Summer’s Bounty

Allie

Look the backyard vegetable garden my Mr. put together earlier this season:

Isn’t it a work of art?  I am so very proud of his hard work.  Out here in the boonies, (where I grew up and now find myself again), vegetable gardens are a common sight in most backyards.  Nevertheless, I’m thoroughly impressed with the farming skills of my rather citified husband…

Even if you don’t have a backyard vegetable garden, delicious summer fruits and vegetables are hard to miss right now.  Supermarkets, farmers markets, and roadside stands bursting with fresh produce seem to be everywhere you look.  Take advantage of the best summer has to offer, with an easy summertime classic that’s so simple to prepare, you don’t even need to cook it!

Who doesn’t enjoy a cool, refreshing bowl of fresh gazpacho?  I’ve liked it as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until I tasted the real deal, on my honeymoon in Spain, that I truly fell in love.

Most of the gazpacho I had tried up until that point was a lot like a soupy salsa.  Lots of chunky veg blended together and served cold.  Nice.  But true Gazpacho Andaluz is a completely different animal.  Velvety smooth, pale in color, and so rich and creamy you almost can’t believe it’s completely free of dairy.

Allie’s Gazpacho Andaluz

3-4 baguette slices
1/2 cup water
1 cucumber
2 large, ripe tomatoes
1/2 red bell pepper
3 scallions, green part only
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon agave nectar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (not garlic salt)

Start by trimming off and discarding the crusts of the bread.  Soak the bread in water.

While that’s soaking, peel your cucumber and halve it lengthways.  Scoop out the seeds with a spoon.

Cut the tomatoes into quarters, remove the core, and squeeze the seeds out.  This really isn’t as difficult as it maybe sounds.  I just run my thumb inside all the little tomato crevices and squish the seeds out.

Now just hack the bell pepper and the scallions up a bit, and throw all the veg into the bowl of the blender.

Scoop up the soggy bread, squoosh out all the excess water, (there’s a lot of squooshing going on in this recipe), and throw that into the blender too.  You can also add in the olive oil, bready water, sherry vinegar, salt, agave, and garlic powder.  (I like garlic powder because to me it’s a little less sharp than raw garlic.)

Let it buzz for a good long time, so it gets nice and smooth.

Set up a strainer over a big bowl.  I especially like the kind with the pour spout, so you won’t even have to dirty up a ladle.  I get pretty lazy when it’s hot outside…

Pour in the soup and let it strain.  You can speed up the process by stirring it around in the strainer.

Serve it mercifully cold and garnish as you wish!  (I’ve used some sliced scallions and a dribble of olive oil.)

Here is a 4×6″ printable recipe card for you:  Gazpacho Andaluz Recipe Card, but please just use it as a rough guide.  You can use as much or as little of any ingredient as you like.  You can even swap out ingredients!  And, as for the seasonings (salt, agave, and vinegar), you really just want to taste and decide for yourself.  A lot will depend on the produce you begin with.

Do you like to grow your own food?  What is your favorite seasonal summer ingredient?  How do you like to put your bumper crop to use?  Are you feeling pretty lazy these days, too?  I’m hoping nobody drops by unexpectedly and sees the layer of dust that is accumulating… if so maybe I can distract them with a nice cold bowl of soup.

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Give Your Oven the Night Off!

Here is a seasonal, refreshing, and delicious meal for a hot summer evening!  With a little tweak for the kiddos, this one can be a home run for the whole family!  And you don’t even have to use your stove or oven!

The first time I heard about a watermelon salad, I thought it seemed like an odd combination of flavors.  But after one bite, it all made sense.  So delicious!  And, this type of preparation has actually been around forever in the Mediterranean part of the world.  Those Mediterraneans sure know what works when it comes to food!

Watermelon Salad with Grilled Shrimp
(serves 2 adults and 2 small children)

1 pound uncooked jumbo shrimp
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 seedless watermelon
1 pint grape tomatoes
4 oz. crumbled feta (I like the goats’ milk kind)
bunch of fresh mint
about 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lime

Another thing I love about this recipe is that it’s so quick to prepare, and, besides the plates and forks you ate off of, you’ll only end up with a cutting board, one knife, and one bowl to clean.

