Sunday, August 23, 2015

Oodles of Zoodles with Avocado Basil Pesto and Farmer's Market Tomatoes

Are you in on the spiralizer craze?  With enough machines and gadgets in my kitchen, this is one craze I was going to let pass me by.  Who needs to clog up even more valuable counter space with another big gadget?

But after a spontaneous substitution of Zoodles (spiralized zucchini noodles) in place of pasta at a local restaurant, I'm unquestionably hooked.  Losing the pasta carbs and adding even more vegetables to my veggie dish was good enough, but the glorious texture of the par-cooked zucchini noodles pushed me over the edge.  I totally get the craze and I simply MUST have a spiralizer!

As timing often works when it needs to, days later OXO sent an offer to to try their new Hand-Held Spiralizer .  Hmmm... hand-held??  Not cluttered counter space?  And does the same job as one of those bulky spiralizer machines bringing glorious spiralized zucchini (and beets... would those be Boodles?  and carrots... Coodles?) with the twist of a hand?  If I didn't know better, I'd say OXO had read my mind.

Seriously only a few inches tall and with an equally small circumference (but perfectly sized for even large zucchini!), the OXO Hand-Held Spiralizer fits in my gadget drawer yet spiralizes like a workhorse.  Add to it the fact that the spiralizer is BPA-free AND dishwasher safe, and I think I just may have a new favorite gadget.

But would my family like spiralized foods as much as I do?  In a word... yes.  Well, except for the "Boodles" (beet noodles).  Apparently I am the only one with a taste for beets no matter the shape (I promise that recipe including beets, balsamic, goat cheese and sugared walnuts is coming for beet lovers like me!), so today we bring you a new family favorite... Zoodles with Avocado Basil Pesto and ripe summer tomatoes, a bowl of fabulousness bringing together many of our all time favorite ingredients (avocado anyone??  ;).

I'll admit it took a bit of convincing, but when a carb-loving kid hesitantly takes a bite of a dish filled with only vegetables, turns your directions and utters, "Glorious... simply glorious.", a mom can't help but smile.

Thanks also to OXO for making me smile and reading my mind to making my spiralizing dreams come true with the twist of a hand (and not clutter on my counter).  I see twirly carrots, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, beets etc,. etc., etc., in my future!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Grilled Corn California Mexican Quinoa

Grilled Corn California Mexican Quinoa

Homework... I thought it was a thing of the past.  But faced with an end of semester Spanish ll project including "creating a recipe with origins in a Spanish speaking country, photographing it and researching the ingredients" I volunteered to help when Liv needed to finish an ACT practice test.  (This has been the summer of extra "get-ahead" work for this girl...)  Recipes, photos and ingredient research, all kind of right up my alley.

Living in San Diego just 52 miles from the Mexican Border where Mexican food is akin to life itself, Mexico became our Spanish speaking country of choice.

Grilled Corn
Now for ingredients... corn?  Historians believe that people living in what we now call Central Mexico developed corn over 7,000 years ago.  Known as Maize, the corn didn't look, exactly as it does today, but the cobs with small kernels farther apart became a crop the Indians of South as well as North America heavily depended upon for much of their food.

As important as corn was to the indiginous Mexicans, so were beans, and you will find much of Mexican food based on these two ingredients.  Apparently neither food on it's own provides a full complement of amino acids needed for protein synthesis, however put the the two together they do.

More recently, cilantro and lime have become known a quintessential Mexican ingredients.  While they may not have thousands of years of history in the country, it's said that the conquistadors brought coriander seeds, cilantro, to Mexico in the 1500's.  And as for limes, Mexico has been the largest exporter of the fruit since at least the 1950's.


Next we have my beloved avocado.  Said to be a native of Mexico, the fruit is believed to have originated in the state of Puebla, Mexico where the oldest avocado artifacts have been found - dating back to 10,000 BC.  Today though, California produces over 90% of the cultivated avocado crop.

Grilled Corn California Mexican Quinoa
Jalapeño... it's name taken from the Jalapa, the capital city of Veracruz Mexico, the jalapeño is the most widely grown chili in the country and has a history dating back to the Aztecs who smoked the chiles to preserve them.

