Jun 302014

If you’re anything like me, there’s really no such thing as summer “vacation” anymore. If your summer has been as busy as mine has been, and you’re looking for literally the easiest possible festive 4th of July treat, here it is. There is no culinary skill needed here, just some delicious red and blue fruit, skewers, and if you want to get fancy, a drizzle of honeyed greek yogurt and a sprinkling of roasted coconut chips.
Every 4th of July BBQ or picnic needs some fruit, and this recipe takes your average fruit salad or mundane watermelon wedges to the next level. You can get creative by cutting the fruit into different shapes and it could even be a fun activity for your kids (hey, if you have kids, why not put them to work, right?).
Nutritional Highlights: Berries are in their peak season right now, which means they have the highest level of vitamins. Berries get their bright color from an antioxidant called anthocyanin, which also decreases inflammation. Another antioxidant in berries, quercetin, may help slow age-related memory-loss and also reduces inflammation, especially in the joints. Vitamin C is another big highlight of berries powerhouse nutritional profile, which is also a strong antioxidant and has many powerful effects in the body. Basically, fruit is good for you! Crazy idea, I know. This is a great way to make fruit a little bit more fun, so everyone will enjoy it this 4th of July.
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Patriotic Fruit Kebabs with Honey-Yogurt Dip
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What’s in it:
– Red and Blue fruit of your choice!
blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and watermelon all work well for this!
– Mini wooden skewers
– 6 oz plain greek yogurt
– 1 tablespoon honey or agave
– Toasted coconut or roasted coconut chips for garnish

How to make it:
1. Cut your strawberries and watermelon into the shapes of your choosing. Leave small berries whole. Skewer in different patterns onto your wooden skewers.
2. Mix the yogurt and honey in a small bowl. You can also add a pinch of cinnamon or tiny bit of vanilla extra if you’d like.
3. Put 2 tablespoons of the yogurt into a small ziplock bag and cut a tiny tiny piece off of the bottom corner. Use this to squeeze a drizzle of the yogurt over the fruit kebabs.
4. Sprinkle with coconut chips and serve along side the remaining yogurt dip.
5. Oh say can you see…how easy that recipe is?
Here’s to a happy and healthy 4th!

Jun 202014

OK so maybe I’m not quite Jiro (yet), but I did finally learn how to make sushi! Sushi making has been on the “things I want to learn how to do” list for quite some time, so I decided to sign Jeff and me up for a class with Sushi by Simon. Not only was the class hands on and super fun (the drink tickets didn’t hurt either), but I also walked away feeling confident that good sushi is something I can do at home. Andddd so can you! (PS pardon the low lighting photos in this post).
There are only a few special tools/ingredients you need for sushi making. The first is a sushi mat, which are very cheap and easy to find. We were told to cover it in plastic wrap to save the trouble of picking out rice from in between the grates later–great call. Second is not required, but encouraged–a rice cooker. Perfectly cooked and seasoned rice is the key to sushi success, so it might be worth buying a small one, although you can get away with stove top rice if need be. Third, and almost as important and amazing fresh ingredients and sushi grade fish. Most super markets probably won’t have sushi grade fish, so you may want to find a specialty market in your are. Be sure to ask your fish counter for sushi grade fish and tell them your sushi making plans–they will cut it differently than if you were going to sear a tuna steak. In addition to the tuna and salmon, we also used avocado, cucumber, pickled daikon (it’s a type of radish that looks kind of like a white carrot), masago (the orange fish eggs), and black sesame seeds.
Now check out this rolling technique. I need you all to know that this is literally the first time I have seen Jeff cook in our six years together (no, easy mac does not count). I’ve got to say I was pretty impressed.
A brief overview on rolling techniques here but you’ve really just got to try it out yourself. For standard maki (seaweed on the outside), line your HALF piece of seaweed long ways along the bottom edge of the mat (closest to you). Spread a layer of rice (using wetted fingers so it doesn’t stick to much) on the bottom 3/4 of the sheet of seaweed. You leave about 1 inch along the top with no rice to help in the rolling process. You then lay your ingredients long ways in the middle of the rice. As tough as it will be, don’t put too much in there or you will have a rolling disaster. Then put your thumbs under the mat and your other fingers on top of the ingredients to hold them in place. Roll the mat up, over, and down over the ingredients, creating a little rectangular box and applying some pressure to make sure it is tight. Then do it again to finish the roll. Here’s the first one we made–a simple cucumber roll which was great to get the technique down.
For inside out rolls (rice on outside) the process is similar. Start by putting the same amount of rice on the seaweed and put on anything else you want on the outside like sesame seeds/masago. Then flip the sheet so the seaweed is on top and the riceless portion is at the bottom of your mat closest to you. Put your ingredients on this riceless portion and then roll the same way as before. Serve it along with soy sauce, pickled ginger, wasabi, and, if you must, spicy mayo. A little etiquette I didn’t know about sushi condiments. You’re not really supposed to mix your wasabi into your soy, but rather just put a little bit right on the roll. Ginger isn’t supposed to be eaten with the sushi but between pieces as a palate cleanser. Last, spicy mayo is just something Americans made up (duh), and it’s essentially mayo + srirarcha. Sounds like a lot of rules, but I say if you’re making sushi at home, screw it and do what you want!
Nutritional highlights: Making sushi at home can be super healthy because you have control over the ingredients. You can use mostly veggies and healthy fish–no shrimp tempura here! You can also use a thin layer of rice rather than a ton, and substitute brown rice for standard white rice. The fish used are high in protein and omega 3 fatty acids (especially the salmon). Sushi is gluten free (as long as you use tamari rather than soy sauce) and can easily be made vegetarian/vegan by omitting the fish and loading up on veggies. Feel free to get creative and use a variety of raw and cooked ingredients and see what you can come up with!
And here’s the required awkward selfie from sushi class. And guess who made which hand roll?