Start by peeling the shrimp, and placing them in a bowl with about a tablespoon of olive oil, the chili powder, the garlic powder, and a bit of salt and pepper.  Toss them around to coat, and pop them in the fridge while you go preheat the barbecue.

While the shrimp are marinating, and the grill is warming up, you can slice the watermelon into thick wedges.

Take out four wedges, for the grownup plates, remove the rind, and cut them into cubes.  Divide them between two plates.

The remaining wedges are for the kiddies.  I can’t explain it, but for my kids, watermelon is not watermelon unless it is in triangle form…

Now halve the grape tomatoes.  Tumble a few handfuls over the watermelon cubes, for the grownups, and into neat piles alongside the watermelon triangles for the kids.  (Woe be unto the parent who allows tomato and watermelon to touch on a kid’s plate.)

Crumble feta over the tomatoes and watermelon on the grownup plate.  I omitted the feta for my kids…

Top each of the grownup plates with about two tablespoons of fresh mint, roughly chopped or torn…

…my kids are green-phobic so this was also omitted for them.

Pop the plates in the fridge to keep everything good and cold while you go grill the shrimp.

On a very hot grill, shrimp will only take about three minutes on the first side, and another one minute on the other.  Don’t overcook them!  They will get rubbery and dry.  You want some good char marks on them but they should still be juicy.

Chop a few shrimp into bites for the little ones, and top the grownups’ salads with the rest. Now grownups each get a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of tangy lime.  Enjoy!  Easy!

Meal Planning – Sigh.

It took a lot of discipline for me to plan the next week’s dinners today.  It’s so gorgeous outside.  Fridays I’m off and the kids don’t go to daycare, and it’s all I can do to stop myself from lounging around all day in my sweats while the kids destroy our home.  But, this is the only day I’m able to go to the store, and if I don’t do it relatively early in the day, it haunts me and I can’t enjoy myself.

I’d like to thank the good friends who came to Brooke’s birthday party over the weekend and gave us beautiful presents.  Those presents came in handy while I was writing this post!

He’s not afraid to draw dresses with pink crayon!

Making a pretty bead necklace.

Also, a very big thank you to the makers of Pirate’s Booty for giving me a laugh.

I am very mature.

‘So here’s what we’re eating!  You may notice there’s some cheese in the plans.  That’s right, I’m eating dairy again.  I have my reasons, which aren’t that I couldn’t live without it.  It’s that I just started having a gut feeling that dairy was not the problem.  I plan on going into more detail about that later.  For now, I need to get to the store.

Meal Planning – Kid Food!

Today is my Brookie’s 5th birthday!  Most people would say 5 years flew by, but I think it felt like 5 years.  Brooke is a beautiful fairy sprite, and I am completely head over heels in love with her.  She came into this world and completely turned mine upside down.  Being her mom has taught me so much about patience, and for that I am truly grateful.  I look at Brooke, and I see pure joy, love and wonder in her eyes.  If everyone took a page out of her book, the world would be a truly magical place.

On that note, in honor of my sweet girl, I dub this week Kid Food Week.  Every dinner will be easy, and kid friendly, hurray!!!

Gluten-Free Carb Fix

Recently, I was given a new recipe to try, by a sweet friend who works at my boys’ preschool.  It was for a garbanzo bean pancake, which, (sorry, sweet friend), sounded completely unappealing to me.  However, sweet friend has a very Frenchy last name, and she told me that the recipe is from France.  This tidbit caused me to do a complete 180, as I am a total food snob (not proud of this).

Sweet friend/French schoolmistress explained that the garbanzo bean pancake is called “socca” by her French peeps, and her family particularly loves it because she and one of her children suffer from multiple food intolerances.  “Socca” is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and vegan.

The recipe she offered me was blessedly simple and left a lot open for creativity.  I’m not sure if I prepared it the same way French schoolmistress does it for her family, but my socca was delicious; crisp and golden around the edges with a fluffy-creamy, warm interior.

