Easy Black Bean Burger

Here’s an easy recipe you and the kids can enjoy making and eating together.  It has just a few simple ingredients, it’s easily customizable, and can be cooked in multiple ways. It also combines two of the healthiest foods on the planet, beans and oats!

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It starts with a can of black beans.  Choose the lowest sodium variety you can find, even though the beans will be drained and rinsed.  Canned foods like beans and vegetables are notoriously high in sodium and even if you rinse them they retain a lot of it.

The recipe call for quick oats. If you don’t have any quick oats you can make them by pulsing whole old fashioned rolled oats in a high speed blender.  It takes 5 or 6 pulses to get them to the right consistency.

Here’s where the customization comes in.  Choose a mild, medium, or hot salsa depending on your family’s preference but keep in mind that you will be adding another level of spice with chili powder and adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers if you choose to use it.  The adobo sauce also adds smokiness. If you don’t want to use it you can get some smoky flavor with a few drops of liquid smoke or by using chipotle chili powder.

You can also add some chopped bell pepper or some corn to these burgers. Feel free to experiment!

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The burgers can be cooked by baking them in the oven or by searing them in a cast iron pan.  If you have an air fryer you can experiment with cooking them in that; it should make them nice and crispy.  As long as the outside of the burger is crisp and the inside is fully heated they should be good.

The Southwest flavors pair nicely with avocado as a topping but there are a lot options that would work well.  Try some additional salsa, sliced jalapenos, tomato, lettuce, you name it. Or just stick with ketchup and mustard.

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You can watch a video of these burgers being prepared on the CGH YouTube channel.

Recipe:

  • 1 can (16 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 3/4 cups salsa
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce from a can of chipotle chiles
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin

Add beans to a large bowl and mash until there are very few whole beans remaining.  Add remaining ingredients and mix to combine thoroughly. Place mixture in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to chill.  Meanwhile, heat oven to 375F if you will be baking the burgers.

Cover baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop mixture onto baking sheet using a 1/2 cup measure. Flatten patties with the bottom or the cup or with your hands.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.

You can create your patties and freeze them before cooking.  Just make sure to thaw them in the refrigerator overnight before cooking.  Other methods of cooking include searing in a fry pan on the stovetop or using an air fryer.  Direct grilling is not recommended. To grill them use a sheet of non stick aluminum foil on the grill.

 

Mock Guac

I consider myself a bit of a guacamole connoisseur. I’ve tried everything from the commercial brands in the supermarket to those freshly prepared at tableside in high end Mexican restaurants.  Some guacamole recipes are as simple as mashed avocadoes with a little lime and salt, while others typically add chopped tomato, onion, jalapeno, etc.  My favorite quick recipe came from a native Texan who told me to simply mix some fresh salsa into mashed avocado.

All of these recipes have one thing in common. They start with avocado. In fact, there are some people who believe it’s a travesty to suggest that guacamole could be made with anything but.  In 2015 the New York Times published a guacamole recipe that replaced just a portion of the avocadoes with green peas and it set off a war on Twitter. I’ve been wanting to try it ever since!

Regardless of your feelings about guacamole there are disadvantages to avocadoes.  Some people just don’t like them (I know, really?). Avocadoes can also be expensive, they are high in calories, and sometimes the fickle things can go from rock to overripe in a matter of hours.

Therefore I give you this recipe that substitutes green peas for the avocado entirely. The peas offer solid advantages. Frozen peas are readily available, can be kept for a long time, and they are very inexpensive, not to mention much lighter in calories than avocado.

I have christened this recipe “Mock Guac” so as not to offend any guacamole snobs but if there are any out there you might be surprised to find out how much you enjoy this lighter, fresher preparation.  Here’s how I made it.

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This recipe starts with frozen peas. Most frozen vegetables are blanched before freezing so they can be eaten without any additional cooking. I use thawed frozen peas and corn in salads and other recipes frequently.  It only take a minute or two of rinsing under cold water to get them ready.

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Once the peas are thawed you can prepare your jalapeno and onion. Slice off the stem end of the jalapeno, cut it into quarters lengthwise, and use your knife to separate the white pith and seeds. Cut each quarter into very thin strips and mince.  Beware the size of jalapeno you use. It can make a big difference in the heat level in your recipe.  I’ve seen some giant ones in the grocery store lately.  I used one that was on the smaller side.

