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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, & Tomato) Salad

The tomatoes in my garden finally took off about a week ago. I was thrilled to be able to start making some of my favorite summer-time recipes. I made the amazing cherry tomato tart on Friday and plan to make another one tomorrow. I have also made lots of bacon and tomato sandwiches for Greg. Since I am still trying to continue eating a lower carb diet, I have been making myself BLT Salads instead. The BLT salad starts with some hearts of romaine lettuce, then is topped with lots of juicy tomatoes, crispy bacon, Parmesan cheese, fresh basil leaves,  avocado, Panko bread crumbs, and a garlicky buttermilk dressing. I also added some fresh mozzarella to the salad the other night when I realized I had a little bit leftover from when I made the cherry tomato tart. I asked Greg to photograph the BLT salad before dinner. He told me that he didn't want salad because he was craving another bacon and tomato sandwich for dinner for the third night in a row. As he was photographing the salad, I asked him how many sandwiches he wanted, and his response was "I think I want this salad instead - it looks really good!" Greg told me the salad was very different from the sandwich, but just as tasty of a meal, if not better. If you want a really yummy salad that is loaded with lots of summer-time flavors and vitamin C (tomatoes are very high in this), then give this salad a go. You will not be disappointed!

Recipe for BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, & Tomato) Salad

INGREDIENTS:
For the salad
2 cups of hearts of Romaine lettuce
4 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
1 medium Hass avocado, chopped
1/4 Tbsp. of grated Parmesan cheese
4 pieces of cooked bacon, crumbled
4 leaves of fresh basil, torn 
2 ounces of fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced (optional)
2 tsp. of Panko bread crumbs (optional)
For the dressing
3 Tbsp. of mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. of buttermilk
1 clove of garlic, pressed
A couple pinches of black pepper
1 tsp. of balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. of freshly squeezed lemon juice

DIRECTIONS:
Make the bacon first. I bake bacon rather than fry it to avoid the mess. If you prefer, you can fry it instead! To bake the bacon, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Lay bacon in a single layer on top of the parchment paper and then put into the oven for about 15 minutes. When bacon is cooked, remove from oven. Transfer the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate with tongs or a fork and blot out the excess grease.

While the bacon is cooking, chop up the tomatoes, avocado, and mozzarella. Then prepare the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, garlic, black pepper, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice. Set aside or cover and put into the fridge. Divide the 2 cups of romaine lettuce onto two salad plates. Add the chopped tomatoes on top. Then add on the chopped avocado, 1 1/2 Tbsp. of Parmesan per salad, 2 pieces of torn fresh basil per salad, 1 tsp. of Panko bread crumbs per salad (optional), and 1 ounce of fresh mozzarella per salad (optional). Then crumble the bacon on top of each. Top each salad with desired amount of dressing and serve. Enjoy!

Recipe Adapted from: Annie's Eats

Recipe makes 2 BLT salads.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Carrot Burgers or Patties - A Meal the Kids will Like!

These days I feel like I am constantly trying to please my 15-month old. I am always trying to entertain her and figure out what she wants in order to be happy. I feel like the more she communicates, the more frustrated she gets, because what she thinks makes sense doesn't always make sense to me and Greg. Meal time has become a bit of an ordeal. There are things that she used to like that she now refuses by throwing it down on the floor in protest. She used to love bananas, but now she only wants them in the form of a cookie. I have had to experiment a lot to figure out what foods she will eat well at meal time. I have found that she seems to really like food in the form of a patty. She loves salmon burgers, cauliflower burgers, and these carrot burgers. I also absolutely love these carrot burgers, and so does Greg. I made them for the first time when my friend came over with her daughter who is just about Wendy's age, and it was a big hit with all of us. I ended up making them again to serve for dinner the next evening, and I've made them a couple times since then. I made the mistake one night of serving the carrot burgers with ketchup, and during dinner all Wendy wanted to eat was the ketchup and no carrot burger. She kept begging for ketchup and made a nice big mess with it. I was worried that she was over the carrot burgers, but I served them again the next night without the ketchup, and she gobbled them down (Greg had to top his with ketchup before coming to the table, to prevent her from seeing it)! Greg likes the carrot burgers on a bun with lots of ketchup, and I enjoy them dipped in a mixture of sour cream with a little bit of maple syrup. I think they would also taste good on a toasted bun spread with a little butter, and topped with some mozzarella cheese. I really had no idea how these would turn out, and they totally exceeded my expectations. They are great because each burger has about 1/2 cup of carrots, so you can easily get your kids to eat a serving of veggies. If you're looking for an easy vegetarian meal that will please even the pickiest eaters in your family, I suggest you try out these delicious carrot burgers!

