I just returned from another glorious trip to Prana del Mar yoga retreat center in Baja, Mexico. It’s so beautiful and restorative! I got to swim outside and do yoga every day, all the food is healthy and I get so spoiled not having to worry about my vegan diet…they just magically do it for me!
While there, I got a bit addicted to the agua fresca served at every meal. The most magical of combinations — cantaloupe basil, watermelon, cucumber lime, guava — all left me refreshed and feeling good. It’s really hard to find fresh local fruit at home in Minnesota right now. Essentially there is none.
But I am determined to continue that healthy habit and so started with what’s available—cucumber. I am inspired to create other versions this summer. Am getting my herb list ready to have plenty of mix in options….lemon basil, tarragon, mint, orange mint and lemon thyme. In theory, a splash of gin or vodka wouldn’t be terrible either for evenings on the patio 😎
P.s. check out the globe ice cubes our new fridge makes! The bourbon drinkers in the house are very pleased.
Cucumber mint agua fresca
2 English cucumbers, peeled and chopped
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon (or regular lemon or lime)
2 cups water
1/4 c agave sweetener
2 tbsp chopped mint
Blend the cucumbers, lemon juice, water and agave in a food processor until smooth. Strain. Add chopped mint and serve over ice.
It’s done. Just like that. Summer’s over. The most glorious 12 weeks of the year. Now I wait. And plan my winter escapes.
I have neglected you, dear readers, and I give you my heartfelt regrets that I simply had too many other things to focus on, namely healing. I am perhaps taunting you with this post which is a summer’s worth of recipes that I didn’t share with you 😢
We’re finally an empty nest! Alec (aka Early Bird) has returned to campus for his senior year and Av (aka Second Mouse) heads to Oklahoma to play hockey. We’re planning trips to see both. We’re also doing some projects to repurpose space…I am very excited about a meditation/book nook and Matt can’t wait for his den (aka man cave).
My herb garden and tomatoes went gangbusters this year as we had a hot dry summer. The fake snakes worked too! Kept the critters out.
The Thai basil was particularly abundant, beautiful and fragrant in the planter. I used it in a simple cold sesame noodle salad.
Still need to do a salad with the nasturtiums. Did you know you can eat both the leaves and the flowers?? They’re quite zippy and peppery. All guests visiting the patio have sampled them. Will definitely plant again. They’re quite a prolific creeping vine once they get going. Beautiful and fun. I like getting people to try new foods 😉
I probably made a dozen pastas with different herbs. Pistachio mint pesto, sage pesto, tomatoes and basil, fresh tomato sauce (still my fav)
I can never resist the baby potatoes and thin green beans at the Farmer’s Market too and they made a great Salad Nicoise. (No fish for me of course!). With a special treat of pink French wine 😉
For the salad, I was trying a new hard boiled egg technique that is supposed to make it “no peel”. Epic fail. Don’t believe everything you read on the Innerwebs! 🤣
Speaking of fish…Matt caught a personal record 50” 30+ lb Muskie on their river float trip. It’s scary to think this thing is swimming around! He’s spent a lot of time on the water this summer ❤️
I feel blessed that we have so many local vegetables to create with and love going to the Farmer’s market to get inspired with whatever is fresh. Zucchini, yellow squash and patty pan (such a treat!) make me happy. So do fresh onions and garlic. There’s really no comparison to the dry stuff we get in the store/winter.
Am now feeling physically, mentally and emotionally stronger through Lots of self care, Time at the lake, enjoying the last few weeks with the boys, and of course swimming. I am writing a book about these last 2 years of parenting, and that has been fun and therapeutically fulfilling as well ❤️ I hope to get back posting recipes now that it’s fall. 🍁
If something here caught your eye, drop me a note and I will write it up for you 😇
It’s friggin’ hot here right now. We went from 60 to 95 degrees in a matter of weeks. This is the earliest that I ever remember getting fruit on my tomato plants!!
I barely want to eat. Trying to keep things cool and easy….with not-quite-yet summer produce. (This was the first week we had some decent raspberries and cherries in the store, although certainly not locally grown).
I had a small Napa cabbage to use up and threw this one together to go alongside some facon feeb burgers. That’s plant-based bacon burgers for those not familiar with my fake meat language. It was also an excuse to use some fresh dill from the planters. My snake solution appears to be working!!
I am very much looking forward to going North this weekend to cool off at the lake!
