bringing rain (a rare occurrence for us), heavy marine layers that hide the sun for days at a time, and cooler temps.  Until this week.

This morning I woke to a brilliant sun peeking over the horizon and temps already warmer than some of the highs from the past few weeks.  And with no air conditioning in our house, popsicles seemed a "cool" plan.

Serving double duty, these popsicles also served as temporary ice packs filled with fruit for my girl who underwent oral surgery yesterday.  Her somewhat confused teeth set a permanent tooth shooting horizontally low in her jaw and left  unchecked would have sheared off the roots of her front teeth.  Hence, the tooth needed to come out, and along with a bit of bone, she's now free of the rouge bicuspid and nursing a sore jaw.

As we know from my prior post (surgery has been all in the family this last week) the after effects of anesthesia and pain meds can be not so pleasant, hence the all fruit popsicle to reset my girl's tummy.

A simple recipe of bananas, strawberries, chia and a few splashes of oj, brought all of Liv's favorite ingredients together and packed the nutrition I was looking for.  Banana?  Filled with fiber bananas can help ease the uncomfortable after effects of narcotic pain meds, and acting as a prebiotic the fruits assist the growth of friendly gut bacteria which are wiped out by antibiotics.  Add in the fact that the high levels of vitamin B-6 can help reduce swelling and we have a real winner.

Next we have strawberries, rich in antioxidants, the Vitamin C in the berries gives the immune system a boost along with more fiber and their fabulous sweetness.

"Strawberries are the angels of the earth, innocent and sweet with leafy green wings reaching heavenward."
Jasmine Heiler
And next orange juice... also packed with that immune boosting Vitamin C, orange juice is said to help reduce inflammation and heck, it's also good for your heart.  A few splashes perk up any smoothie or popsicle and work as the perfect liquefying agent for our blend.

So here's to summer, fat lips and simply hanging by the pool.  Wishing you a happy and healthy day filled with balance and a little bit of chill.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Almond Butter Chia Protein Balls - Otherwise Known as Awesome Balls


Hospitals are no fun.  Unless you are coming home with a baby... but even then, the hospital part isn't so great.  And the food.  Seriously, they really expect you to get healthy on some the food they serve?

This week my 86-year old dad finally called Uncle and agreed with his orthopedic surgeon that the time had come for his knee replacement.  Dad is a tough guy and really hard to keep down, but anesthesia and he aren't best buddies.

Taking a little longer than others to expel the drugs from his system, yesterday's anesthesia brought waves of nausea to his otherwise very successful surgery.  For a man who never misses a meal (and yet he maintains a proper and fit weight), hospital food left a lot to be desired in his queasy state - they brought greasy meatloaf, butter slathered mashed potatoes with puddles of gravy and wished him Bon Appetit.  All a no-go in his book and he stuck with one Saltine cracker.

Concerned that his IV wasn't delivering enough nutrients and refusing the chilled bottle of Ensure purely based on the less than desirable ingredients, (sugar, salt and maltodextrin...??) I promised I'd bring healthy food.

He maintained he needed nutrition, not just calories, and I set to putting together something that brought a nutritional punch, helped with potential constipation issues due to pain meds** (see note below), but yet remained tolerable on the still slightly off tummy.

And with a few super foods and a medium sized bowl I created just the concoction.

Already a favorite, almond butter and maple syrup bring a tasty base that blends beautifully with rolled oats and flax.  Chia seeds add much needed potassium, magnesium, iron and calcium, and vanilla extract?  Well, that simply brings a taste of heaven to the mix.

Rolled into balls, these little bites pack the nutrition punch I was looking for, but it wasn't until my college boy arrived home from the gym and I ran down the protein profile for him that I discovered they are also irresistible.

Filling his summer days with hours at the gym, my son has morphed his body in ways I can reminisce about from my younger years.  Craving protein after his workouts he often turns to chicken, but touting my plant-based diet I've been teaching him plant-based protein sources and he's actually been listening.

Hearing almond butter, protein powder, oats and chia as I ran down my ingredient list he readily reached for one of the little balls topped with a tiny square of dark chocolate on top.  His eyes spoke before his words, and he proclaimed them "Awesome Balls" as I scampered to save a few for my dad.