If you’ve never handled raw jalapenos I will warn you that you must wash your hands thoroughly afterward!  Even then be careful of touching any sensitive body parts. I once took my contacts out not long after dicing jalapenos and even though I had washed my hands it was painful!

I know that there are cilantro haters out there.  Since this is not a traditional recipe I think you could try parsley or mint instead. Both would go well with the peas. I do think lemon makes a better match with the peas than lime would. Using both lemon zest and lemon juice gives a nice citrusy pop and one fresh lemon gives just enough zest and juice for this recipe.  Just be sure to zest the lemon before slicing.

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Now all the hard work is done.  Everything goes in the food processor at once. Use the pulse feature to blend the mixture until you get to the right guacamole consistency.  I didn’t want any whole peas to be visible and that took at least 10-12 pulses.

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I served my Mock Guac with homemade tortilla chips.  Just cut white corn tortillas into triangles, brush with a little olive oil on both sides, and bake in a 375 degree oven for 8-10 minutes; turning halfway through. Sprinkle on salt immediately after removing from the oven.

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Here’s the recipe. If you try it give me a shout and let me know what you thought.

Mock Guac

  • 1 – 13 oz. bag frozen sweet peas, thawed
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced thin or pressed in garlic press
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, cleaned, seeded, and minced
  • 2 Tablespoons diced fresh onion
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and use the pulse feature to process until the mixture resembles guacamole. It should be creamy looking with just a slight hint of texture.  Serve with tortilla chips, fresh vegetables, or as a wrap filling.

Whether you consider this guac or not, it’s a tasty dish with fresh flavors that can be enjoyed any time.

 

 

 

 

Fall for This Salad

 

You don’t have to give up those healthy salads just because the weather is cooling off. Just make them more seasonal and warm them up a bit by adding roasted vegetables. I made this kale salad with roasted caramelized sweet potatoes and onions for lunch yesterday.

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Although I grow kale in my garden I have used it all up. I thought I would make my life easier by buying a bag of the pre-chopped stuff but I still thought the pieces were too big. I will go back to buying it in bunches and chopping it myself.

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I cut the sweet potatoes into bite-sized pieces and measured out just one tablespoon of vegetable oil to toss them with.  I like to do this right on the cookie sheet if I am roasting to save on dishes.  The onion went in the oven too.

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It took about 40 minutes at 375 to cook the squash and get it to caramelize.  I turned it over once about halfway through the cooking time.  I put my pecan halves in the oven for the last 8-10 minutes to toast them.

I’ve been using a lot less oil lately and it can be challenging when it comes to salad dressings. For this salad I made Dreena Burton’s Magical Applesauce Vinaigrette which contains no oil or nuts. For my own little twist I used some Red Apple Balsamic Vinegar from one of those fancy olive oil and vinegar stores. I also left out the miso that was called for.  It’s hard to find in our area and the dressing was still good.  The next time I get to a larger grocery store I’ll pick some up and see if it makes a difference.  I also doubled the recipe so I could use my high speed blender.

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The applesauce was an interesting ingredient but I often use it to replace the oil in baking so I thought, why not?  The spice blend of cumin and cinnamon was also unusual but it went really well with the ingredients in this salad. Everything went into my high speed blender so that the applesauce got fully emulsified.

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Now that the kale was cut up, the sweet potatoes and pecans roasted, and the dressing made, it was time to assemble my salad.  I have learned that massaging kale can make it more tender and palatable for salads.  You can do it with a bit of salt or lemon juice but I decided to use some of my salad dressing.  I put the kale in a bowl with a couple tablespoons of the dressing and used my hands to squeeze and distribute the dressing.

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I topped the salad with the still warm sweet potatoes and onions, the apple, pecans, and cranberries and drizzled on a bit more salad dressing for good measure.

I love eating according to what is in season and this salad satisfied my fall cravings. I hope you will try it and enjoy it.

Applesauce Vinaigrette (My Way)

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (I used a red apple flavored balsamic)
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp pure maple syrup or more to sweeten to taste if desired
  • 1/4 tsp rounded sea salt (or more to taste)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Combine all ingredients in a high speed blender and blend until very smooth. I thought the dressing was the perfect consistency as is but you could add a bit of water to thin if you like.