Garbanzo-Bean Pancake/Socca
(serves one, doubles easily)

1/2 cup garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour
1/2 cup water
Spices/Herbs to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk the water into the bean-flour and add in the seasonings.  French schoolmistress advised me to use garlic, onion powder, rosemary, salt, and pepper.  I did not have any rosemary on hand, so I used what I had and improvised, to delicious result, in the herb department.  More on that later…

The batter will be the consistency of heavy cream.  It needs to sit and meld for about 30 minutes, so, after about ten, turn the oven to 425 degrees to preheat.  Once the oven is hot, drizzle some olive oil into a heat-safe skillet.  I used cast iron.  Put that in the oven for about ten minutes so it can get smoking hot.  This will help your socca to get nice and crisp on the bottom.

Pour the batter into the hot pan and swirl.  Bake for 12 minutes, brush a little more oil on top, and then broil for one more minute.

Now back to my herb issue.  I figured the herbs were probably an important part of the recipe, but all I had was parsley and I didn’t think it would add much flavor if I cooked it into the pancake.  So I decided to make a little herb salad with it and serve it as an accompaniment.

I started by making a little vinaigrette, and I tried to do something Frenchy, to stay with the overall theme.  Two teaspoons of white wine vinegar…

…a quarter teaspoon of dijon mustard, a pinch of salt and a twist of freshly ground black pepper, into the bottom of a bowl.

Drizzle in about a tablespoon and a half of extra-virgin olive oil, while whisking.

A nice handful of whole, fresh parsley leaves into the bowl, and toss.

When the socca came out of the oven, I wasn’t really sure what to do with it, but it looked a lot like a pita bread, so I decided to cut it into wedges.

Guess what?  It was a lot like a pita bread!  Only better!  It was a like the perfect marriage of soft, fresh, warm pita with a creamy, garlicky, satisfying hummus.  The parsley salad offered a nice counterbalance of fresh, bright, herbal flavor.  It makes for a perfect little light lunch or snack.

Merci; le meilleur professeur de francais!

Meal planning – Food Bliss Week

I’m a little late in the game this week due to a very busy Thursday and Friday.  But, the plan goes on!  I’m really looking forward to the food I’m planning to make this coming week.  I’m still going strong on my dairy-free diet, and I really don’t miss it at all.  It’s funny how that happens.  Once in a while I’ll think I miss gobs of melted cheese, but then I remember how it makes me look like I’m 5 months pregnant, and poof, craving gone!

This week I’m making three recipes from pins on Pinterest, so I’m pretty psyched for that.  The zuchinni fritters look awesome, and I am going to have them with goat cheese, so that’s kind of a treat.  Then the Korean Kongnamul Bap, I mean, kim chee, rice, korean spices, you just can’t go wrong.  Jared and I love to eat Bi Bam Bap at Korean restaurants, so I’m curious to see how this compares.  The grilled shrimp with cilantro, lime and peanuts just looks so delicious, I can’t wait to try it.  Next week is going to be an awesome week.

And, as usual, you probably can’t see/click on my calendar if you’re viewing from an iPhone or from your email.  Check it out in a regular browser when you can.

Meal Planning – Back to Reality

I’m back in the saddle!  We’re off to Trader Joe’s for groceries today, because the toy-buying frenzy that is Stop and Shop has got to stop.  I got into the habit of letting my kids pick out a small toy every time we go to the store, and it’s getting really old.  They’re starting to beg to go to the store every day, and when I say no, it’s a whole tantrum thing.  Then, when we’re there, it adds a good 10 extra painful minutes to my trip while they labor over their decision of what to buy.  After spending a million dollars at (almost) every. single. gift shop at Disney World, I’m done.

I love Trader Joe’s not just for the lack of toys, but the better quality ingredients, and abundance of easy food.  Ready-made brown rice? Yes please.

So, here’s my plan for the next week. I’m off dairy, so I’ll substitute Earth Balance for butter and hemp milk for regular.  It’s not too hard.  I’m feeling pretty confident that the kids will eat just about everything on my list this week, but I’ll keep some PB&J and noodles on hand just in case.

And, as usual, you probably can’t see/click on my calendar if you’re viewing from an iPhone or from your email.  Check it out in a regular browser when you can.