Monday, March 31, 2014

Savory Watermelon Salad

Salted watermelon?  Savory watermelon?  Yuck!  This was my first reaction to my husband’s suggestion to prepare a savory watermelon salad.  I instantly changed my mind!  I loved this simple and refreshing salad from first bite and I enjoyed it many times since we discovered it last summer.

Watermelon Salad

Over time, we adjusted the original recipe by adding ingredients that spiced up and complemented this juicy watermelon salad.  I love the sharp addition of arugula and the lingering berry spice of the pink peppercorn.  If you never had pink peppercorn, I highly suggest trying it sometime—it’s an ingredient that really wows.  I also prefer a mild, citrus-y flavored  olive oil without much of an aftertaste.  While I love lemon or lime olive oil, blood orange is the flavor that suits watermelon best.

Salad
  • Seedless Watermelon
  • 1 Lime;  juiced
  • 1 tsp. blood orange Olive Oil
  • Baby Arugula
  •  0.5 ounces Vegan Ricotta
  • Pink Pepper Corn
  • Salt;  to taste  (we used pink Himalayan salt)

 Preparations:
  • Cut and cube watermelon into bite-size chunks.
  • Juice the lime.
  • Season the watermelon with salt, lime juice and a drizzle of olive oil.
  • Toss the mixture (at this point, the salad can be stored in the refrigerator and it gets better the longer you will let it sit).
  • Watermelon salad is best enjoyed when it’s chilled, so plate just before serving.
  • Next, dress the arugula with some of the salad juices from your mixing bowl.
  • Plate the watermelon cubes and garnish with arugula, the ricotta and as many or as few of the pink pepper corn as you would like.
  • Alternatively, you can mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and serve the salad family style—it’s equally tasty.
  • Serve as a refreshing side salad or as a juicy main course!

This salad keeps well overnight if there are leftovers.  On the other hand, it is quick and easy to prepare so please feel free to cut as much or as little of the watermelon as you need and set the rest aside to have at a later time.  If covered and refrigerated, the watermelon will stay good for about three days.

What is your favorite way to incorporate fruit into a savory dish?  Have you tried flavored olive oil or tasted pink peppercorn?  If so, how did you like it and what do you typically like pair these ingredients with?  Let me know in the comments!  

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        Nina & Spencer

Dandelion Smoothie 5
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Monday, March 24, 2014

Banana-Nut Oatmeal

Oatmeal is a simple breakfast staple, but it’s one I like to enjoy quite frequently.  In most cases, ordinary oatmeal or steel-cut oats won’t entice me, but with just a few changes, oatmeal can be a a delicious, hearty breakfast that’s healthy and can sustains me throughout the morning.  I like mine juicy, fruity and nutty!  It’s certainly not a gruel and it’s such a great way to start the day.

oatmeal2

oatmeal3

I prepare this recipe with gluten-free oats because my husband is sensitive to gluten.  I wanted him to share breakfast with me without starting his day nutritionally on the wrong foot.  I really enjoyed the switch to gluten-free oats because the gluten-free version has a bit more texture and a nuttier flavor then regular oatmeal.  What a pleasant surprise!

oatmeal1

Oatmeall
  • 1/2 cup (gluten-free) Rolled Oats
  • 1/4 cup Walnuts
  • 1 tbsp. Sugar
  • 1 tbsp. Coconut shavings
  • 1/2 Banana
  • pinch of Salt
  • 1 cup Water
  • 1 tbsp. Dried Cranberries
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened Coconut Milk
  • 3-4 fresh Strawberries
This recipe makes one breakfast serving of oatmeal, you can easily scale it up to serve more people or adapt the recipe to suit your own taste.  Please feel free to choose different types of nuts and different dried berries.  I often change the topping of fresh fruit, depending on my mood, the availability or the season.  For example, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, pears, pineapple, peaches and citrus fruit like oranges, mandarins or grapefruits make a wonderful topping.

