Watermelon Salad

It’s finally summer which means the season of fresh juicy fruit has arrived. I love having fresh berries, pineapple and melons around for snacking but recently I was introduced to a new salad that I can’t get enough of. After doing the MS 150 bike ride (where the weather kept us from the second half) my friends Claire & Erin hosted a BBQ for the riders. Of course the spread of food was delicious: orzo pasta salad, veggies with homemade dip, guacamole and chips, brats/burgers and best of all a watermelon salad.  YUMMY!

The crunch and chilly texture from the watermelon paired perfectly with the dryness of the feta cheese.  Topped off with a hint of flavor from the sliced red onions and cilantro. It was oh so refreshing!!! I’ve had it twice since the BBQ and had to share. It’s easy, healthy and perfect for a summer barbecue, family dinner or party. The best part is you can make it without following much of a recipe. When I did it I used ~ 1/2 a watermelon and sprinkled the feta, cilantro and red onion on until it looked like it was coated well. I then squeezed the lemon juice on top, mixed and served. I would recommend making it soon before serving as watermelon can drain overnight.

Ingredients:

  • ~1/2 a Watermelon- diced
  • Feta Cheese- crumbled
  • Red Onion- thinly sliced (I used ~1/4 of one so it wasn’t overpowering)
  • Cilantro- chopped/minced
  • Juice from one lime

Three Bean Salad

You may be wondering if I stopped cooking now that I’m working and a mom. The answer is no, I still cook. The problem is I don’t have time to post all the things I make. Tonight though our daughter had a great evening eating dinner with us followed by a 7pm bath which meant I had time to prep a salad for a work pot luck tomorrow and post about it.

I decided to try a new three bean salad. My first impression is that I like it but I want to see how it infuses over night. It has a mustard flavor to it with the dijon and the fresh parsley and shallots are a great touch.

Three Bean Salad

Source: Cooking Light August 2012

Ode to Quinoa

It’s time I pay respect to one of my favorite grains. You may be asking why we need to pay respect to a food…well, here’s why. One it’s a whole grain. Two, it’s a complete protein. Three, it’s gluten free so can accomodate many diets and four, it’s quick and easy to make. Who doesn’t love that. A half cup serving contains ~110 calories, 2.5 grams fiber and 4 grams of protein. I frequently cook quinoa and add any combination of herbs and vegetables to it which is how the stuffed portabella mushroom recipe was created. I’ll put how I made it below but feel free to vary it. The recipe is a great way to make two meals from one dish. I made the quinoa as a side to our dinner Monday and then two days later used it up by stuffing these mushrooms. The second recipe I have been eyeing up ever since I saw the picture of it on pinterest. The fact that it has quinoa, lemon, avocado and cilantro made me know it would taste just as amazing as I had imagined. I will definitely make this one again and I also plan to keep mushrooms around for stuffing when I’m back at work!

Quinoa stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cup quinoa
  • A large handful of fresh cilantro
  • 5 green onions
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 6 portabella mushrooms
  • 2-4 ounces of goat cheese

Directions

  1. Heat 3 cups of water with 1 ½ cups of quinoa until boiling (if you are stuffing the peppers the same day you should also preheat the oven to 375 degrees)
  2. Cover and reduce heat to low and cook until the liquid is absorbed (~15 minutes)
  3. Chop a large handful of cilantro and 4 to 5 green onions and add to the quinoa
  4. Season with salt, pepper and a dash of crushed red pepper
  5. Wash the portabella mushrooms and pull the stems out of each of them and set them in a baking dish
  6. Scoop quinoa mixture into portabella mushrooms and top with goat cheese
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. 

Lemony Quinoa and Avocado Salad

I followed a recipe from pinterest: Quinoa and Avocado Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing with a few changes. I listed how I cooked it below. This can be made in advance with the avocado added right before serving. If served as a side like we did it would serve 5-6.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • ¼ cup green onions or chives, diced
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lemon juiced (~1/4 cup)
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Dash of salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Heat 1 cup of water with ½ cups of quinoa until boiling
  2. Cover and reduce heat to low and cook until the liquid is absorbed (~15 minutes)
  3. While the quinoa cooks prep your ad ins and dressing: chop your bell pepper, cilantro and green onions and place in a medium bowl
  4. To make dressing whisk together the tahini, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice
  5. Once quinoa is cooked add it to the bowl with the chopped red bell pepper, cilantro and green onions. Pour dressing on top and toss (THIS CAN ALL BE DONE A DAY IN ADVANCE)
  6. Chop and add the avocado to the quinoa prior to serving and top with a dash of salt and pepper.
  7. Serve cold

Fighting Fruit Fatigue

You may remember I talked about fruit fatigue at the beginning of the month in my choose cherries post. Well today I discussed ways to fight fruit fatigue on Twin Cities Live. Try new ways to to eat fruit instead of only eating apples, bananas, oranges and watermelon. Many fruits are available year round in dried, juice, frozen or canned forms. The recommended amount of fruit for adults is 1-2 cups per day. Only one if 5 Americans are getting enough fruit each day, are you? I hope so and if not read on for some great ways to increase your fruit intake for a long, healthy life.

I showed viewers ways to cook with dried cherries, tart cherry juice, pears, grapefruits and grapefruit juice! I was also lucky enough to be accompanied by my cousin Jess who took so many lovely pictures during the segment.  Check out the finished dishes below (recipes linked at the bottom). I highly recommend the cherry chili for a delicious warm winter dish, the smoothie for breakfast or a snack, the baked brie as a Christmas party appetizer, the salad as a dinner party starter, the grapefruit slaw served with tilapia or cod and the ginger grapefruit spritzer as a party cocktail!

