Cucumber and Avocado Salad

We’ve had a very rainy summer thus far and the cucumbers are coming in fast.  This salad highlights the crisp coolness of cucumbers by contrasting with the creamy richness of avocado.  The proportions for this recipe are not exact, so make adjustments according to taste and your abundance of cucumbers.

The secret to a delicious and crispy cucumber salad is to salt them before adding to your recipe.  Prep the cucumbers by peeling, seeding and chopping them to bite size.  Place them in a colander or on clean towels and sprinkle generously with salt.  The salt draws out water and tightens the cucumbers so they stay crisp and delicious.  Another trick is to wait until the last minute to add the avocado so that it doesn’t fall apart or get brown.  The vinegar will prevent browning to some degree, but avocado is best when really fresh.

Cucumber Avocado Salad

Fresh cucumbers ( about 4 – 6 medium size)

sea salt

1 avocado

1/4 onion or scallions

freshly ground pepper

3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar

optional: a few cherry tomatoes and/or 1 sweet bell pepper

  • Peel the cucumbers and slice them end to end.  Scoop out the seeds with a spoon.  This is not necessary if you’re using very small cukes.  Chop them to bite size pieces and place in a colander over a bowl.
  • Sprinkle on 2- 3 teaspoons of salt and mix in really well so each bit has some salt.
  • Leave to drain for at least 15 minutes and up to an hour.
  • Discard the liquid, pat the cucumbers dry on a clean towel and place in a bowl.
  • Slice the onion very thin (I use a mandolin) and combine with the vinegar and some black pepper in the bowl.  Mix well so the onion is in contact with the vinegar.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • When you are ready to serve the salad, wash the avocado, slice it open, cut it in cubes while still in the peel, then scoop it out with a spoon.  Mix into the salad gently.  Add tomatoes or chopped bell peppers if using.

More cool recipes for hot summer days:

Cool Cucumber Soup

Gazpacho

Perky Pickles

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Happy New Year

c2466f6f0a2544cc4c3b573b076fcb71--julia-child-quotes-julia-childsDo you make resolutions in January?  Each new year, I find myself feeling heavy and sluggish from too many holiday treats and loathe to go outdoors in the freezing temps.  Each January I feel the need to address sugar cravings and a desire to feel healthier.

I love cooking, baking, all the details, science, history and culture of food.  However, sometimes it’s all just too much and I need to take a break.  This year I’m focusing on healthy eating by cutting way back on sugar in January as part of a fresh start to a fresh new year.

If you are interested in making some changes this January, here are some links, tips and recipes I’m considering as I move forward.

Let’s think about a few things as we look at the month ahead:

  1. Whatever I choose to eat this month, I will be paying attention to what I eat, reading labels, and really thinking about how I feel.  Do I want added sugar in my sandwich bread?  How much sugar is in those kombucha drinks I love?  How much protein is in my breakfast?  Does this meal make me feel full, healthy, satisfied or tired?  Did I take the time to notice the taste and texture of my food and really enjoy it?  Have I checked the label on my almond butter to see if it has added sugar?  You get the idea…
  2. I will not be cutting back on fat.  Here’s an article about why our bodies need fat that also explains the different types and sources of fats.  My diet includes a LOT of raw nuts, extra virgin olive oil,  and avocados, as well as fresh eggs and moderate (sort of…) amounts of butter and cheese, and small amounts of bacon, and gasp… lard!(click here for more fascinating info about the king of fats)
  3. Why am I doing this?   I want to feel healthy and energetic, and I know from experience that I feel better when I eat very little sugar.  Everything from my digestion to frequency of headaches to cravings and moodiness improve when I stop mindlessly consuming sugary snacks.  We each have our own reasons for the choices we make – it’s important to know ourselves and find what is best for our own bodies.
  4. Rather than focusing on what I’m not eating, I’ll be turning my attention to what I’m adding this month such as:
    1. I plan to drink more hot tea  (unsweetened of course)
    2. I’m adding delicious fruit to my diet – I can have sweet mandarin oranges for dessert or a smoothie if I really need a treat (go to the end of this post for links to recipes)
    3. I LOVE to feel healthy, sleep well, and be happy – and eating healthy foods supports these goals
    4. I’m adding vegetables to my diet, and I’ll eat all my favorite winter veggies such as roasted carrots and cauliflower.  I’ll also make salads with lots of cheese and nuts, and make sure my fridge is stocked with things I like to eat so I don’t feel deprived.

