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If it’s watermelon time, it must be summer

2 Jun

It’s not the heat and it’s not the pool opening. It’s not the strappy dresses and sandals or the birds chirping too early and the fire-pitless porch parties lasting past midnight.

What tells me it’s summertime is the large, cardboard box full of big green orbs that greets me when I enter Trader Joe’s.

I received that happy welcome last weekend. There was even a woman handing out watermelon samples at a makeshift tasting station. She advised that the sweetest watermelons were ones with yellow on them. Taking her word for it, I grabbed (if you can “grab” a bowling ball without finger holes) a fine looking specimen and weighted down my cart immediately.

At the official tasting station, they were sampling Watermelon Cucumber Juice. Good stuff! I’d bought a container the week before, but hadn’t opened it yet. As Persian Cucumbers are one of my shopping-list staples, I looked in my cart and thought, “Cukes, watermelon…why not make my own juice?!”

Hydratedly inspired, I searched for a recipe and found a three-ingredient drink I thought I could master. The third ingredient was lime juice – and I found that it makes ALL the difference!

(Although there are several sites with similar recipes, mine came from AllRecipes.com. Thanks, AllRecipes!)

How To Make Watermelon Cucumber Cooler:

I used:

  • 4 Persian cucumbers
  • 1/2 the fruit from a watermelon
  • 2 limes

Trim the ends off your cukes and cut into bite-sized chunks.

Cut the watermelon into chunks.

Combine the cuke and watermelon chunks and liquify in a blender or food processor.

Stir in the juice from the limes. It’s OK if a little lime fruit drops in, too!

It makes a pitcher-full of juice. Enjoy!

This is what it looked like:

Glass2 ingredients

Notes: The cukes were unpeeled. The watermelon had very few seeds, so I just let the few involved get mixed in the batch.

I had planned to make a fizzy drink by adding carbonated water to half a cup of juice, but I got caught up in the deliciousness, and the batch was finished before I remembered I wanted to do that! Next time.

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When is pasta not pasta? When it’s mushroom.

2 Mar

For me, cooking is usually an arts-and-crafts project or a science experiment. I imagine that certain flavors will go together well and then test the theory.

Other times, I challenge myself by trying to recreate an amazing dish I’ve had at a restaurant. Like I did this week.

Recently, I went with friends to John Bentley’s in Redwood City, Calif. Everything on the menu sounded delicious and I thought it was going to be hard to decide what to order, until I got to the end of the menu and found: “Trumpet Mushroom “Pappardelle” with tomato, garlic, basil,Kalamatas, edamame and Pecorino Romano.”

Mushroom Pappardelle

A carbless delicious beauty from John Bentley’s

The waiter said the chef created Pappardelle from mushrooms. The dish had a red sauce, and it was like a pasta dish without the pasta. I was so intrigued I had to order it. And WOW! It was SO delicious!

A week later, I decided to try to recreate the dish with a few embellishments.

For my mushroom pasta, I did not use edamame or fresh basil, although there was basil in the pasta sauce. I used shiitake mushrooms, garlic, Kalamata olives, spinach, onion, tofu and a sprinkle of shredded Parmesan on top. I went with the short cut of using Trader Joe’s Tomato Basil Maranara sauce.

I started by sautéing garlic and onion in olive oil.

Step one, saute onions and garlic in olive oil.

Onions and garlic sautéed in olive oil.

Then I added the mushrooms, olives, tofu and spinach.

A garden in a skillet

Ingredients. Not pictured: sauce, cheese.

After the vegetables were softened, about 10-15 minutes, I poured in some marinara sauce, sprinkled shredded Parmesan on top and. SOOO good!! (To make it vegan, don’t add the cheese at the end.)

As you can tell with the difference in ingredients and stage presence, it wasn’t exactly the meal I had at John Bentley’s, but it was close enough and very satisfying!

Give it a try!  Add your own twists, and please share your recipe thoughts in the comments.

Bon appetite!

Happy Summer! Recipe time: “Where Pasta Meets Kale”

21 Jun

Trader Joe’s serves up the ingredients for a healthful, nutritious, filling and yummy meal!

The intersection of fresh kale and hearty pasta

The intersection of fresh kale and hearty pasta

It’s Brussels Sprouts time, again!

29 Jan

A bag of shredded Brussels Sprouts = good eating ahead!

What’s that you say? You don’t like Brussels Sprouts?! Well, then, feast your eyes on a raspberry tarte or homemade lemonade. The rest of you, come with me to Brussels Sprout heaven.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts from Trader Joe's

Trader Joe’s does the shredding. You do the eating.

Start by sauteing some garlic and onion in olive oil.

Sauteed garlic and onion

Add more onion and the bag of B. Sprouts. Include the balsamic vinegar and water as recommended on the bag.

BowlOfBrusselsSprouts

When done, I also squeezed some lemon juice on top. I did not use bacon, but that could be a meat-eater’s happy addition.

I separated the batch into four containers for easy access at meal time.

Here’s the official recipe, but be creative and make it your own:

RecipeBag

 

My own private Guacamole

9 Aug

I love avocados. I love cutting them open and eating them straight from the shell. What a well-designed food – it comes with its own serving bowl!

I’ll get TJ’s mesh bag of avocados and go through them quickly, trying to make them last through the week. The other day, I was ready to dig into my last avocado of the bag when I thought, “I’ve got part of an old onion, some withering grape tomatoes … hmm.” Add a sprinkle of salt, and, voila, a makeshift fiesta for one!

The meeting of healthy foods: avocados, tomatos and onions

The meeting of healthy foods: avocado, tomatoes, onion

If I’d been planning to make guac, I’d have had some cilantro on hand, I might have used more spices and even, (why not?), glance at a recipe. But this was tasty to me!

Then I started thinking, what else can I do with this tasty mixture? My thoughts about optimizing guacamole are in the the next post. : )

Nuts about Trader Joe’s

7 Aug

I received the following message from my friend Maria. She, her mom and brother each have a favorite nut offering from the shelves of their local TJ’s on the East Coast of the U.S.:

First: Raw Almonds. My brother loves  these healthy raw almonds. They’re already packed in convenient single-serving bags so you don’t overeat.

And they’re a great price, less than $6 per pound. You don’t pay extra for the convenience of single packs!

packs of almonds

Single servings of handfuls

Second: Marcona almonds. My favorite. How did I miss these on my first trip to southern Spain in the ’90s, and how did I go so long without knowing about this special almond?

I just discovered these this past May on my second trip to Spain. Marcona almond trees only grow in the southern part of the country. They’re pricey but so worth it — crunchier and flatter than regular almonds. They’re roasted in oil, and the Trader Joe’s version includes rosemary seasoning.

Marcona almonds from Spain

A Spanish find

Finally: Pepitas. Shelled pumpkin seeds. My mom loves these.

They give you extra magnesium in your diet and taste great! No struggling with shells either. 🙂

Delicious pumpkin seeds

Pepitas: Not just a seasonal snack

Thanks, Maria!

Happy Fourth of July!

4 Jul

Wearing a healthy dose of red, white and blue for the occasion. Have a wonderful July 4, wherever you are, whatever your homeland!

Patriotic display of fruit

Red, white and blueberries

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