Lemon tahini Napa Cabbage slaw
Small Napa cabbage, halved lengthwise
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp tahini paste
Several sprigs fresh dill
Drizzle olive oil over cut cabbage and season with salt and pepper.
Grill 6-8 minutes per side until charred and wilted.
Mix lemon juice and tahini until smooth, thin with water (about 2 tbsp) and season with salt and pepper.
Slice cabbage. Drizzle with lemon tahini sauce and top with dill.
After a year of being isolated, it felt like a good idea to take a vacation. Basically so we could isolate ourselves somewhere warm, beautiful….and remote. The middle Florida Keys seemed perfect and the weather didn’t disappoint.
Lots of long walks (not on beaches since the Keys have very few of the sandy type beaches but lots of coral) and swimming (long course!!) at the beautiful outdoor pool in Islamorada where of course I made friends and we even ran into fellow Minnesota teammates. I have concluded that no matter where I winter in future years, it has to absolutely involve a good outdoor pool! Australia is most definitely on my list.
The ritual of driving beautiful highway 1 with the windows down to the pool several times a week followed by a late lunch is quite simply meditative soul restoration. I learned the funny little names of the various Keys and harbors. It never got old.
Our home base was a secluded rental home in Duck Key, which was absolutely perfect! Morning yoga on the patio, afternoons in the pool or hammock and evenings on the front porch rocking chairs. I couldn’t get enough Vitamin D!! Duck Key is actually a clump of little islands all connected by cute little historic bridges. It’s mostly private homes so walking, biking or golf carts are the primary ways of getting around. I truly love being so isolated.
It’s also one of the best places to fish in North America. The boys did a day trip to check giant tarpon off the list. They caught 80lb and 100lb fish!! Tarpon are protected and can’t even be taken out of the water for photos (besides they’re too heavy). It’s an interesting style of fishing around the highway 1 bridges, where the bigger fish (and sharks) like to hang out in the strong currents. Timing the tide is key, as is navigating through the bridge structures once the fish is hooked. It takes about 40 minutes to land the fish! They eat once a month so catching one is a pretty big deal.
We also went sailing out in Marathon, which is known for its iconic lighthouse and 7 mile bridge. The shallow waters and coral structures mean that in its history there have been tons of shipwrecks. These make for great snorkeling and scuba spots, which I had hoped to check off my bucket list, but seeing sharks changed my mind 😉
Food wise we ate in, cooking healthy bowls, smoothies and of course lots of my favorite avocado toasts with cold press coffee in the morning. Seared fresh blackened tuna and shrimp supplemented meals for the carnivores.
While many things have been difficult about the last year, there are some things that are better. One of them being delivery. I learned that even in remote places in America, you can still get just about anything you need delivered quickly. It amazed me how easy it was to get groceries and house items. I also noticed that once we settled into our routine the people we regularly saw were generally kinder. (The chill vibe in the Keys helps…Island time is a real thing!)
To say that I am grateful for 6 weeks of sunshine is an understatement. Particularly as a way to almost end our yearlong quarantine. The impacts of this year and this trip have been profound for me. A time for inner reflection and gathering energy to grow. My own kind of winter into spring.
Happy (belated) Groundhog’s Day! Here in Minnesota we expect 6 more weeks of winter, but this year it’s particularly cold (-35 degrees Fahrenheit). Thankfully I don’t really leave the house so it doesn’t matter! 🤣
I just have to get through 3 more weeks before I leave for the Florida Keys for 6 weeks so I’m starting to feel more optimistic. Add to that my parents have their first vaccine!! Woo hoo! It is getting brighter!
I was late getting our holiday cards out but have decided this is a new tradition worth keeping. It’s a lot less stressful to just send them when they get done versus rush around. Happy boys kissed by summer sun is exactly what’s needed in February!
As for food….Vegan nachos for Superbowl Sunday were yummy and I used the leftover cashew queso on the tempeh tacos tonight. Fast & easy, perfect!
1 – 6 oz package Tempeh “bacon”
3 tbsp Cholula or other hot sauce (Sriracha, Crystal or Tabasco would work)
2 tsp Nutritional yeast
2 cloves chopped garlic
Sauté tempeh in olive oil until crispy, about 5 minutes. Add Cholula, yeast and garlic and heat another minute until garlic is cooked.
Serve with accessories, chopped kale, green onion, peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, avocado, pickled red onions, black beans, quinoa.
