Monday, July 11, 2011

Watermelon Cocktail

Here's a refreshing summer drink made with fruit that's in season. For a non-alcoholic alternative, substitute lemon-lime soda or lemonade for the tequila.

I got the idea for this from a Bobby Flay recipe, but as usual, I made a bunch of modifications.


  • 1/2 C. mint leaves
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • 2 C. cubed ripe watermelon
  • 1/2 C. blueberries
  • ice
  • 4 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 2-3 oz. tequila
Divide the mint into 2 glasses. Sprinkle the sugar. Use a wooden spoon to muddle the mint. Add the watermelon to each glass and crush it with the spoon until it is mostly liquified. Add the blueberries and lightly mash with the spoon. Add ice to each glass, leaving enough room for the lime juice and tequila. Pour the lime juice and tequila over the ice, then stir with the spoon until combined. Serve immediately.

Quick Falafel with Tahini Yogurt Sauce

This is a super easy way to make falafel. I don't use a food processor, which saves on clean-up. The recipe makes about 8 small falafel, which only serves 2-3, so double the recipe if you need more. I served the falafel with cucumber, tomato, and feta salad and steamed green beans, all of which can be dipped into the tahini yogurt sauce.

For the falafel:

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • pinch of salt
  • 1-2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, for frying
Put the chickpeas in a bowl and mash with a potato masher or fork. Add the onions, garlic, flour, cumin, and salt and mash until all combined. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Form the chickpea mixture into about 8 small patties. Carefully add them to the pan and cook for 3 minutes - do not move them at all. Flip them over and cook for 2 minutes more. They should be nicely browned on all sides. Drain on paper towels before serving.

For the tahini yogurt sauce:
  • 3 Tbsp. fat-free greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp. tahini
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
Mix all ingredients in a bowl until combined.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Blueberry Banana Smoothie

We have no AC in our house right now, ugh. With a combination of closed blinds and oscillating and ceiling fans, it's not too bad. But what better way to cool off than a smoothie? This is a great mid-morning snack; it's super filling and healthy too! Here's a great tip. Use frozen bananas in your smoothies. Then you don't need to add ice. Whenever I have an overripe banana that no one wants to eat, I just stash it in the freezer until I'm ready to make a smoothie!


  • 1 frozen banana
  • handful of fresh blueberries
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1/2 C. non-fat plain yogurt (I used greek)
  • splash of milk
  • 1 Tbsp. ground flaxseed or wheat germ (optional)
Let the banana thaw slightly as you collect the other ingredients. This will make it easier to peel. Throw everything into a blender and blend until combined. Add a little extra milk if the smoothie is too thick. I have gotten so good at making these that I don't even measure anything - I just eyeball it!

Watermelon Salad

I never used to like watermelon. I found it to be ridiculously sweet (it is mainly sugar water, after all). But then I was introduced to the concept of pairing something salty with watermelon. What a revelation!

My friend Emmy's blog reminded me the other day of one of my favorite summer salads. Mine includes a few more ingredients, but it's the same basic premise. Don't bother making this salad if watermelon isn't in season. It just won't taste the same.


  • ripe seedless watermelon
  • salt
  • sliced cucumbers
  • chopped mint leaves
  • sliced sweet onion
  • crumbled feta cheese
  • balsamic vinegar (splurge on the good quality stuff - you won't be disappointed)
Dice the watermelon and place into serving bowls. Sprinkle with salt. Add the cucumbers, mint, onion, and feta. Drizzle with the vinegar, toss gently, and serve.

Baked Potato Slices

I hesitate to call these potato chips because they don't get as crispy as ones fried in oil. Still, this is a great accompaniment to burgers. I used red potatoes but any type of potato will work - sweet potatoes also work well but don't get as crispy.


  • 3-4 red potatoes (or any potato), thinly sliced
  • spray oil
  • salt and pepper
Try to slice the potatoes as thinly and evenly as possible (use a mandolin if you have one). Spread the potatoes in a single layer on a cookie sheet and spray them with oil. 

I do NOT use the aerosol cooking spray because it has such a weird odor. My grocery store sells spritzer bottles of oil that I buy instead; kitchen supply stores also sell little refillable pump-type oil mister bottles, but mine clogged and I haven't bought another one.

Sprinkle the potatoes with a little salt and pepper, then flip them over and spray them with oil on the other side.

Bake at 400 for 25 minutes, flipping them halfway through. Cool slightly and serve.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Homemade Pesto

I love basil so much that I am growing a huge pot of it on my patio. It is ridiculously easy to grow, but to keep it growing well, you need to prune it judiciously. So what to do with all that basil? Make pesto, of course!

Traditionally, pesto was made with a mortar and pestle, but I don't have time for that. Cue my Vitamix (a food processor or mini-chopper also works well). Most pesto recipes call for pine nuts, but it is harder for me to find them now, especially since I don't want to buy the ones from China. So I used almonds instead and the result was just as delicious.

Pesto can be used in all sorts of recipes. This recipe makes about 8 servings worth, so the first night, I used half of it to top some cheese tortellini. Then I spread some on tortillas to make veggie wraps, mixed some into egg salad, and added some to scrambled eggs. It's also delicious on white pizza, as a topping for grilled chicken or fish, or as a spread for a crusty baguette topped with fresh tomatoes. Yum!