 

 

 

 

Veggie Heavy Pasta Salad

I made this pasta salad for a family gathering recently.  It was a perfect dish to showcase seasonal produce and it was lighter in calories than many pasta salads because the ratio of vegetables to pasta is quite high.

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Speaking of pasta, have you seen the pastas that are made from beans?  For this salad I used a brand that is made from garbanzo beans.

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Bean based pastas are higher in protein and fiber than grain based pastas and naturally gluten free (if you have to be concerned about that.)

My favorite thing about this salad was the dressing.  It’s a fairly simple vinaigrette flavored with lemon and dill.  I could see using it for a potato salad or as a marinade for grilled fish or chicken. Fresh dill is best here.  I don’t grow it myself but I found some at the farmer’s market and that’s actually what led me to make this recipe.

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The prep work was simple.  The only cooking I did was to boil the pasta.  I wasn’t sure about cooking the asparagus.  I didn’t think I would enjoy it raw but I wanted it to be crisp. What I ended up doing was putting the sliced asparagus in the bottom of the colander and pouring the hot pasta and water over it.  I left it in the colander for a couple of minutes and then rinsed everything with cold water.

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In addition to the pasta and asparagus I added thin sliced green onion, radishes, sugar snap peas, and cauliflower.  And I forgot to take a picture after the cauliflower but I think you can see that this was a very pretty and colorful salad!

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Here’s the recipe for my Veggie Heavy Pasta Salad with Lemon Dill Vinaigrette:

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup light olive oil
  • Juice from 2 fresh lemons
  • 3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper to taste

Salad Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. pasta (Rotini or penne work well.  Try to keep vegetable pieces about the same size as the pasta you use.)
  • 3 green onions, sliced thin
  • 8 oz. sugar snap peas, sliced in half
  • 6 large radishes, sliced (about a cup)
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 1 bunch asparagus, cross cut into 1″ chunks

Directions:

Whisk salad dressing ingredients together.  I like to do this in the bottom of the salad bowl.  You can make the dressing ahead of time and refrigerate until you are ready to use.

Cook pasta according to package directions for “al dente”.  Place cut asparagus in bottom of colander and pour pasta and cooking water over the asparagus. (This step is optional if you don’t mind completely raw asparagus).  Rinse pasta with cold water and allow to drain. Add remaining salad ingredients to the bowl with the dressing.  Add drained pasta and asparagus to bowl and toss everything together to combine.

I’d love to hear if you try this recipe and liked it.  Please let me know!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smoking Corn Chowder

My husband and I love thick, hearty chowders but they can be really high in calories and unhealthy fats.  This easy one pot recipe gets body from pureeing a portion of the vegetables (which include potatoes) and additional creaminess from almond milk, a source of heart healthy fat. It also features smoky flavor from chipotle pepper and smoked paprika.

Ingredients:

  • 3 celery stalks, sliced thin
  • 3 cups red potatoes, diced (or you can substitute sweet potato for some or all of the red potatoes, as I did)
  • half an onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 cups low sodium vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup unsweetened plain almond milk
  • 1 individual chipotle pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

There is something so beautiful about a colorful pile of chopped vegetables.  It doesn’t take nearly as long as you would think to do this!

Heat about 1/2 cup of the vegetable broth in a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. I used my favorite cast iron as you can see. Add all of the vegetables and sauté for 5-6 minutes until they begin to soften.

Add the remaining broth to the pan and bring to a simmer.  Cook for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.  At this point I brought out my stick blender and processed for just a minute or so.  You don’t want all the vegetables to be pureed completely.  Leave plenty of nice chunks.

If you don’t have one of these “sticks” you can transfer 2 or 3 cups of the soup to a regular blender and process.  Be careful, hot soup in a blender can be dangerous.  Make sure to vent the lid and cover with a towel to prevent disasters.

Stir the blended soup back into the pot (or simply stir if you used the stick blender.) Stir in the chipotle pepper, black beans, smoked paprika and almond milk and cook until the beans are heated through.

Speaking of my love of all things chipotle (weren’t we?), this is what you’re looking for when you go to the store. They are canned, smoked, jalapenos in adobo sauce.

They are plenty spicy so you want to handle carefully.  I used just one in the recipe and chopped it using my handy Pampered Chef chopper.  Of course you could use a knife but my chopper does a great job of milling the pepper into a fine pulp.