Winter solstice has passed, which is a turning point in the days getting longer. We didn’t have snow on the ground until Dec. 23 so it already feels like winter is shortened. I am choosing to use both of those facts in my mindset….because being inside last March and April was hard. We’re all actively getting outside (even me despite the cold) to try to stave off the winter blahs. The sunshine helps!
Somewhere along the way someone updated the family calendar, which is usually full of activities. By the dates, I am guessing that happened around October. Not sure if the update is funnier or the fact I didn’t notice for 2 months. While each day does feel eerily similar to the previous one, as a family we talk each day about our “roses”—the bright spots.
The daily “rose” is usually the simple things, like literally fresh flowers, or getting a text (or e-card from Esme!) or small self-care like doing my nails or a particularly refreshing video workout. Heck, my rose today is going to be writing this blog post. We all agreed that the things we will appreciate most are “normal” acts of connection during our days. A Twins or Wild game, concerts, plays, coffee or a meal out together, a massage, in person yoga…daily gifts to be treasured. Soon, hopefully.
It was a joy having both boys home for a week at Christmas. Doing the family traditions via Zoom was…..interesting. Not quite the same as watching present opening in person. The highlight was watching my dad open his Kindle with the giddiness of a child. He had borrowed mine in November and discovered the ease of e-reading (and that I am still a voracious reader of good books, which he held all in his hand). My favorite gifts are a t-shirt with one of my favorite sayings on it and some lovely new glassware. 😎
Food was a bit different this year. We ordered prepared items as I am finishing up a big work project. Alec pitched in by making the meatballs (“ew Mom, raw meat is gross.” Yup kiddo. Strategically working on getting him to eat less meat 😇).
The one thing I did make that was a huge hit was a 5 onion vegan dip. My mother in law always serves French onion dip with Fritos (my absolute favorite junk food) and potato chips for holidays. This fancy vegan version was gone before I could get a pic! Yes they’re still The Hungry Boys.
To save a bit of time, I have been using a new meal planning/recipe service app: Ultimate Vegan Meal Planner. It is working well—making it easier to plan meals for the week and get a shopping list together. Cooking is one of my creative outlets so it’s helping me with a hybrid approach of exploring and time management. Most of the recipes are quick and easy, and some of them will definitely make the rotation (the sweet potato falafel as one keeper).
As the New Year begins, I reflect on the past year with gratitude for the gifts of learning and growth that came from this experience our world has faced. More thankful than ever for the small moments of joy and connection with others each day.
Wishing you peace and hope for a bright(er) 2021.
Vegan French onion dip
3 tbsp olive oil
Vidalia onion, quartered and sliced thin
Yellow onion, quartered and sliced thin
Red onion, quartered and sliced thin
2 shallots, halved and sliced thin
3 green onions, chopped
8 oz vegan cream cheese
1 cup nondairy sour cream
2 tbsp vegan mayo
2 tsp garlic powder
Cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste (we used a bit of Chipotle Tabasco sauce to kick it up)
Sugar or agave if your onions aren’t sweet after caramelizing
Sauté the Vidalia, yellow, red onions and shallots in the olive oil over low heat until brown and caramelized. About 30 minutes. Add a bit of sugar if your onions aren’t sweet enough. Cool until warm and then mix into cream cheese. Add remaining ingredients and season to taste, adding more spice to your preferences.
Serve with corn chips, potato chips or crudités
Serves 8 normal humans, but not enough for 2 Hungry Boys.
It’s been awhile. The world has been noisy so I have been allowing myself the compassion to focus inward.
To simplify food lately, We’ve been doing partially prepped meals from 2 local spots—one, Seed Cafe, my favorite vegan place and the other Local Crate, which uses all local ingredients.
Both meal kits come with many ingredients prepped and the recipes are easy enough to make in 30 minutes. It’s been a good compromise to feel like I am still cooking but to not be fully immersed. If we’ve learned anything these last few months it’s the importance of being flexible!
Some highlights from those kits:
But today I felt the spark of creativity. Perhaps it was having the week off or the lovely 70 degree weather that inspired me to cook.
Only, it’s Thursday. There’s not much left in the fridge (we shop Saturday). I relish this kind of challenge—ala Chopped to create something fantastic from whatever is in the basket.
This pasta was just the trick of comfort food and hearty filling with the addition of protein packed garbanzos. It always satisfies me to use what’s on hand resourcefully. Nothing particularly magnificent but Matt praised me anyway: “Restaurant quality”…perhaps I will take on Bobby Flay. 😉
It’s a hearty dish that comes together quickly….just in time for winter. And hey, this is a more or less of type of dish meaning if you don’t have zucchini that’s ok, no green onions or parsley or rosemary that’s ok too. Cannellini beans but no garbanzos? It’s all good. Basically, layer some carbs. It warmed my soul.