Recipe for Carrot Burgers or Patties -A Meal the Kids will Like!

INGREDIENTS:
4 cups of shredded carrots (make it easier like I do by buying packaged shredded carrots)!
1/4 cup of finely chopped yellow onion
Look at all those carrots! Each one has about 1/2 cup of carrots.
1/2 cup of whole wheat flour (or all-purpose)
1/4 cup of yellow cornmeal
1 Tbsp. of dried dill weed
1/2 tsp. of baking powder
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
3/4 tsp. of salt
1 tsp. of sugar or pure maple syrup (optional)
4 Tbsp. of half and half
2 eggs, lightly beaten
*2 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil
*2 - 3 Tbsp. of unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS:
Put all of the ingredients (except olive oil and butter) into a large bowl and mix well. Cover the
 bowl and set in fridge for at least one hour and up to 12.

Heat 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil and 2 Tbsp. of butter in an electric frying pan or in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Once butter has melted and is sizzling, turn the heat down to medium. Use a 1/3 measuring cup to scoop up the mixture and turn it onto the pan or skillet. Use a spatula to flatten into a patty. Cook as many as your pan or skillet allow at one time. Cook on one side for about 6 minutes, then use a spatula to carefully flip and cook for another 6 minutes on the other side. Remove patties with the spatula and transfer to a lightly oiled baking sheet. You may want to place them in an oven preheated at 300 degrees to keep them warm if you have another batch to cook. *Add more butter and olive oil as you see needed during the cooking process.

Salt the burgers as desired. Serve on a bun with ketchup and baby spinach leaves, or serve as a patty. I liked mine dipped in a tablespoon of sour cream mixed with about 1/2 tsp. of pure maple syrup!

Recipe makes about 8 carrot burgers.

Recipe Source: Food.com 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Healthy AND Delicious Fudge - no butter or refined sugar!

For some reason I always seem to crave healthier foods during the summer months. I would say that I eat best in the month of July out of all the other months in the year. I am far from being vegan (I absolutely LOVE all things dairy), but when it comes to sweet treats, I always seem to want to try out vegan or healthier desserts during the summer months.

This vegan fudge has an amazingly smooth texture from the coconut oil, and the cashew butter and cacao powder give it an incredibly rich taste. It is sweetened with some pure maple syrup, which is much better than refined sugar. You can't tell at all that this fudge is not made with the typical ingredients of butter and refined sugar. The one thing you do have to remember about vegan desserts (and this vegan fudge) is that even though they are healthier, they are still loaded with calories. However, they are not "empty" calories, since cashews have tons of health benefits, natural cocoa powder is high in fiber, and maple syrup has awesome things in it like calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, and manganese. One piece has approximately 75 calories, and it is easy to snack on it all day long, so be careful with it! I was told by a few people that if I had not told them what it was made with, that they would have never guessed the ingredients. So if you do make it, make sure to tell people what it has in it in case someone has a nut allergy! I hope you enjoy this fudge as much as I do.

Recipe for Healthy AND Delicious Fudge - no butter or refined sugar!

INGREDIENTS:
2 1/4 cups of raw cashews*
1/3 cup plus 1 tsp. of coconut oil, divided (at room temperature)
2 tsp. of pure vanilla extract, divided
1/2 tsp. of coarse sea salt, divided
1/4 cup of cacao powder (I use Viva Labs cacao powder)
1/4 cup of pure maple syrup

*If you want, you can use 1 cup of store-bought cashew butter in this recipe. I recommend making your own cashew butter, though. If you use store-bought cashew butter, omit the cashews, 1 tsp. of coconut oil, 1 tsp. of vanilla extract, and 1/4 tsp. of sea salt from the recipe. 