Back to the hospital, the balls did indeed tempt Dad's appetite, and along with a bowl of organic blueberries and grapes he finally turned the corner and pushed those anesthesia meds from his system.

Seeing his roommate's eyes move from dad's Awesome Balls to his plate of chard and chicken we simply had to share, and my job was complete.  Moments later I left the two octogenarians chatting about their combined 122 years of marriage, heart surgeries and now new knee joints all while saying "Huh?" every few sentences as neither of them had their hearing aids in.

Funniest thing ever though, was walking out the door as the nurse entered and hearing the roommate say, "Hey... have you seen his Awesome Balls?"  Chuckling all the way to the car I think that night nurse had her hands full with those two.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Vegan Crispy Belgian Waffles with Flax and Vanilla


All I did was blink and July disappeared.  Busy weeks filled with family events sped by with lightening speed, and while we've enjoyed time together those leisurely days of sleeping in with no schedule just haven't materialized.  Until today.

With the first completely unscheduled day of summer upon us, my thoughts drifted to waffles.  Lonely in the cabinet, my Belgian Waffle Maker hadn't seen the light of day since the holidays and deserved a work out.

Assembling ingredients from the pantry I eased up on the "health" facet for these waffles in favor of a sort of "healthy summer treat".  Using my everyday recipe as a base, I increased the white flour/whole grain ratio to a higher white content.  I also added additional oil to bring extra crispness, and of course poured a generous splash of our beloved vanilla extract.  Unable to help myself chia and flax found their way into the mix as did a small handful of rolled oats.  But these additions only served to add additional nutrients in addition to increasing that creamy center that makes Belgian Waffles so special.

Watching my summer bikini figure (insert crying/laughing face emoji here), I promised myself I'd only take a quarter triangle... simply for tasting purposes, of course.  But here's were my self control (it's not known for it's strength anyway) completely disappeared.

A fan of crispy waffles, these are the first Belgian Waffles with baking powder (as opposed to the plan ahead yeasted versions) that have crisped to perfection.  Perfectly crispy on the outside and lightly creamy on the inside, the texture made them irresistible.  Add the exotic vanilla flavor and you can throw all willpower out the window.

Wafting waffle aromas filled the house, and as I knew it would it drew my sleepy teens to the kitchen.  Bleary eyed and hungry, comments of "Oh wow... these are awesome!" filled my heart.  Even my son, a man of very few words and not much of a breakfast eater, mentioned he wouldn't mind if we had these waffles every day till he leaves for summer school next week.  Apparently the UCSB dining commons doesn't serve waffles like Mom.  Yes... he still needs me.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Coconut Vanilla Bean Ice Cream ... #dairyfree

Coconut Vanilla Bean Ice Cream ...  #dairyfree

Personally, ice cream is not my favorite dessert.  But apparently it is for lots of other people, including my severely lactose-intolerant son.  Hence, when he became lactose intolerant years ago, ice cream became one of those forbidden things he missed the most.

We've tried varying dairy-free versions in the stores, but many come with funky textures and off flavors. He's found a few that are "Okay", but nothing that really makes him happy like the real thing.

Coconut Vanilla Bean Ice Cream ...  #dairyfree
Today though, we've come darn close with this dreamy coconut concoction!!  Silky smooth with the texture of traditional heavy cream, coconut milk brings a lovely tropical flavor to the mix.  Vanilla beans as well as extract lend a double dose of fragrant vanilla flavors, and mixed with the coconut milk become a dynamic duo of flavor perfection.

Garnering a rare "8" on his happy scale his only complaint was "It's too rich... I can't eat a big bowl of it".  Apparently his years away from heavy cream has changed his preference.  Next up we're going to give a lower fat version a go, but I'm afraid we may lose some of the silky, ultra cream texture that makes this one so special.
With a little planning ahead, you can be true ice cream hero to your ice cream lover!  While my son may have found slightly rich for his taste, Liv and her friends as well as my son's own girlfriend had no issues polishing off big bowls of their own.  Girls, apparently can handle rich :)

Dairy-free ice cream that tastes real??  We've got you covered.  Enjoy!

Coconut Vanilla Bean Ice Cream ...  #dairyfree

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