Preparations:
  • Toasting all the ingredients in the pot before adding the liquids is key!
  • First, add the rolled oats in a medium size pot on low heat
  • While the oats toast crush the walnuts, thinly slice the banana and add them into the pot as well
  • Then also add the coconut shavings and the sugar, keep toasting until the sugar melts and the banana can start softening and caramelizing
  • Give the mixture a stir before slowly adding the water and cranberries
  • Stir occasionally and let cook until all the liquid evaporate
  • Meanwhile wash and cut the strawberries
  • Season the oatmeal with a pinch of salt, mix and transfer into a breakfast bowl
  • Pour 1/4 cup coconut milk over the oatmeal and and top with the fresh strawberries
  • Let cool and enjoy

oatmeal4

Have you tried adding bananas into your oatmeal?  What is your preferred way to make this sometimes quite boring breakfast gruel into a delicious treat?  Let me know in the comments!

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        Nina & Spencer
  
Ratatouille.
You might also like… 
Meatless Monday: Oven-Roasted Ratatouille

Monday, March 17, 2014

Spring Dandelion Smoothie

Yes, dandelions might be a weed, but I love to include it in a fresh green smoothie.  Give this dandelion recipe a whirl—it’s delicious.  As an added bonus, dandelions are not just edible and tasty, they are also nutritious.  Freshly harvested dandelion is full of “vitamins A, B, C, and D, as well as minerals such as iron, potassium, and zinc” (University of Maryland Medical Center).

Dandelion Smoothie 5

Many people regard dandelions as a stubborn weed that grows everywhere and this might be why dandelions are not necessarily appealing as food.  I always enjoy seeing the golden yellow flowers and I still like picking them to weave flower crowns.  I also remember enjoying this dandelion smoothie since I was a little girl because my grandmother always likes to prepare it for a few days in early spring as a detox cleanse.  When I was younger, I wasn’t much interested in the drink's health benefits, but I sure loved it’s unusual and refreshing flavor.  It was a treat!  And while I now often seek the benefits of this drink, slurping this yummy smoothie through a straw still is a treat. 

While this smoothie may seem like a milkshake, the fresh dandelions give the mix a beautiful green color and a bit of tang and bite.  I prefer to pick wild baby dandelions because they are fresher, softer and sweeter then the ones from the store.  If you decide to pick your own dandelion leaves, just make sure they are grown in good soil and not sprayed.  Dandelions are edible throughout the season, but for best results, harvest in early spring when the plant’s leaves are still young and tender, before the stem turns reddish and before they’ve flowered.  Also, freshly picked dandelions do not store well, so it’s best to use them immediately.  Immediate consumption will also insure that the vitamins and minerals in the leaves won’t decrease with time and you can gain all their nutritional benefits.


Dandelion Smoothie 1

Dandelion Smoothie 2

Dandelion Smoothie 3

Dandelion Smoothie 4

Smoothie
  • 1 small bunch of baby Dandelion Greens
  • 2 large Oranges;  juiced
  • 2 Tbsp. Vegan Sour-Cream 
This recipe makes one 16oz serving and it can be adapted to suit your own taste.  Please feel free to add additional greens like nettle and garden sorrel or you can sweeten the drink by adding raw organic honey.


Preparations:
  1. Wash and clean dandelion leaves.
  2. Before juicing, I like to firmly press and roll the whole fruit on my cutting board, which makes it then easier to juice the oranges.
  3. Juice the oranges.
  4. For best result, first combine the dandelion and sour-cream into a blender and then slowly add the orange juice until the whole mixture is smooth and frothy.
  5. Transfer into tall glasses and enjoy.
Have you tried dandelion greens?  If so, what is your favorite way to use them and do you like to buy or gather them?  Let me know in the comments!

SignatureEnd
        Nina & Spencer


Juicing

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Source for the specific nutritional information: Dandelion | University of Maryland Medical Center http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/dandelion#ixzz2w4VhH8SR

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Social Adversity of an Allergic Asthmatic #2

As I was writing my last post about asthma,  I kept wondering how an asthmatic who's determined to swear off asthma medication is going to deal with potential health setbacks.  It made the idea seem even more unreasonable.  Is there going to be an open discussion about the ups and downs of one's health, or are we going to applaud health and shamefully hide noticeable symptoms of asthma.

