Sitting on the back patio with a cup of coffee early on summer mornings is one of my “recharge” rituals. I love the quiet of the world, with mostly only nature stirring about, and the 70 degrees is perfect.
I have never been a big breakfast eater. In college I remember being weird in that cereal was not a default meal for me. Even before the vegan diet I didn’t enjoy sausage or other heavy rich foods first thing. Brunch time? Maybe. But just a cup of coffee wasn’t all that unusual for me to survive on til midday.
But then you get older and just coffee kind of makes you feel yucko and jittery. So I have really been trying to eat in the morning and in the process expanding my foods.
I have discovered that I like vegetables for breakfast! Typically that’s sautéed zucchini and cherry tomatoes, some bell peppers if I have them and fresh basil. If I need some starch, will put it over quinoa.
Sometimes even a mixed green salad with sautéed sweet potatoes, tomatoes, avocado and nuts (pistachios in this case). It feels a bit odd to have salad in the morning but eh, I am used to being different by now 😉
I also love toasts, with avocado or hummus and topped with radishes or more tomatoes, and dill. A side of fruit salad with mint rounds it out. I make cold press overnight so the coffee is always ready as soon as I am up.
Maybe because it’s first thing in the morning, it’s easier to slow down and take my time to beautify my food too.
There’s something about starting out the day with some solid self-care, both in the enjoyment of nature and healthy food, that is nourishment on many levels.
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)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 2/3c chopped fresh herbs (basil, dill, parsley, thyme, oregano work well)
- 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.
One of the reasons I started doing the blog is to force myself to write stuff down. And actually measure. Ummm, yah, not so great at either of those things. I’m a little vague on exactly how much of what that I put into this chili. It’s the first time I have made it and just grabbed what I had on hand.
Wouldn’t you know it, this was fantastic. A nice smoky heat and good heartiness. I should try harder, and take pictures of the steps. Then I wouldn’t have this problem. But that sounds like a lot of work. Almost as much work as actually measuring and then actually writing it down. This is why I am a “cook” and not a baker. Too hard.
I think I will just call my stuff “recipes”. As in good enough. If you test this and find the amounts in odd proportion, you’re probably right 😉
- 3 garlic cloves chopped
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 chipotles plus 1 tbsp adobo sauce, chopped
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 c diced bell peppers (yellow, orange, red)
- 4c vegetable stock
- 28oz can diced tomatoes
- 1/2c quick cook barley
- 1 can pinto beans
Sauté onion in olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, chipotles/adobo and peppers and sauté another 2 minutes. Add stock and tomatoes, bring to simmer and add barley. Simmer on low about 20 minutes and add beans, cook 5 minutes more. Season to taste.
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
- Cilantro leaves
- Juice of a lemon
- Olive oil
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.
I’ve been watching you
Grasshopper green becomes radiant red
On guard for competing squirrels
What will become of you?
Frittata’s luscious lick
The tiny little beauty in BLT…
so many ideas
I cannot bear to think of you sentenced to ketchup or diced and trapped in a lightless can.
Sure, I’ll be singing a different tune come January
But now your beauty is singular and will be savored.
Oops, all gone.
I will remember you fondly My little jewel, first bite of summer
My mom (a master gardener) is the caretaker for the Runestone Museum heirloom garden in Alexandria, near our lake place. She brought home a huge bag (estimating 3lbs) of various heirloom tomatoes — small yellow, apricot gold (golf ball size) and red cherries.
This roasted tomato recipe is great for using up end of season tomatoes–the ones that might be a bit overripe or otherwise “imperfect”. Any variety works, as well as using several varieties. I decided to use it for spaghetti and meatballs and pulled the last of the basil and threw in some oregano too. The boys couldn’t believe there wasn’t any cream in the sauce, as it was so thick and luscious.
A delicious last meal to celebrate the season’s best! Thanks Mom! I imagine using this recipe this winter when the tomatoes are, well, “meh” and I need to be reminded why I live here.
Roasted Tomato Sauce
- 3 lbs tomatoes, cut to consistent size (I left the small yellows whole, halved the grape/cherry size and cut the golf ball size apricot ones into quarters)
- 1 onion quartered
- Olive oil, salt and pepper
Toss tomatoes and onion in olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Roast at 400 for 30 min until juices burst and edges are singed. Puree.
I could have used this as is, but added a few basil and oregano leaves and some chopped garlic, sauteed in olive oil.
Finally! My tomato plants are producing lovely bite-size red ones, and slightly larger yellow sungellas. Mostly, I just throw them straight into salads, but I also like to do this marinade, which gives them kind of a sauce. It can be eaten as is or thrown over lettuce, pasta or other grains, like farro or quinoa. It captures the best of summer!
- 2c mixed small or cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1/3c olive oil (I used the VOM FASS orange!)
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1/2 cup mixed chopped herbs (Basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, tarragon, dill all work)
- Zest of one lemon & a generous squeeze of lemon juice
- 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into half rounds
- 1c fresh mozzarella balls (Or feta or skip it)
And one bonus recipe for those of you looking to use a common CSA vegetable: fennel. Chipotle-marinated pork tenderloin with fennel salad. Served it with dill baby red potatoes and corn on the cob with cayenne/lime juice/feta and of course, butter. The pork was flavorful, but not too spicy, for those of you with Minnesota palates 🙂
Thank you to my dear friend Robin for this recipe 🙂
I plan on making a double batch next week for healthy snacking over July 4th!
Summer black bean and corn salsa
- 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
- 3 ears corn on the cob, kernels cut off (do not need to cook)
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced (leave the seeds if you like spice!)
- 1 tomato, diced
- 1 avocado, diced
- 1/2c red onion, diced
- 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
- 1/2 jicama, diced (I used kohlrabi this week from our CSA share)
- Juice of 1 lime
Serve with tortilla chips.
Other recipes this week to use CSA vegetables (spinach, green onions, turnips):