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 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.
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 😁
So four of us in the house has been close quarters for the last 3 months. We were very thankful to get up to the lake last week for a change of scenery, with the trees just starting to bloom. It was gorgeous!
The weather has done its typical “cold” to “hot” transition with little temperate spring in between. But I am glad it’s hot and sending daily good karma for the outdoor pool to open in a few weeks (we’re just starting our reopening process). Please please please!
As per usual spring, I planted succulents and herbs. The war with the tree rats continues. We’re trying plastic forks to keep them from digging in addition to the fencing. Ironically the plethora of rodents has attracted a flock of crows that keep picking off the chipmunks, baby bunnies and squirrels. Nature is scary, but useful.
I used the basil on my pasta tonight to go along with the lentil meatballs. Honestly I forgot to check if the noodles were vegan. But I am seriously exhausted from all of the cooking. All the boys do is eat. It’s only Tuesday and we’re already out of bread, ice cream, and most of the fruit. We have ordered delivery ice cream twice now. Ridiculous.
Here’s comments from dinner tonight: “Ha ha, I ate my firsts as fast as I could so I could get the most seconds.” Defensive speed eating. Avery is world champion.
So the boys didn’t eat the vegan lentil meatballs but instead we tried Audrey’s porcupine meatballs. What a hit!
“It’s as if spaghetti and meatballs & bolognese had a cousin.”
I was pleased because it was easy to make ahead and reheats fast. They were fun to make and I understood the name once I saw the distinctive way the rice plumps up during cooking. 😁
I followed the recipe with one substitution: creamy tomato boxed soup. Closest flavor profile: vodka sauce. Definitely adding this to our lineup.
Hopefully you only have to make one recipe or the other. Soon enough my food terrorists will leave the nest and it will be just us two. Poor Matt will be eating lentil vegan meatballs all of the time. (I realize how unusual our eating habits are).
All in all I am glad we had this extra time during quarantine together. Even if Avery won’t be having a commencement or grad party. I forgive his spite eating.
Oh, and we’ve now ordered a half gallon of delivery raspberry chocolate chip ice cream three times.
Lentil meatballs (vegan)
1 can precooked brown lentils, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp olive oil plus more for rolling (or avocado oil)
1/2 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 ounces tomato paste
1/3 cup walnuts
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp crushed black pepper
Fresh herbs if you’ve got em, I used basil, oregano, parsley and thyme, 2 tbsp total
Sauté the onion in 1 tbsp olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and cook another minute. Remove from heat and set aside. Puree lentils, tomato paste, walnuts, and panko in food processor until smooth but ideally with a few pieces of nut chunks remaining. Add onion/garlic mixture and seasoning . Pulse to combine. You may need additional breadcrumbs if your mixture is not clumping together.
Chill mixture for 30 minutes. Roll into 12 2” balls. Freeze for 30 minutes. Re-roll them and coat with oil (Avocado is my preference). They will be sticky. Place on tinfoil lined baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes, flip and bake another 15 minutes.
While traveling this week, the bunnies got into my garden. They ate the zinnias out of the front pots, two new arbor vines and–most annoyingly–my herbs. They destroyed the cilantro, did quite a number on the dill and parsley.
People: This is war.
My mom graciously enclosed what’s left and let’s hope they bounce back. Avery has been assigned to “shoot” hockey pucks. Not my fault if bunnies are in the way.
Read below for the draft post I had started while on the road. The irony!
Which herb is my favorite? Tough choice. Why limit life to just one?
I am thrilled with my expanded herb garden, which is going gang busters with all of the rain we’ve had–except the basil, which is craving for the sun and heat.
Fresh tarragon, dill and mint are growing well right now and I am sprucing everything up with a few herbs. I vary those 3 on my avocado toasts for breakfast. I have an avocado toast “problem”/addiction. I love it! I substitute tomatoes for the salmon now, but that recipe remains the best base.
A long-standing favorite summer salad is chicken tarragon with grapes. So when I came across this vegan version on the Charming Chickpea, I couldn’t resist. Super easy and super awesome! I added tarragon, red grapes and red onions and threw it in a wrap.
We also tried a new recipe from Bon Appetite: Asian melon salad. Super bright with mixing textures of the soft honeydew and crisp cucumber. The ginger dressing with the serrano is fantastic. We skipped the avocado (not ripe yet plus I use it in my toast) and peanuts (oops forgot those at the store!) but made up for it with plenty of fresh mint! It’s a weed. And I am thankful because that means I can’t kill it.
Unless the bunnies figure it out, I should be good.
It’s finally spring here in Minnesota!! I planted my flowers and an entire bed of herbs. I decided to give them more space and perhaps overdid it. But I expect to use lots of mint for mojitos amongst other things this summer on the patio. All told, I planted 10 different herbs including multiple varieties of basil, mint, thyme and lavender. And some swiss chard for color.
I was in such a hurry to get it all planted that I didn’t really enjoy it. They say gardening is one of the most mindful things you can do because it requires you to get multiple senses involved. It was definitely a signal that I am working too hard in that my mind refused to turn off.
So having a week off came just in the nick of time. Well actually I needed to do this several months ago, but lesson learned. I truly slowed down this week as I accompanied Matt to a work trip in Phoenix. It’s hot, like 100 degrees hot. It takes some adjusting.
Regardless I spent as much time outside as I could handle. I found a fantastic outdoor lap pool and started to get back in swim shape.
Sidenote: The outdoor pool in MN opens in just a few weeks!! I can’t wait to see all of my friends…or as Matt calls them, my “subjects” since I am like royalty after all of these years as the Mayor of Swim Town.