As you know I love to bake, so here are a few recipes I’ll be revisiting this month.

It feels so good to make healthy choices about what to eat.  If you would like more tips and info about making changes to your diet, reading nutrition labels, or encouragement look for me on facebook  @ Monticello Georgia Yoga.

P.S. Am I cutting out dessert forever?  absolutely NOT!  I’ll be back with more sweet treats in a month or two.

 

Applesauce Muffins

This recipe was inspired by these Pistachio Chai Muffins I blogged about several years ago.  I made them again recently and decided I could do better by adding more nutrition and less sugar.

20171029_105851Applesauce is a great natural sweetener and also allows you to reduce the amount of fat in baked goods without sacrificing moisture.  Many recipes actually use applesauce as a replacement for butter, but that seems a bit extreme.  I also employed a favorite trick for adding rolled oats to muffins which I discovered during my first few months of blogging.  It’s well known that buttermilk is wonderful for baking, but it’s also great for tenderizing (I guess that’s why it’s good in marinades).  So if you measure out the oats and buttermilk and let them soak for a few minutes, there will be absolutely no tough fibrous texture in your baked goods.  I researched and wrote all about the wonders of buttermilk in this post.   I have since learned even more about the fascinating world of butter, cultured butter, buttermilk, and making various dairy products at home.  For example, did you know that the buttermilk we buy in the store is nothing like the buttermilk our great great grandparents made at home?  That was a by-product of cultured cream that was left in the churn overnight (that’s the ‘cultured’ part) and then churned into butter the next day.   I digress, but you can read more about buttermilk here!  One other thing I like about this recipe is that all the ingredients are easy pantry staples.  However, since I was out of chai tea bags I had to use cinnamon, cloves and ginger instead.

Onward to the recipe:

Applesauce Muffins

1 cup old fashioned rolled oats

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup melted coconut oil or butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup chopped pistachios for the top

Preheat the oven to 375 and prepare the muffin tins.  This recipe will make 12 large or 16 skimpy muffins.

Measure the rolled oats and buttermilk into your mixing bowl first so they can soak while you get everything else ready.

Add all the wet ingredients (egg, applesauce, oil, vanilla) to the oats and buttermilk and 20171029_111058stir together.  Measure the dry ingredients and mix into the wet until just combined.  It’s a good idea to sift the dry ingredients together to remove any lumps and incorporate the leaveners into the flour, but not entirely necessary for this recipe.

20171029_111547  20171029_112239

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Scoop the batter into muffin tins and top with chopped pistachios.  Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in pans for 5 minutes, then remove to cool a bit more before eating.

My son and husband agreed that this new recipe is superior because these muffins are very moist and yummy.

Fall Farro Salad

Here’s a delicious and nutritious salad for the fall.  Farro is an ancient grain in the wheat family.  Although it does contain gluten, it has less than modern varieties of wheat.  However, this recipe is easily adapted to a gluten free grain such as black rice.  Farro is very nutritious and an excellent source of fiber, iron, b vitamins, zinc, magnesium and protien.  This grain makes a chewy and satisfying salad when combined with roasted vegetables and fresh herbs.  I especially like this combination with it’s mix of sweet potatoes, sour apples, and savory onions.  Consider this more of a guide than an exact recipe.