DIRECTIONS:
Make the cashew butter first. Put the 2 1/4 cups of cashews, 1 tsp. of coconut oil, 1 tsp. of pure vanilla extract, and 1/4 tsp. of sea salt into the bowl of a food processor. Start the food processor and allow it to run. It will take several minutes (about 8 to 10 minutes) for the mixture to turn to a cashew butter. You will want to stop the food processor every minute to two to give the processor a break and to scrape the sides, if needed. Add more coconut oil to the mixture as you see desired. When the mixture turns into the cashew butter (it will be thick), remove it from the processor and scoop into a medium-sized bowl. Note: This is a recipe for the cashew butter that is used in this fudge.  If you want smoother cashew butter to use for spreading, you will want to run the processor for much longer and might want to check out other recipes for homemade cashew butter, like the one from The Healthy Foodie.

Add the remaining 1/3 cup of coconut oil to the cashew butter and use an electric hand mixer set on medium-low speed to mix until well combined. Then add in the remaining 1 tsp. of vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp. of sea salt, cocoa powder, and maple syrup. Use the electric hand mixer to mix until the mixture is smooth. Line a freezer-safe container (I used a square SnapLock container - 6" x 6") with parchment paper. Use a spoon or spatula to spread the mixture onto the parchment paper in an even layer. Then cover the container and place in the freezer for at least an hour before cutting into it.  Remove from the freezer and chop into desired sized squares. Store the fudge in the freezer and eat fairly soon after removing it from the freezer, because it becomes soft quickly from the coconut oil.

Recipe Makes Approximately 30 pieces of fudge, depending on how you cut it. Approximately 75 calories per piece (if you cut into 30 pieces)! Store in the freezer.

Recipe Adapted from: The Detoxinista, Originally from Raw Food, Real World

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What can I make with all of my Cucumbers? Here are 11 Delicious Ways to Eat It!

I made "Better Than A Greek Salad" with some of the cucumbers from my garden.
I am writing this post with a bit of sadness. This summer, cucumber is really the only thing in my garden that has done well. I was really looking forward to having tons of tomatoes, yellow squash, and zucchini. On Sunday, I found that all of our zucchini plants and yellow squash plants had died. We got one yellow squash all season, and we did not get any zucchini at all. Our tomato plants are still alive, but we have only gotten a handful of cherry tomatoes so far, and no big juicy beefeater tomatoes yet. I am still hoping for the best with the tomatoes, so I can make some of my favorite summer-time recipes, like bacon and tomato sandwiches and a cherry tomato tart. Unfortunately I am not going to be able to make some of the amazing recipes with zucchini that I put together in this zucchini recipe roundup last summer, or my famous healthy zucchini brownies that Greg raves about. I started crying when I found out my zucchini plants had died, and I think that is a totally normal response, don't you? The good news is that the cucumbers are plentiful, and I am finding pretty creative ways to eat them. I have used them to make an amazing cucumber-mango salsa, I have stuffed them full of Boursin cheese, and I have dipped them in a tasty honey-sriracha sauce. Cucumbers are also really healthy, and my 15-month old daughter, Wendy, loves them. I decided to compile this list of these cucumber recipes so I can get the most out of what my garden is producing this summer! If you are also getting tons of cucumber this summer, I hope you will try some of these recipes out. Enjoy!


What can I make with all of my Cucumbers?


Appetizers

Cucumber Bites with Garlic-Herb Filling (Annie's Eats)*

Cucumber Mango Salsa (Two Peas & Their Pod)*

Cucumber Mint Sandwiches (Epicurious)

Spicy Cantaloupe Cucumber Salad (Oh My Veggies)

Authentic Tzatziki (A Couple Cooks)

Chilled Soups

Gazpacho Andaluz (Saveur)

Cold Cucumber Soup with Yogurt and Dill (Food and Wine)
 
Miscellaneous

Quick and Easy Dill Pickles (Once Upon a Chef)

Main Courses

Grilled Chicken Panzanella with Cucumber and Feta (Annie's Eats)

Grilled Salmon with Smashed Cucumber Date Salad (Food Network)

Thai Grilled Steak Salad (Pink Parsley)

*These recipes are ones I have tried and loved! For the cucumber melon salsa, I omitted the onion, cilantro, and  jalapeno and mixed mine with a little bit of cumin powder and cayenne pepper. It was very tasty and refreshing.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad - w/cucumbers!
I also really love dipping cucumber slices into a honey-sriracha dipping sauce. Mix together 3 tablespoons of sriracha sauce, 3 tablespoons of honey, and 2 teaspoons of rice wine vinegar and dip away. You can also add cucumber slices to water for a very refreshing taste!