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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Creamy Peach Pops


While peaches are still in season, make these simple summer popsicles. They're just peaches and cream, so be sure to use the freshest, ripest organic peaches you can find and unsweetened organic or grass-fed cream.

This recipe makes four 8-ounce popsicles:

2 large organic peaches, perfectly ripe, about 2 cups diced
Unsweetened grass-fed or organic cream, about 1/2 cup

Clean and dice the peaches, then add them to a 2-cup glass measurer. Pour enough cream, about a half cup,  over the peaches to fill the liquid level up to 1¾ cup.

Transfer the peaches and cream to a blender and puree until smooth. (Add a bit more cream if necessary to blend.)

Pour the peach mixture into BPA-free popsicle molds and freeze for 2 hours or more.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Simple Summer Chopped Salad


This summer salad is a simple composition of bite-sized vegetables. I used what caught my eye at the farmers' market: cauliflower, white corn, red bell peppers, red onion and scallions. I also used a small bit of local honey in the vinaigrette.

Feel free to use whatever vegetables are in season for you. Grilled summer squash, or steamed string beans would also be good.

This is a good salad to make ahead and keep in the fridge. Preparing it in advance gives the flavors time to marry and makes meal time easy. If you wish, make extra vinaigrette and keep the excess for other salads. It will last in the fridge for a few weeks.

Simple French Vinaigrette

3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 to 2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
Pinch sea salt
Ground peppercorn to taste
4 to 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients except the olive oil until well-combined. Allow it to sit for a few minutes if you have time, for the garlic to soften and the honey to fully dissolve.

Whisk in 4 tbsp olive oil, until smooth, and taste. Add more olive oil if you wish and adjust the seasoning if needed.

To make the salad:

The individual components of this salad are made in advance, then everything is mixed together. I usually roast the red pepper and steam the vegetables while I'm in the kitchen doing something else. Roasting peppers in advance makes them so easy to peel. Just cut them in half and use clean fingers to rip out the core and seeds. Place the halves cut-side down on a baking pan and broil until blackened. Cool and store them cut-side up in the fridge until ready to use. Excess liquid will pool at the bottom, loosening the skin from the flesh and allowing you to pull it easily off.

2 cups steamed cauliflower florets
2 large cobs corn, steamed and kernels cut off (about 2 cups)
1 red bell pepper, roasted
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions, both white and green parts
Oregano, parsley or other fresh herb to garnish

To the big bowl with the vinaigrette inside, add the cauliflower, corn, red pepper, red onion and scallions. Toss everything together until the vegetables are evenly coated with the vinaigrette. Cover and transfer to the fridge.

To serve, toss again and taste for seasoning. Adjust it if necessary, then toss in some fresh oregano leaves or chopped fresh parsley. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with more fresh herbs.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Summer Quesadillas

Who doesn't love a good quesadilla?

I avoid ordering them in restaurants because they're made mostly of white flour and cheese. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of cheese, but I also want vegetables and protein. 

Made at home, I can add as many vegetables and as much protein as I like. This recipe calls for summer squash, scallions, black beans, aged cheddar and cilantro (perfect for Meatless Mondays).

You can use whatever you find fresh at the farmer's market or in your CSA. Creative combinations of vegetables, protein, cheese and fresh herbs can satisfy vegetarians and omnivores alike: 
  • Spinach, mushrooms, crumbled tempeh, sheep's milk feta and thyme
  • Tomatoes, Swiss chard, shredded chicken, Parmesan and oregano
  • Red pepper, eggplant, ground lamb, goat cheese and basil
Home-made quesadillas are also healthier when made with whole grain tortillas. For this recipe I used Whole Grain Flour Tortillas from Trader Joe's:

Because each whole grain tortilla contains 5 grams of fiber and 
4 grams of protein, they'll have more favorable effects on blood sugar and insulin levels compared to white flour tortillas. 

(Diets high in refined carbohydrates like white flour and chronically elevated levels of blood sugar and insulin increase the risk for diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer.)

I wanted to add a smoky heat to my quesadilla, so I added ground chipotle pepper (a smoked jalapeno). You can substitute a fresh chili pepper if you want (remove the seeds for a milder heat) or leave it out completely.

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
1 medium summer squash, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground peppercorn to taste
Freshly ground dried chipotle pepper, to taste (optional)
4 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1 cup cooked black beans
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
1 handful of fresh cilantro, or substitute parsley
4 whole grain tortillas
Plenty of shredded cheese
Salsa to serve
Organic whole milk plain yogurt to serve

Warm the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the summer squash and season with sea salt and ground peppercorn. Sauté the squash until they are soft and starting to brown, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chipotle, scallion and black beans. Sauté for 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic and cilantro. Cook for one more minute, until the garlic becomes aromatic. Turn off the heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

In a clean, dry skillet over low heat, warm the tortillas briefly on each side. Pile the filling on half of each warm tortilla: shredded cheddar, the summer squash mixture, then more cheese. Fold the empty half over the filled half and fill the other tortillas. Place the quesadillas inside dry skillets over medium heat and cover. Warm them until the cheese is melted, about 2 or 3 minutes on each side. 

Cut each quesadilla in half and serve immediately with salsa and a dollop of whole milk yogurt, if desired.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Strawberry Creamsicles


Cool off with these simple summer popsicles. Strawberries full of antioxidants, making them a good summer treat. An antioxidant-rich diet can help counteract the oxidizing effects of the sun. And some antioxidants, like the flavonols found in cocoa powder, have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke and cancer.

I happened to have a lot of very ripe strawberries on hand, so they went into this recipe. You can use whatever fruit you like, as long as it is very ripe: peaches, apricots, raspberries, blueberries, melon, etc. (In a pinch or out of season, you could substitute frozen, thawed organic strawberries.)

The honey in this recipe is optional. Taste the fruit and yogurt blended together before you decide whether to use it. (Unsweetened foods are always better, but if you're going to sweeten something, honey is a good choice).

If you don't eat dairy, substitute hemp, almond or coconut milk (or a mixture) for the yogurt. If you'd prefer a non-creamy pop, use herbal tea instead. Hibisus, rose hip, peppermint and chamomile teas would all work well.

To make four 8-ounce creamsicles:

2 cups hulled and roughly chopped very ripe organic strawberries
Whole milk plain yogurt, about 1/2 cup
1 tbsp honey (optional)

Place the chopped strawberries in a 2-cup measurer.

Stir in enough yogurt to fill in the gaps. The mixture should measure 2 cups.

Transfer the yogurt and berries to a blender. Purée until smooth and taste for sweetness. If desired, add the honey and blend again.

Pour the mixture into BPA-free popsicle molds and freeze for 2 hours or more.