Ambrosia tropical fruit salad (vegan)

It snowed this week. The battle begins.

I saw a whole coconut at the coop and got curious about how to use it. That seemed like a good distraction that would remind me of warmer days.

The recipe selection was easy–I love ambrosia salad with the mixture of bright citrus and tropical flavors. Pineapple, mango, valencia oranges, red grapefruit, pomegranate and the coconut. Perfect. Easy.

Well, it was easy. Except for the coconut. I now understand how it would feel to be trapped on a desert island surrounded by the things knowing full well they’re full of deliciousness and yet become fixated on getting the stupid shells cracked.

It started with using a skewer to puncture the soft spot to drain the water. It was delicious! Flavor wise this was definitely the highlight. A cup gets used in the recipe itself, but the remainder can be used as a post workout recovery aid.

If I didn’t want to mess with a fresh coconut in the future, I would at least buy the water, it made a huge difference and meant I didn’t need to use any sweetener (agave).

After draining, the whole coconut gets baked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes or so. This is supposed to dry out the interior flesh.

This is where the fun began! Trying to crack the thing. I tried a chef’s knife first. No go. Then a rolling pin. Comical. Finally, I called in the muscle (Matt) to use a hammer. The blunt side didn’t work. The claw side was sharp enough to crack it and then get it split in half.

I admit being disappointed both by the amount of flesh inside, and that it was still moist. I pivoted and scraped the stuff out, which roughly had the texture of oysters, and chopped it up for the salad. Next time I will break it open first, then bake, to dry out the flesh (duh). All in all a worthwhile exploration with something new.

We also did a nondairy yogurt taste test to go with it. I concluded cashewgurt or coconutmilk are my favorites. It’s a texture thing.

This was a nice diversion and I am pleased that we’ll have fresh fruit ready to eat all week. The next time I am really frustrated a $5 coconut will come in handy too! 😉

Ambrosia salad (vegan)

  • One pineapple, chopped
  • 2 cups diced mango
  • 1 red grapefruit, cut into segments then chopped
  • 2 valencia oranges, cut into segments then chopped
  • Flesh of one fresh coconut
  • 1 cup fresh coconut water
  • Seeds from one pomegranate

Mix all together and allow to marinate overnight. Serve with yogurt and granola.

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Roasted tomato sauce

Fresh tomatoes are one of summer’s best gifts. I just want to bottle it up and save it for January to remember warmth will eventually return! Now’s a great time to stock up at the Farmer’s Market.

Both boys have started asking for cooking lessons and before Alec left, we were focused on some of the basics that everyone should master. Obviously pasta is one of them!

It sounds easy enough, but there are a few techniques and tools that make for great pasta:

A spider for scooping pasta out of well-salted water. I prefer sea salt, and you should actually taste your water (before boiling 😉) to make sure it tastes like seawater. It takes more salt than you might think, but it results in more flavorful pasta. Remove pasta 2 minutes before “done” and finish cooking in the sauce that you’ve already started heating in a separate pan. This technique works even with store bought sauce.

This is the second tool you’ll need, a grabber to stir the pasta. Add 1 cup of the pasta water to finish the cooking and bind the sauce to the noodles. You can add as you go, more or less water until the texture is right. This works well with any non-cream based sauce.

This is the finished roasted tomato sauce, which is a beautiful color depending on the mix of tomatoes you use. There’s nothing more comforting than a bowl of noodles with homemade sauce!

Roasted tomato sauce (vegan)

    4 lbs fresh tomatoes, quartered
    6 cloves garlic
    6 tbsp olive oil
    Salt and pepper

Toss cut tomatoes and garlic cloves in olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Roast at 200 degrees for 6 hours. Purée in food processor or using hand blender.

4 bean salad (vegan)

It seems about right that I am making one of our favorite summer salads in September. I am not quite sure where it went! But both boys are back to school, with Alec at college for almost a month now and Avery having started his senior year of high school this past week. One more year until empty nest!! 😆

His last first day pic.