Prepping the food before the show
Cherry Chili and the Yogurt Cherry Smoothie ingredients ready to make live
Candied Walnut, Pear and Leafy Green Salad and Baked Brie en Crout with Pears
Grapefruit Slaw and Ginger Grapefruit Spritzers
 

Twin Cities Live Segment: Fruit Fatigue Link

Recipe Links

Cherry Chili
Cherry Yogurt Smoothie
Candied Walnut, Pear and Leafy Green Salad – try topping with goat cheese
Brie en Croute with Pears – I used croissants in place of the frozen pastry puff
Grapefruit Slaw – I topped it with grated fresh ginger
Ginger Grapefruit Spritzer

Food of the Month

I picked my first tomato from my garden last week and was so overtly excited that it’s officially tomato season. While farmers markets and other gardens have had tomatoes fresh for most of July mine are just coming into bloom. Since starting the food of the month I have anticipated using tomatoes and now the time has come! I am so obsessed with tomatoes I don’t even know how to start and can’t even imagine typing all the recipes I have using fresh tomatoes. For one most of the dishes don’t have recipes. Fresh salsa, marinara sauce and tomato soup are things I just whip up and taste as I go. I’m so excited that I have 12 tomato plants this year. I know I’ll have no issue using them and I may even get fancy and try canning some of my salsa and sauce or make homemade tomato juice!

First thing first I want to try to answer a common question that arises.

Are tomatoes a fruit or a vegetable?

This is an ongoing debate and depends on who you ask. Botanists would say they are a fruit because botanically they grow like fruits but the United States Department of Agriculture, horticulturists and most dietitians classify it as a vegetable. I’m not sure how accurate this is but I read this statement online today (also showing the debate has been going on for centuries): “On May 10, 1893, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the tomato is a vegetable and, as such, is subject to import taxes under the United States Tariff Act of 1883.

What’s in a tomato?

One medium sized tomato (3” diameter) has ~ 30-35 calories and is a rich source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Tomatoes also contain an antioxidant called lycopene which has been studied for it’s cancer fighting properties. Lycopene protects our cells from oxygen damage which can help white blood cells and may also help prevent heart disease.

Now how to use them. Well if you’re like me then you’ll pick ’em, slice ’em and top them with a dash of salt and pepper or olive oil and balsamic vinegar (I can eat a few tomatoes at a time when they’re in season).
And last but not least…a few great tomato recipes worth listing…

Summer Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Panini with Balsamic Syrup:

Cooking Light-August 2011
I made these sandwiches for my mom and I when she was in town. While I’ve made MANY caprese panini’s with basil, tomatoes and fresh mozzarella this one was by far the best. The determining factor was balsamic reduction.
Rating: Sina: 5, Becca (my mom): 5
          

Tomato Bruschetta

Ingredients

Writer’s Note: I don’t use a recipe when I make bruschetta but here is the gist, measurements may vary a little

  • French or Italian Bread
  • 2-4 tomatoes diced
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ~1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar  (reduced balsamic vinegar also works)
  • 12-20 basil leaves diced (I like a lot)
  • dash of salt and pepper
  • Fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Slice bread and toast in the oven on broil
Mix tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar and basil and layer on top of bread slices. Sprinkle each with salt and pepper. Grate Parmesan on top and serve immediately. You can always prepare the topping ahead of time and assemble them on bread later if you are bringing it to a party.
Rating: Sina: 5, Ryan: 4.5

Caprese Salad

Slice tomato and fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese and layer every other. Sprinkle with cut up basil and drizzle with olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper and serve
Rating: Sina: 5, Ryan: 4.5

Power Foods

I received a new cookbook for my birthday from my neighbor Greta. The book is from the editors of Whole Living Magazine foreword by Martha Stewart called Power Foods. She knows me well since I love cooking with nutrient dense foods which are the base of their recipes. To give it a test run I made three recipes from the cookbook to bring over for a lunch date with Greta, her mom and baby Matilda.
I have to give Greta credit for making this first dish. She’s the first person I’ve ever met who eats parsley raw. That being said I figured she would love this salad which uses parsley as the base. A big thank you to Greta for loving Parsley because I have now discovered a great recipe. The flavor was unique, fresh, flavorful and fulfilling. A mix of a sharp parsley with sweet tones from the citrus and intensified flavor from the salty olives and capers. I thought the flavors would be good but too strong for me but I was proven wrong and now appreciate this herb much more.

Parsley-Leaf Salad with Pine Nuts, Olives and Orange Dressing

Next up were the open faced tofu tomato sandwiches inspired by the cookbook cover. If you’re like me you stare at a cookbook and dream about the flavor of the food on the cover and finally get to the point where you have to find out what it tastes like. I was pleasantly happy with the results of this dish but would like to see a little more flavor added to the tofu spread. Maybe a fresh herb, more lemon or garlic? Still worth trying and experimenting with for a vegetarian protein spread.

Open-Faced Tomato sandwiches with herbs and creamy tofu spread

 
My last dish choice was for my love of green beans, corn on the cob and tomatoes. I think it will be better once I have heirloom tomatoes from the garden but it was very delicious and easy to make.

Green Bean, Corn and Tomato Salad

My overall favorite dish was probably the parsley salad followed by the tomato sandwiches. I chose to use basil on the top which was great with the tomatoes. Now for the verdict of the cook book so far: two thumbs up. It’s creative and uses familiar foods in new ways and makes adding unique foods to your diet easy.  For anyone who likes to cook new recipes with very healthy foods I recommend trying this book. I’m sure it’s available at most bookstores and I saw it online at amazon.