From our quiet corner of the world to yours, wishing you health and hope. ❤️
Lemon pasta with chickpeas (vegan)
1 lb spaghetti
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp crushed red pepper
4 green onions chopped
4 cloves garlic chopped
1 can chickpeas
2 medium zucchini, quartered and chopped
1 lemon, zest and juice
Pasta water, about 1 cup
1 tbsp fresh rosemary chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped
Boil pasta. In the meantime, sauté zucchini in olive oil for 5 minutes on medium until just turning brown. Add chickpeas and heat through. Add crushed red pepper, garlic, rosemary and green onions, sauté 1 minute. Remove to separate bowl. Add 1/2cup pasta water and scrape browned bits from pan until loose sauce forms. Add lemon juice and zest. Add cooked pasta and additional water until pasta is well coated and soft (about another 1/2 cup water and 1 minute). Combine with zucchini-chickpea mix. Top with parmesan if desired.
It’s the end of summer… and no Minnesota State Fair feels like there’s punctuation missing from the end of the sentence. Added to that is this is the first year in 20 that our house isn’t getting ready to start school. Weird. That pretty much sums up 2020.
It’s hard to see him behind the mask, but to celebrate Avery’s high school graduation, he and Matt took a float fishing trip in Wisconsin right before Av left for Connecticut in late August. He’s playing hockey out there, living with a “billet” host family. It’s the first time he’s had to share a room 😉
With one less ravenous monster to feed, it’s been a little quieter, even if not the true empty nest we were expecting. Alec is taking one class online and working as a swim coach as his College decided to go virtual at least until February. We’re trying to make the best out of it by getting out for takeout at new places—with a local juice bar’s açaí bowls a new favorite.
Alec is 21 now so craft cocktails are fun too. It’s a joy to have extra time with him ….he discusses things as an adult…I think this quiet time has helped him get more clear on his dreams and next steps, putting things in perspective.
With fall clearly in the air here in Minnesota, we’re focusing on shifting back into indoor coping mechanisms with cooking near the top of my list. I am finding creative ways to use up my herbs before the freeze. Pesto, sage pesto, chimichurri, smashed rosemary sage garlic potatoes, dill in the weekly refrigerator pickles and mint in anything and everything. Soon enough it’s back to store bought.
And of course tomatoes and fresh tomato sauce. Even better with tomatoes from Uncle Wayne’s garden and fresh basil. Sigh. If I have learned anything it’s one day at a time. And a bowl of pasta with fresh sauce always makes it better.
Ps This scone recipe is an easy riff on the strawberry shortcake we fell in love with earlier this summer. It comes together fast! Don’t overmix the dough 😁
It’s the dog days of summer. The cats and I are in heaven. Heat. Humidity. Sun. It’s fantastic!
I am so thankful for the pool being open! Swimming outside is a true joy for me and each visit restores my soul.
We’re about one month from empty nest now. Alec goes back to college in Chicago in 2 weeks and Avery has decided on a hockey team in Connecticut. It’s surreal after all of this time together—more than my maternity leave—that soon we will be far apart again. I am glad for the boys to be moving forward and hopeful for their health and safety.
In the meantime I am spoiling them rotten with their favorite foods and trying new ones.
We were honored to try a new local chef’s Mediterranean takeout, Dervish Mazza. Fun tapas style dips and snacks. Winner!
It’s berry season and I found an awesome strawberry shortcake recipe (vegan)! It’s soooooo fantastic!! I use coconut oil for the fat and it really makes for a moist flavorful cake. I ❤️ fresh local strawberries! And can even find great nondairy whipped cream or ice cream.
Speaking of favorites… I don’t know what I love more, fresh local cherry tomatoes (the purple ones especially!) or Door County Wisconsin cherries! I don’t care how much they cost, yes please!
Avocado cucumber soup. Green goop? You betcha! Anything avocado. Thank you Martha, as always, for this winning recipe. It’s like gazpacho but more satisfying. Eating it at the lake helps too. Kayaking amongst the loons is restorative.
In our first happy hour out in public (and his first visit to a cocktail room), Alec and I enjoyed local distillery Dampfwerk. This watermelon/lime gin cocktail “take home” kit was just what we needed for Saturday night patio time. I am going to miss him!!