And lastly quinoa.  While not exactly from Mexico, quinoa originates from the mountains of Peru and Bolivia - which are both Spanish speaking countries and therefore fit our homework bill.

And there we have it.  A dish filled with modern and historical Mexican ingredients which are also popular in California and considered quintessential Mexican Cuisine.  Mix them all together and we simply have what I call "dinner".  The leftovers??  We call them "lunch".  My homework here is done.

Grilled Corn California Mexican Quinoa

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Coconut Lime Cashew Cream (Crema)

What's a taco without crema??  That luscious, creaminess that brings all the flavors together and also kills the heat when spice gets a little out of hand.

Crema became one of the most missed things when my son turned lactose intolerant, and for years we've just gone without.  But home for the summer, he asked if we could try to recreate one of his favorite recipesGrilled Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa, with some sort of dairy-free alternative.

My son's all time favorite dish... Grilled Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa
We've tried before, and while the tacos are always a treat, they just aren't the same without the crema.  I've stressed over the fact that I just haven't been able to come up with a satisfying dairy-free version, but turning to some of my favorite vegan books the time had come to give cashew cream a try.

Not one to always plan ahead I found a few recipes that didn't require soaking the cashews (so long as you have a handy dandy high powered blender - we have a Blendtec ).  

Following recipes including almond milk and cashews, the crema was okay.  Satisfactory in that it did the trick, brought that creaminess to the taco, but didn't add much else.

And then we tried coconut milk.  Oh my heavens!!  Beyond satisfactory, Coconut Lime Cashew Cream totally rocks!  A little tropical in flavor, but not overly coconutty, the coconut added a dimension that brought the whole taco together and had us spooning on just a little extra on, well, on everything.

Just a few ingredients and a blender and you're set... dairy-free lime crema that will leave your dairy eating friends totally jealous.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Strawberry Banana Popsicles (Shhh... no sugar added!)

Seems the rest of the country is turning to thoughts of back to school and fall, but here in San Diego summer is just getting going.  Our weather has been a bit strange this year bringing rain (a rare occurrence for us), heavy marine layers that hide the sun for days at a time, and cooler temps.  Until this week.

This morning I woke to a brilliant sun peeking over the horizon and temps already warmer than some of the highs from the past few weeks.  And with no air conditioning in our house, popsicles seemed a "cool" plan.

Serving double duty, these popsicles also served as temporary ice packs filled with fruit for my girl who underwent oral surgery yesterday.  Her somewhat confused teeth set a permanent tooth shooting horizontally low in her jaw and left  unchecked would have sheared off the roots of her front teeth.  Hence, the tooth needed to come out, and along with a bit of bone, she's now free of the rouge bicuspid and nursing a sore jaw.

As we know from my prior post (surgery has been all in the family this last week) the after effects of anesthesia and pain meds can be not so pleasant, hence the all fruit popsicle to reset my girl's tummy.

A simple recipe of bananas, strawberries, chia and a few splashes of oj, brought all of Liv's favorite ingredients together and packed the nutrition I was looking for.  Banana?  Filled with fiber bananas can help ease the uncomfortable after effects of narcotic pain meds, and acting as a prebiotic the fruits assist the growth of friendly gut bacteria which are wiped out by antibiotics.  Add in the fact that the high levels of vitamin B-6 can help reduce swelling and we have a real winner.

Next we have strawberries, rich in antioxidants, the Vitamin C in the berries gives the immune system a boost along with more fiber and their fabulous sweetness.

"Strawberries are the angels of the earth, innocent and sweet with leafy green wings reaching heavenward."
Jasmine Heiler
And next orange juice... also packed with that immune boosting Vitamin C, orange juice is said to help reduce inflammation and heck, it's also good for your heart.  A few splashes perk up any smoothie or popsicle and work as the perfect liquefying agent for our blend.

So here's to summer, fat lips and simply hanging by the pool.  Wishing you a happy and healthy day filled with balance and a little bit of chill.