With beans, potato, and corn, this soup is hearty enough for a full meal.  I like to top it with cubes or slices of avocado.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Squash Spaghetti

Spaghetti squash has become very popular lately with low carb dieters.  I am not one of them but I do enjoy this variety of squash and used it recently to make a super simple dish. My crockpot did all of the cooking.

This is what a spaghetti squash looks like.  They are smooth ovals with slightly pointed ends and a yellow rind.  When cooked the flesh separates into long thin strands and can be substituted or used in addition to traditional noodles to lower the calorie and carbohydrate content of popular pasta dishes. Follow my recipe for a simple spaghetti marinara here.

Squash Spaghetti

Folks, I hesitate to even call this a recipe because it can be made with only two ingredients. But hopefully you will appreciate this easy method of cooking a whole squash.

  • 1 2-3 lb. spaghetti squash
  • 1 jar marinara sauce

Wash the outside of your squash and put it in your crockpot.  Add 1-2 cups of water. Using a fork or sharp knife make several small punctures in the squash. This is to ensure the squash does not decide to explode!

Put the lid on the crockpot and turn the temperature to low.  Cook for 4-6 hours until the squash is tender and pierces easily.  Lift the squash from the crockpot with tongs or other utensils and place it on a cutting board.  I like to put the cutting board in my clean sink because the squash might release some liquid when you cut into it.

When the squash is cool enough to handle, cut it in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.

Empty the water out of the bottom of the crock pot and place the squash halves back into the crock.  This way you can scrape the flesh directly into the pot with little mess as I’ve done here.

Once you’ve scraped out all of the “spaghetti” strands from both halves and discarded the shell you can add a jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce. Put the lid back on the crock pot to heat everything through.  A friend of mine likes to add frozen, prepared meatballs to this. You could also add some greens as I have done here with a pile of Swiss chard from my garden. Depending on what you add it may take 1-2 hours to heat everything through again. When everything is heated through, simply stir and serve.

 

 

Obviously, this is not a fast food recipe but the hands on time is very short.

Please let me know if you try making this “Squash Spaghetti” and how it turns out!

Brownies for Breakfast

These brownies contain a surprise ingredient. Sweet potatoes! Sweet potatoes are highly nutritious and taste great baked, steamed, boiled, or roasted.  Their natural sugars can also be used to satisfy our sweet tooth in ways you may not have considered. Here is a brownie recipe that relies on the sweetness of the potato and only a small amount of additional sweetener.

Sweet Potato Brownies

These can be made with only 4 ingredients; sweet potatoes, nut butter, maple syrup, and cocoa powder.  I added a little vanilla, a touch of salt, and a small amount of chopped dark chocolate to enhance the flavor. Please forgive the paper plate.  I took these to work in the pan and had to make do with what we had.

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup smooth nut butter (I used almond butter)
  • 2 T real maple syrup
  • 1 cup mashed cooked sweet potato*
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Dash of sea salt
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips or chopped chocolate (Additional chocolate is optional and you can vary the amount.  I used 4 Dove Dark Chocolate Promises chopped finely.)

*NOTE: I cooked my sweet potatoes by roasting them whole in the oven at 375 degrees for approximately 45 minutes.

Instructions:
Preheat the oven the 350 degrees. Grease a small 8X8 cake pan or loaf pan and set aside. In a large microwave-safe bowl, heat nut butter and maple syrup together for 60-90 seconds and blend. Add the mashed sweet potato, cocoa powder, vanilla and a dash of salt and mix very well. At this point you can add the chocolate chips or chopped chocolate if you desire and mix in.
 

Pour the mixture into the greased pan and bake for around 20 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before slicing. Store in the refrigerator.

You may say “What’s the point? Why would anyone want to make brownies with sweet potatoes and no sugar?” All I can say is that I can totally eat these brownies for breakfast without guilt.  Sweet!

Ooo…Lasagna!

I had a bumper crop of eggplant this year.  I guess you could call me the eggplant whisperer.  My favorite recipes to use it are the Caponata and Easiest Eggplant recipes I featured in this post last year but I like to branch out occasionally.  Last week I experimented with a lasagna recipe that used sliced eggplant instead of pasta noodles and I may have to throw this one into the annual rotation.  It was that good!