We are getting back into the groove of quick weeknight meals between hockey and other school activities. My weekends are spent preparing things ahead so anyone can grab and eat whenever.

Honestly this 4 bean salad fits that criteria which is why it’s a church picnic staple in Minnesota. You can throw in any beans you have on hand–I happened to use kidney and great northern. Most of the time it’s all canned beans too.

But this week at the Farmer’s Market the yellow wax beans and green beans were just fantastic! That’s actually what inspired me to make this salad, along with grabbing about 5 pounds of tomatoes to turn into roasted tomato pasta sauce. (I wish I would have snapped a pic of the golden raspberries I bought too–but they were eaten within hours along with a pint of red ones. Still Avery’s favorite!)

Also on tap this week is beef stew for Matt’s birthday with mashed potatoes and an apple tart….chili and coconut tomato soup and a cauliflower curry….maybe fall isn’t so bad. But I still hate winter. One more.

4 bean salad (vegan)

    1 cup each yellow wax beans and green beans, trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces
    1/4 small red onion, diced
    1 can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
    1 can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
    1/2c vegetable oil
    1/4c red wine vinegar
    2 tsp agave
    1/4c chopped fresh herbs–parsley and oregano
    2 stalks celery, diced

Steam green and yellow beans until tender about 5 minutes. Cool quickly in ice water.

Drain and rinse canned beans. Combine all beans together.

Soak red onion for about 10 minutes in cool water (takes away some of the bite). Dice.

Dice celery.

Mix the oil and vinegar and add herbs, salt and pepper and agave (sugar is fine if that’s what you’ve got).

Combine all ingredients together and let sit for an hour to marinate.

It’s ok! Play with your food

The end of summer is near–Alec returned to college in Chicago this week.

For those of you not from the midwest, a drive through Wisconsin creates the opportunity for comedic experiences. Such as the Mousehouse Cheesehouse that has a giant rat/cheese wheel on it. Interesting enough, this is not the ONLY giant rat/cheese “sculpture” found on the I94 route.

Beer, Cheese, Gifts and Fudge were advertised. None were purchased. This is Wisconsin. They’re serious about cheese. They also sell beer everywhere. I am unclear how fudge got involved except that after beer and cheese obviously one needs fudge to cleanse the palate. We stopped to snap a pic with the rat.

It got me thinking about how much fun we have in our house with food–trying new recipes or restaurants. So this post is a rather haphazard look at some of the experiments from the last few weeks (and hopefully distracts from my lack of actual recipe posts lately 😉).

What happens when you freeze watermelon cubes as mojito “ice”? Delicious drink for the lake

What happens when you puree an entire cucumber for a martini? Great flavor and color, not so great texture 😉

Challenge day: Can you make a breakfast baked good with a half eaten container of yogurt and a random amount of blueberries and no eggs because you haven’t done the grocery shopping at the lake yet? Oh-yes-you-can lemon-blueberry muffins. Could you repeat it because you wrote any of it down or measured? Oh no.

Favorite new food toy: the Jaguar of zoodlers (“leased” from my sister). Alec and I also laughed while doing this, it’s like the old Play-Dough toys.

I need another drink after all of that creativity! But a perfect reminder to stop and smell the roses (jasmine). It goes fast.

Actual recipes forthcoming now that Alec isn’t here to distract me.

More than you want to know

Thanks to Mr. A of A Barbarian in Gentlemen’s Clothing for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogger Award. I am 100% certain he did it to make this middle-aged Midwestern American, er, uncomfortable. But I am pleased to do it because he makes me smile with his authentic style.

My answers to his fantastic and bold questions:

1. The goal is to love life, not to endure it. If you’re bound to repeat an endless cycle of your life, are there things you wouldn’t want to repeat for eternity? If there are, have you done anything to change them now? What are those things?