Fall Farro Salad

1 cup farro (or other grain such as rice or quinoa)

1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes – cubed

1 granny smith apple – cubed

1/2 onion – chopped

1 garlic clove

1 bunch fresh parsley and other herbs such as basil, cilantro or mint

salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the cubed sweet potato, apple, and onion on a foil lined baking pan and toss with about 3 Tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast, stirring once, for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned and very soft.

Meanwhile, cook the farro according to package directions with 1/2 teaspoon salt and a whole clove of garlic in the water.  This grain will need to simmer for about 30 minutes.

Drain the farro and toss with cooked vegetables and chopped herbs.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and drizzle with olive oil.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cool Cucumber Soup

20170610_163244

A garden to walk in and immensity to dream in – what more could he ask?  A few flowers at his feet and above him the stars.’ – Victor Hugo

This is the time of year when gardening is a pure pleasure.  It is that magical time in between spring and summer when everything is still lush, green, and full of promise.  Flowers are blooming, bees are busy doing their work, and the first of my favorite summer vegetables are coming in.  Cucumbers are absolutely the best when they are small and fresh off the vine.  My son loves pickles, so most of ours go into mason jars, but this year I tried something new.

Refreshing cucumber soup is so easy to make!  Just remember to blend the soup and chill for at least 8 hours before serving.  After a long rest in the refrigerator, the soup will be creamy and thick and delicious.  This soup is a wonderful appetizer since it is so light, or you can serve it with some sourdough bread sliced thin.  Absolutely yummy.

Cool Cucumber Soup

2 cups cucumber – peeled, seeded and roughly chopped

1/4 cup sweet white onion or scallion – roughly chopped

juice from 1/2 lime or lemon

3 Tablespoons plain greek yogurt

3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

fresh dill to taste – about 1 large piece

1/4 teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper

You will need about 4 or 5 small to medium cucumbers for this recipe, but the amounts do not have to be exact.  Wash, peel and seed the cucumbers.  To get the seeds out, slice them into long quarters and slide the knife down on an angle (see the picture above).  Place all the ingredients in a blender, food processor or smoothie maker and blend until everything is very well incorporated and smooth.  Pour the soup into a container, cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.  Serve cool with a garnish of fresh dill.  Let me know if you try this recipe! 

What’s for dinner?

The thing about dinner is that you have to eat it every day.  I know this, but it still sneaks up on me.  The internet is a great resource for recipes but often sucks up any preparation time as I scroll through loads of ideas.

I’ve been sticking to the basics in the kitchen lately.  I made pumpkin bread in November, but never got around to photographing or blogging.  We’ve had too many grilled cheese sandwiches, pizzas, and quesadillas lately.  When I get into a slump,there are a few blogs I rely on.  I’ve been following them for years and I know their recipes are will work.  Here are my favorites:

I hope you find something yummy on one of these sights.

Lemon Meringue Tart

20160906_161913I saw Martha Stewart make this tart on public television and scrambled to write down the recipe.  It looked simple enough, and very delicious.  You simply assemble the brown butter cookie crust, chill it, blind bake it and let it cool.  Meanwhile, whip up the lemon curd so that you can strain it directly into the prepared crust.  While this chills, you can work on the meringue.  Martha Stewart made this beautiful pie and two others in the span of thirty minutes.20160905_122101

20160905_122921I wasn’t even able to finish this project in one day.  However, it was WELL worth it.  The crust is awesome, the lemon curd is fantastic, and the meringue is superlative.  The genius addition of a little unflavored gelatin to the lemon filling makes it hold up well to slicing.  Everything about it is just right.  I will definitely make this again.  If you think it looks good in the pictures, just imagine that it tastes even better.  The crust is tender, the filling is tart and smooth, and the meringue is fluffy and marshmallowy.20160906_155928

20160906_160854Please click through to her website for Martha’s recipe.  You will not be disappointed.

Lemon Tart With Brown Butter Cookie Crust

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