  • 2 C. basil leaves
  • 1/2 C. slivered almonds
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 C. crumbled cheese (pecorino, parmigiano reggiano, romano, etc)
  • 1/2 C. good quality extra-virgin olive oil (do not skimp on this)
  • pinch of salt
Add the basil, almonds, and garlic to a blender or food processor and pulse for several minutes until chopped finely. Add the cheese and pulse to combine. Slowly add the olive oil and blend until combined. Taste and add salt as desired. Store covered in the refrigerator - it will keep for a few days.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Grilled Honey Mustard Chicken / Grilled Zucchini

Here's a yummy healthier alternative for the grill. It's super easy to prepare, and if you don't feel like firing up the grill outside, you can use a grill pan or broiler.

Grilled Honey Mustard Chicken - this marinade/sauce is so simple but tastes amazing


  • 1/2 C. dijon mustard
  • 1/2 C. honey
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. worcestershire sauce
  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4 breast halves)
Cut each chicken breast in half (across) so that you have about 8 relatively equal sized portions and place them in a shallow dish suitable for marinating. In a small bowl combine the mustard, honey, oil, and worcestershire sauce. Pour half of the sauce over the chicken and reserve the other half for basting later. Refrigerate the chicken for several hours.

Heat your grill (or grill pan or broiler). Grill the chicken for 6 minutes, flip and grill for 6 minutes more. Baste with the reserved sauce and grill for 3 more minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Grilled Zucchini - this method works for lots of different vegetables: peppers, onions, mushrooms, eggplant, or asparagus

  • 2 zucchini, cut in half (across), then sliced lengthwise into rectangles
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs (I used a combination of rosemary, basil, and flat-leaf parsley)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Drizzle 1 Tbsp. olive oil over the prepared zucchini and turn to coat. Grill the zucchini for 8-10 minutes, turning once. Meanwhile, mix the balsamic vinegar, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, herbs, salt, and pepper. Remove the zucchini from the grill and drizzle with the dressing before serving.

Summer Side Dishes: Cole Slaw and Green Bean Salad

Here are two quick and yummy seasonal side dishes that are perfect for a BBQ or picnic. These are best made in advance and refrigerated for several hours to let the flavors meld. And here's the best part: all of the produce and herbs I used were from the CSA, farmer's market, or my own backyard!

Cole Slaw - I have been tweaking this recipe for a while and I think I finally have it perfect


  • 1/2 head of cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 carrots, shredded
  • 1/4 onion, grated
  • 1/3 C. mayonnaise
  • 1/3 C. fat-free greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 2 tsp. celery seed
  • salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, carrots, and onion. In a separate bowl, mix the mayo, yogurt, sugar, vinegar, dry mustard, and celery seed. Pour over the cabbage mixture and stir thoroughly. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Chill before serving.

Green Bean Salad - Be careful not to overcook the beans. You want them to be a little crisp.

  • 2 C. fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 1/2 C. chopped kalamata olives
  • 1 C. quartered cherry tomatoes 
  • 1/2 C. crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
Steam the green beans in a small amount of water for 5 minutes - they should be a bright green color and still crisp. Immediately drain the beans and run cold water over them until they are cool (this stops the cooking process). Dry the beans and place them in a bowl. Add the olives, tomatoes, and cheese and toss gently. Heat the oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes, so that the garlic infuses into the oil. Remove the garlic from the oil and discard. Allow the oil to cool slightly, then mix it with the lemon juice, oregano, salt, and pepper. Pour the dressing over the green bean mixture and toss to coat. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.

Blueberry Crumble

This crumble recipe is the best! It works well for all sorts of summer fruits: berries, peaches, pears, plums. It is best served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


  • 2 C. blueberries
  • 1/4 C. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. corn starch
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 C. AP flour
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1/2 C. brown sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 C. rolled oats
  • 1/2 C. chopped pecans (or other nuts)
Butter the bottom and sides of an 8x8 baking pan. Add the berries, 1/4 C. sugar, corn starch, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla to the pan and stir to combine. In a large bowl, mix the flour and sugars. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbles. Stir in the oats and pecans. Pour the crumble topping on top of the blueberry mixture. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Friday, July 1, 2011

CSA Week 5: Yellow Plum Jam

This week's CSA box contained yellow plums, lettuce, onions, beets, a lemon balm seedling, and cabbage.

Yellow plums are small and a little tart. They can be eaten out of hand in just a couple bites, but they also make a delicious jam. The skins have plenty of pectin so you won't need to add any.

Some day I'll learn proper "canning" methods, but for the time being, when I make jam, I just make a small quantity that I know will be eaten quickly. This recipe makes one jar of jam, which probably won't last more than a week in my house!


  • 2 cups of chopped yellow plums (pits removed)
  • 1 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1/3 C. water
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low to keep the mixture at a simmer. Stir constantly for about 20 minutes, until the skins have dissolved and the mixture begins to thicken slightly. You need to watch the pan constantly or it may boil over. 

Pour into a mason jar and allow to cool before refrigerating. Note: The jam will resemble a syrup when it's done cooking, but will thicken to the proper consistency as it cools.