Living a real life Groundhog Day sounds awful! That said, I wouldn’t avoid the challenges I have had in my life, they make me who I am today. The one I work on most with my coach is being self-compassionate and acting grateful towards myself. Daily rituals are part of that habit.

2. Have you ever thought of doing something, but didn’t try to pursue it? Are you glad you didn’t pursue it? Tell us about it?

When I was finishing my undergraduate degree in journalism I considered law school. My dad strongly discouraged me (aka forbid). Two words: Thanks Dad! Bullet dodged. (Ok, 4 words).

3. Is there someone out there that you follow with no question, even thou you know they’re wrong? Tell us who and why do you follow?

Well, any friend or colleague who has earned my trust will get my loyalty even if I disagree with the choice (and there’s always the outside possibility that I am wrong 😉).

4. Is there a thing you’ve been waiting to do? Why are you waiting? Are your concerns realistic?

I am getting ready to launch a new startup. I am finishing up another product launch for a client and expect 2020 to be clarity & focus on the new business. I am very grateful to the many friends who have been quietly encouraging me over the past 18 months of its development.

5. Tell us something that is you’re supposed to be committed to, but found yourself half-assing it? Why are you holding back? How can you give it everything you have?

Does occasionally eating Irish butter while vegan count as half-assing? I have 2 speeds: on/off. Half-ass doesn’t exist for me.

6. What is your ideal haircut for men that you find very irresistible?

Euro cut, long on top short on sides. Well groomed. Exception is men with curly hair–let it grow!!! Especially at the back when it curls up….like McDreamy:

7. How is your net worth? Are you still living from paycheck to paycheck?

Thankfully we’re in a good spot, but ask me again in 12 months (see question 4). Bootstrapping a business is definitely a challenge!

8. What is a guaranteed way to get a better night’s sleep?

Sleep alone by sending your husband on a Canadian fishing trip (Sorry honey). But just look at this muskie Av caught!

9. What are the red flags that you look out for in a romantic relationship?

We have been married 22 years (I’m 46). We’re wayyyyyy past red flags. Besides, he’s perfect 😇.

As our boys begin their dating life some advice and learning they’ve experienced is the trust factor of “self” vs “other” oriented. It can be difficult to spot early on, but invariably shows itself. At least in teenagers. I think adults can be incredibly sophisticated at hiding narcissistic tendencies. Red flag.

10. Is there anything that I have written that you consider poor or irresponsible? Is there a topic that I’ve written that you don’t agree on?

Hmmm…good question. Not that I can think of on either count. I’d tell you. Your Art of War posts are fantastic! And TMI Tuesday makes me smile. I ❤️ your fashion style!! Especially shoes!! I have perfect toes 😉

11. Now for the Mr. A being Mr. A question. If you don’t need a towel after sex, then you’re doing sex wrong – do you agree or disagree? You may choose not to answer, but if you do; tell us why?

Agree but disagree. To each their own.

And now my nominees…and food-related questions:

    1. You’re vegan (play along). What food do you occasionally “cheat” for?
    2. Favorite dinner guests. Real people you know.
    3. Favorite dinner guests. Famous. Dead or alive.
    4. Worst dinner party disaster. (Either as host or attendee).
    5. One thing you’ve changed about eating as you aged.
    6. Favorite summertime cocktail (bonus points for recipes!)
    7. Worst thing you ever ate out of politeness (ie Grandma’s Christmas ham)
    8. Best destination to visit for food.
    9. What one food best represents where you live? (Don’t forget to share your location!)
    10. The food you make when you need comforting.
    11. Food you once threw up (or cleaned up) that you can never eat again.
  • The Rules:

    Thank the blogger who nominated you.

    Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.

    Nominate new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.

    List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award in your post/or on your blog.

    Notify the nominees about it by commenting on one of their blog posts.

    Bee’s knees cocktail (vegan)

    My favorite job ever was working in Marketing & PR at the Minnesota State Fair during the summers after my sophomore and junior years in college.