Jun 082014

It finally feels like summer is here and more and more fresh veggies are starting to appear in the farmers markets. To celebrate the start of summer, I wanted to make a super healthy and vegetable focused meal. I’ve stuffed a lot of vegetables before…bell peppers with southwestern turkey-quinoa filling, baby peppers with ricotta, peas, and pancetta, and mushrooms with sundried tomato, corn, and goat cheese. But never before had I stuffed a zucchini. Well this might have been the first but it will certainly not be the last.
I think ratatouille (and I’m talking about the food, not the animated mouse) is highly underrated. As the vegetables cook down with plenty of garlic, ratatouille gets a little bit sweet and is just pretty magical. In this recipe, while the scooped out zucchinis roast, you make the ratatouille and quinoa on the stove. Stuff the pre-cooked zucchinis with the quinoa-rata mixture and top with fresh goat cheese and panko break crumbs. I seriously can’t emphasize enough how ridiculously good these were.
Nutritional highlights: This recipe would make a great side dish or a vegetarian main course. The majority of the ingredients are vegetables like eggplant, zucchini, peppers, and onions, and I truly believe that even those who aren’t huge vegetable fans would love it in ratatouille form. By mixing in some quinoa the protein and fiber content goes way up. The goat cheese can be left off if you want to keep it vegan, but the small amount of cheese adds calcium and protein, and an amazing tart-creaminess to bring the whole dish together.
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Zucchini Boats with Ratatouille, Quinoa, and Goat Cheese
makes 4-6 zucchini boats (serves 4 as a side, 2 as a main)
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What’s in it:
2 large or 3 small zucchinis
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 eggplant, chopped
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup cooked quinoa (from about 1/4 cup dry)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons whole wheat panko bread crumbs
2 oz goat cheese
salt and pepper to taste
optional: 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fresh basil, (half chopped and half left as whole leaves)

How to make it:
1. Preheat the oven to 450.
2. Prepare all your ingredients. Cut the zucchinis in half lengthwise and scoop out the inside with a spoon (but save it for your ratatouille!). Mince the garlic, chop the onion, eggplant, red pepper, and zucchini filling.
3. Spray zucchini with olive oil spray and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven cut side up for about 13-15 minutes or until slightly tender and beginning to brown.
4. Meanwhile cook quinoa according to directions and make the ratatouille. Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat and add the chopped onion and minced garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes until softened. Add 1 more teaspoon olive oil and add the chopped eggplant, red pepper, zucchini, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 10-12 minutes or until vegetables have softened. Stir in the red wine vinegar and the chopped basil and cook for 1 minute.
5. Add the 1 cup cooked quinoa into the ratatouille and stir to combine.
6. Stuff as much quinoa-ratatouille filling as possible into each of the zucchinis. Top with the crumbled goat cheese and a sprinkling of panko. Bake for 8 minutes until the breadcrumbs are toasted and the cheese begins to brown.
7. Top with fresh basil leaves and enjoy!
If this doesn’t look like summer, than I don’t know what does.