Eggplant and Red Lentil Lasagna

I found this recipe from one of my favorite plant based sources and used it as a template to create my own version of this dish.  You could totally use your own lasagna recipe and substitute the eggplant (as prepared through the baking step) for noodles to create a lower carb version of something you already enjoy.

Ingredients:
  • 2 large eggplants, sliced into 1/4-inch slices lengthwise (see the photo below)
  • Coarse salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1 28-ounce jar of your favorite marinara sauce
  • Additional cooked vegetables or greens as desired.  I added some oven roasted tomatoes and a small tub of baby spinach.
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked lentils or other beans (canned red or kidney beans might be good)
  • 12 oz. ricotta cheese (I made my own cashew ricotta using this recipe.)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Generously salt eggplant slices on both sides and place them in a colander in the sink.  Let them sit for about 15 minutes. This helps to remove excess water.  If you try to use the eggplant raw, without salting and pre-baking, you might end up with a soggy end product.

Rinse the salt off of the eggplant slices and lay them on a clean kitchen towel.  Top with another clean towel and lay a baking sheet on top.  Press to remove excess water.

Arrange the eggplant slice on baking sheets (might take two baking sheets – I squeezed mine onto one) in an even layer and spray or drizzle with a little olive oil. I use parchment paper and spray. Bake for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce the oven heat to 375 degrees F.

While eggplant is baking, add marinara sauce, lentils, and other vegetables if you are using them to a large saucepan and heat.  You could skip a step here and not heat your sauce but keep in mind it will make your final baking time a little longer.

Here’s a tip. I like to arrange my ingredients in order of how they will go into the baking dish so I don’t get the order mixed up.  Here is a picture of my sauce, cooked eggplant slices, and cheese all lined up.

Spread a thin layer of the sauce on the bottom of baking dish. Then layer on a few pieces of eggplant. Spoon half of the ricotta filling over the eggplant slices and spread into an even layer. Then top with another layer of marinara sauce. Repeat. The top layers should be marinara.

Sprinkle with a little parmesan cheese if desired and cover with foil. Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the top layer is slightly browned. Let rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing.

If you take the leftovers to work and heat them in the microwave your co-workers might be jealous.  Mine were!

Cukes are Cool

At this time of the year my garden and the farmer’s markets are full of the bounty of summer.  I love seeing all the tomatoes, corn, and zucchini and thinking of the things I can make with them.  Another summer vegetable that I look forward to are cucumbers.  I’m sharing two recipes with you today.  One is an old favorite that I have tweaked a bit and the other is a new one I tried recently that everyone seems to like.

Easy Refrigerator Pickles

It wouldn’t be summer if I didn’t make a batch of these almost weekly.  The original recipe calls for white sugar.  There’s  nothing wrong with sugar in small quantities but I almost never have it in the house. Last year I tried substituting agave syrup but the flavor was rather flat. This year I tried honey and I like the results.  This recipe will just about fill a one quart mason jar, depending on how tightly you pack the cucumbers.

  • 1 large or two small cucumbers, peeled and sliced (I like to leave some of the peel on the cucumber – it looks prettier and adds crunch besides retaining the fiber and nutrition in the cucumber peel.)
  • 1 small white onion, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup white sugar or other sweetener
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Begin by combining the sweetener, water, vinegar, and salt in a small sauce pan.  Bring to a simmer and stir until the sweetener is dissolved.  It doesn’t have to boil.

 

Let this cool and preferably chill in the refrigerator before moving on.  Layer the cucumber and onion in a jar, alternating each and packing tightly until the jar is full.  Pour the cold vinegar and water mixture into the jar until the liquid covers the cucumbers.  Put the lid on it and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

These easy pickles are a favorite of my husband’s.  I hope you enjoy them, too.

Cucumber Salsa

It might surprise you that I do not own a large food processor.  I’m perfectly fine using a knife to do all of my chopping but I was demonstrating this recipe in a park recently and I wanted it to move along a little faster. I went online looking for a vegetable chopper that did not require electricity and found this little darling

It’s rather small, just 4 cups, but it was big enough to make one batch of salsa.  The round green button is a knob that pulls a cord to rotates the blades.  I was doing the demonstration at an event geared toward kids and this device was a big hit. Everyone wanted a turn at pulling the cord.  One thing that I have noticed about kids is that if they are involved in the preparation of a meal, they are much more likely to at least taste the results and this time was no different. We all got a workout, too!