    I got a lot of exposure to humanity and answered lots of unusual questions. My favorite being: “Is it the real Barney or just some guy in a purple dinosaur suit?” Yes, and yes.

    One of the PR issues that I had to address was protestors who were opposed to the beekeeping demonstrations showcased daily. Now, mind you, this was 1994. The challenges of hive collapse and the extinction of many native bees was not as well known as it is today.

    The protesters stated that the beekeeping and harvesting of honey was the “enslavement” of the bees. I didn’t quite get it at the time.

    Fast forward to now and our vegan diet, which does not include honey. Bees and insects represent the health of world in many ways.

    So this modified version of a Bee’s Knees cocktail is made with agave instead of honey. I steeped the agave with lavender from the garden, which is healthier too since it has a lower glycemic index. It makes for a perfect end of day pre-dinner cocktail at the lake.

    I am going to admit, however, that I have not fully honored the respect of bee byproducts in my life. I have fallen in love with an artistic technique called encaustic acrylic painting.

    I finally bought 2 pieces from a local artist–Jodi Reeb–who specializes in this technique using beeswax heated to 200 degrees mixed with acrylic paint. I simply love it! Layers upon layers so the colors merge and meld. The finished piece has a glean to it and an uneven surface. The landscapes make me feel very content (despite not being vegan). It’s ok to make some exceptions right?

    Bee’s knees cocktail (vegan)

    • 1/2c agave, steeped with 3-4 lavender sprigs for at least a day
    • 1/2 lemon, juiced
    • Vodka

    Steep the agave with lavender for several days on the counter. Shake 3 shots (about 6 tablespoons) with half of the lemon (about 2 tablespoons) and 1/4 cup of the agave in a martini shaker filled with ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass, garnish with lemon slice and lavender flower.

    **Recipe makes 2. Decide if you want to share 😉

    Banh mi (vegan)

    This is the vegan’s version of a barbecue sandwich. Layers upon layers of flavor and absolutely impossible to eat without making a mess. But you won’t care cuz it’s just that good.

    I tried a different technique with the tofu–slicing into 1/2 inch, marinating and then baking it. It got a little texture on the outside but still plenty moist. It has the appearance of something other than tofu, which may be important to some folks.

    I also used a readymade cabbage slaw for the pickled vegetables. That’s speeds things up too. I had black currant vinegar on hand which blended the tart/sweet punch perfectly!

    You can pretty much accessorize with any crunchy vegetables you have though. I had radishes, daikon radish sprouts and a jalapeño. I thought about slicing a cucumber too but it was already too fat to fold 😉

    Fresh herbs–mint and cilantro–and a Sriracha mayo finish it up. Round 2 was open-face sandwich style.

    Creating this feels like creating art: between the colors and flavors it turns out differently each time, but always delicious! Easily my favorite sandwich and WAY better than barbecue.

    Banh mi (vegan)

    • Baguette
    • 1 block extra firm tofu, sliced into 1/2″
    • 2 tbsp tamari
    • 1 tbsp sesame oil
      2 tbsp Sriracha, divided
      Juice of 1/2 lime
      1/2 cup vegan mayo
      1 cup coleslaw blend
      1/2 cup vinegar–apple cider or another fruit based cider works well
      2 tbsp sugar
      Sliced radishes
      Sliced jalapeño
      Sprouts or lettuce
      Cucumbers
      Mint and cilantro leaves

    Drain and slice tofu. Mix tamari, sesame oil and 1 tbsp Sriracha. Coat tofu and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

    Microwave vinegar about 1 minute until just warm enough to dissolve sugar. Cool, then add coleslaw and allow to soften for about 30 minutes.

    Bake tofu on tinfoil at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes. An ambitious person would flip it halfway through.

    Mix mayo with remaining Sriracha and lime juice. Adjust heat to your preferences.

    Slice cucumbers, radishes and jalapeño. Prep mint and cilantro leaves.

    Assemble sandwich by putting mayo, herbs, vegetables and tofu on one side, slaw on the other.