We didn’t have a car so I walked a ton and that really allows you to take notice of things you miss. The desert is beautiful in its own way, but I am definitely a water girl!
Of course there was food involved. I was impressed to find multiple new fast food salad/healthy chains. It’s getting easier to find vegan options. The highlight was a kale guacamole with grapefruit, honeydew cucumber spritzer and pomegranate limeade. I will be tinkering with those recipes with all of my herbs for sure.
In Minnesota our summers are truly beautiful and perfect. Especially on the lake. Every time I see the lavender in my garden I will be reminded to slow down and enjoy it!
Spring has finally arrived! I planted my herbs and flowers this week. Fingers crossed 🤞 that the window boxes will look decent in time for Alec’s graduation party in a few weeks.
We’ve had a good mix of sun and rain so my herb plants are flourishing. It’s so nice to just pop outside and clip a few to brighten up any meal. I plant basil, tricolor sage, rosemary, mojito mint, french thyme, lemon thyme, dill and oregano. Lavender goes into the garden to hopefully get big (and provide some fragrance). Still need to plant tomatoes.
This recipe highlights a mix of herbs and tomatoes, getting me in the mindset for summer. You can easily adjust it to whatever herbs, tomatoes or grain you prefer. Or even skip the grain altogether.
Since becoming vegan, I find that I like having a grain made ahead that can be mixed into a lettuce salad for some added protein or topped with sautéed vegetables for breakfast. Or some cucs and peppers.
Additional beans like garbanzo or cannelini would make it more filling too. In other words, it’s adaptable (eaten hot or cold too).
The boys will be out of school in just a few weeks and our weekends will be spent at the lake. This salad would be a great make ahead to picnic on the boat!
The outdoor pool is just around the corner, too….I can’t wait!! Life is good during our Minnesota summers, am set to cherish every day of sunshine.
Couscous tomato herb salad
1/2 package Trader Joe’s Israeli couscous mix (quinoa and dried garbanzo ups the protein in this)
2c diced cherry or grape tomatoes, variety of colors helps
2 cloves chopped garlic
Make couscous according to package. Rinse and drain. Combine olive oil, lemon zest/juice, garlic and herbs. Add tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and let steep for 30 minutes to bring out juices in tomatoes. Add couscous.
Halfway through winter has me dreaming of the dog days of summer, and my favorite ingredients–fresh tomatoes and basil.
Before getting into this salad recipe, I must share a bit of context for you, dear reader, many of whom are scattered across the globe and virtually all of you somewhere warmer than MN. It snowed a foot yesterday. This is what that looks like:
We (well mostly not me) shoveled 3 times in the last day. There’s nowhere to put it! The boys were disappointed that school wasn’t canceled. I remember those grade school snow days well–watching the TV update the school closings…a mixture of joy at an unexpected day off and the exhaustion at the end of it after pulling kids up the sledding hill endlessly. I was bummed that we couldn’t spend the day like that today.
So I popped over to the neighbor’s to reminisce, as his creative kiddo built a snow fort. It was a glorious day full of winter sunshine and a balmy 26 degrees Fahrenheit. Perfect for hiding out and an ambush snowball fight 😈
Back to this summery recipe….
We Minnesotans like to clarify our salad types (ie lettuce salad, pasta salad, Jello salad), so it’s surprising that Panzanella, a Tuscan bread salad isn’t big here. Maybe we’ve never tried it because I have never had day old bread to use up 😉.
I substituted in lemon juice for the traditional red wine vinegar and added cucs, skipping the onions. It’s so easy! It’ll be truly fantastic when we have local, fresh tomatoes and variations of cucs, zucchini and herbs!! Cheers to only 3 more months of winter!
Panzanella bread salad
Loaf of crusty bread, cut into large cubes (I used a seeded sourdough)
2 best quality tomatoes, cut into large chunks
1/2 seedless cucumber, cut into 1/2″ half moons
1/4c chopped fresh basil
1 clove garlic, chopped
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1/3-1/2c olive oil
Mix all ingredients except bread together in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper. Allow to marinate for at least an hour. In the meantime, toast bread at 350 for 8-10 minutes until dry but not dried out. (Skip this if you cube the bread ahead and just leave it overnight or if you truly have dry bread to use up. The texture is important). Toss the bread into tomato mixture until moistened but not soggy. You may need a bit more oil depending on how dry your bread is. Serve at room temperature.
Does boiling water count as cooking? I’m not sure, so I decided to call this a “recipe”. Since only the quinoa needs to be cooked, everything else is just throwing it into the bowl. I mean extra credit if you place it in the bowl to make it look pretty 😉
Perhaps I am being too hard on myself, since really there aren’t many truly new recipes, but just tweaks on old ones.
Maybe a new combination or delivery method (ie the bowl trend right now, which drops the calorie-laden tortilla in many cases). But most things are familiar. Familiar is good. Easy is good.
Heck, you could even buy pre-cooked quinoa and then there’s really no cooking involved in this recipe. It’s brilliantly efficient and open to any tweaks of your own that make it an entirely new recipe!
Ps The boys love saying keen-wa.
Shrimp quinoa bowls
1 lb cooked shrimp
1 cup quinoa, cooked
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
1 avocado, sliced
Juice of a lemon
Cook the quinoa according to package. I sprinkled the shrimp with cajun seasoning, leave it plain or choose a spice you like (paprika, cumin, cayenne are some ideas). Divide among 4 bowls. Squeeze lemon juice and drizzle olive oil over all ingredients.