Here are the ingredients for the salsa:

  • One medium cucumber, cut into large chunks
  • One medium bell pepper, cut into large chunks
  • One small white onion, cut into large chunks
  • One medium tomato, cut into large chunks
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, diced
  • 1 teaspoon cilantro, or to taste
  • Juice of 1/2 large lime
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried dill
  • salt and pepper to taste

Put the harder vegetables (the cucumber, pepper, and onion) in first and process those a few times before adding the tomatoes.

Add the tomato and process until everything is uniformly diced. Add the jalapeno, garlic, and cilantro last and process a few more times just to blend everything together.

After everything is processed transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the lime juice, dill, salt and pepper. Chill for at least two hours before serving.

Of course you could use a regular food processor for this, or just chop your vegetable with a knife.  I wouldn’t recommend a blender, though, as this is meant to be a salsa and should have some chunkiness.

I have eaten this with a spoon but it also goes great with tortilla chips and here’s the other thing.  I try not to keep large bags of chips in the house because they are a weakness of mine.  It works better for me to make my own chips and make just enough for a single portion or two.  To do this cut corn tortillas into triangles, arrange them on a baking sheet and spray or brush them with a little olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt or seasoning and bake them in a 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes or until crisp.

 

 

Cucumber salsa makes a nice, fresh tasting alternative to regular salsa and it’s a great way to use all of the vegetables that are in season right now.

Please let me know if you enjoy these recipes.

 

A Toast for Summer

Bruschetta (brew-sketta)  is an Italian dish of toasted bread with toppings. It can be eaten as an appetizer, a light lunch, or even as breakfast or dessert.  Although there are many versions of bruschetta that can be prepared at any time of the year my favorites are perfect for summer time.  Here are two recipes that I love.

Classic Bruschetta

In this iconic version the toasted bread is rubbed with a clove of garlic as soon as it comes off the heat.  The garlic melts into the bread and the tomato, onion, and basil topping is spooned over.  Warm crunchy bread topped with cool herbed tomato makes for a mouthful of delicious.

  • 2 cups assorted tomatoes cut into large dice. I usually use Roma tomatoes but almost any type will do. Some people like to squeeze the seeds out of the tomatoes.  I usually leave them in.
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped (aren’t the little red onions from my garden cute?)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil plus additional for brushing
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 loaf rustic Italian or French bread cut into 1/2″ slices.
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled, halved

Combine the tomatoes, onion, 3 tablespoons olive oil, basil, and balsamic vinegar in medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. You can make this a couple of hours in advance and leave at room temperature. Stir it occasionally.

 

Preheat grill or broiler. Lightly oil the bread slices on both sides.  I use this handy sprayer to get a light, even coating of oil.

Place the bread directly on grill (or under the broiler as I did here) and toast; watching carefully so that it does not burn.  Turn and toast the other side.  Take the bread off the grill and immediately rub one side with the peeled garlic clove.

Top toasted bread with tomato mixture and serve. (Alternately you can cut an entire loaf of bread in half crosswise. Toast just the cut side; rub with garlic and top with the tomato mixture. this makes a nice presentation for parties and you can cut slices at the table.)

One variation of this classic dish adds white cannellini beans to the tomato mixture which would make it a perfect light lunch.

 

Strawberry Goat Cheese Bruschetta

I tried this slightly sweeter version of bruschetta recently for a weekend breakfast.  It was easy to put together and I could have made it even easier by toasting my bread in the toaster.

There is really not much of a recipe involved. The ingredients are simply:

  • Toasted bread slices
  • Goat cheese
  • Sliced Strawberries
  • Balsamic vinegar (You could boil some balsamic vinegar to reduce it and make a thicker, syrupy topping but I used a bottle of espresso balsamic from one of those fancy vinegar and oil stores.  It was thick enough!)

Toast your bread, spread with a thin layer of the goat cheese, and top with sliced strawberries.  Drizzle a little balsamic vinegar over the top and garnish with thinly sliced basil.  Lovely!

By the way, did you know that the best way to store any extra herbs, like basil, is to keep them in a glass jar with a little water in the bottom in your refrigerator? It will last for several days like this.

If you’ve never tried bruschetta before you do not know what you’re missing.  Please let me know if you enjoy these recipe.