DSC_0200

I didn't think the topic offered much to talk about until my last asthma attack (thankfully, the only one in February) and the events leading up to it seemed to ludicrous to relate.  In short, I didn’t think I could talk about it.  In hindsight, it’s really disconcerting that I considered suffering quietly because what happened was too crazy to tell anyone.  You might ask how I got myself into this state.  I got cornered by a dog—not on my walk (something I'm always afraid of)—but in a bar type establishment toward the end of a night out.  And it wasn't just any dog, but a large Rottweiler, who to my surprise, was roaming freely inside the building.  I first noticed the animal when it came into the room and made a beeline towards me.  As it approached, I climbed onto my chair and then onto the wobbly dining table. 
I was wondering if I should I scream for help. 
Will the dog jump at me and bite if I do?

Luckily, at this point the waitress come down the stairs and into the room and raised her eyes when she spotted me standing on the table.  The dog leisurely walked off and urinated on the top of the staircase in front of me and the waitress.  Yes, you read this correctly.  This story involves animals urinating in public places.  I was not only scared to have an asthma attack, but I was horrified and I am still speechless about the fact the animal peed inside the building and the urine ran down the stairs and dripped from the ceiling into the poolroom below.  This is so disgusting!

Of course, I suffered a massive asthma attack that night as a consequence and I felt shitty for days, but still, the whole story sounded just crazy.  And what an irony it is, that something this unusual and disgusting happened to the person who's allergic to dogs.  I am not reckless and I don't stumble un-informed through life.  I know there are many, many places that are simply off-limits for me because there will be dogs.  I have to take great care in planning my outings.  On this particular night, I made a big deal about not wanting to visit any grubby dive bar and everybody agreed on this location to accommodate me. 

If anyone from Salt Lake City is reading this and wonders what bar I’m talking about—it's the Beer Hive.  From the way the situation was handled, I am assuming the dog belongs to the owner or one of the waitresses and they think it’s no big deal to have a loose animal in a place that serves food and drinks.

I know making a choice to speak against allowing dogs in public places isn't a popular topic for discussion, and I certainly don't expect many others to share it.  On the other hand, there are health codes in place that prohibit pets (with the exception of service animals) in restaurants, bars and grocery stores.  Why is it then, when it comes to dogs, that some people bypass the law and decency and do things just because they can, even if it creates problems for others.

Unfortunately, this issue really effects my health and makes it impossible to calculate potential dangers.  I can never tell if I might encounter a dog in my day even if I've researched and confirmed the pet policy of a location in advance.  So, partly because of it, even though my blog chronicles the efforts I make to manage my asthma, I know I'm going to get sick sometimes.  There will be times, in which I will be affected by symptoms of asthma and there will be times in which I will be struck down by a full blown asthma attack.  I can't predict my health or any health setbacks I might have, but I commit to being upfront about it.  I am sure, with time, I can joke and laugh about incidents like this one and for now, there is no reason to keep being sick a secret.

Right this moment, it is difficult to envision myself being actively effected by my asthma because I am feeling well.  On the other hand, I am very much afraid of being unwell and living through so much pain again.  With asthma, it’s the absolute fear of not being able to breathe, of loosing control, and ultimately, of dying.  Of course it’s terrifying!  Even though I fear I can't handle yet another asthma attack and I try so hard to guard myself against dangers and I carry emergency medication, the next asthma attack might only be minutes away.  I would never know!

I wonder, what are appropriate actions to report health code violations like this one?  I also noticed that many people who like to bring their pet with them at all times are unaware of disturbing or endangering others.  A pet in a public place is often a hygienic concern or could cause allergic reactions.  What is a good way to bring awareness to the issue?

StayHealthy♡ Nina


KeepMovingForward

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Disclaimer:  Thank you to everyone who takes the time out to read the things I have to say.  I am not an expert or professional!  My advice is genuine and based on my own experience as a severely allergic asthmatic.  I am hoping my writing can suggest reasonable solutions to anyone that may need it and maybe bring awareness to those interested in the topic.  Thank you!

Monday, March 10, 2014

3 Simple Juicing Recipes

Juicing is a great way to consume a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to supercharge your body.  The nutrients found in fresh and raw fruits and vegetables are buzzing with vitamins, minerals and anti-inflammatory agents.  The following three juicing recipes are simple to make, healthy and you will want to drink them often because they are delicious and refreshing. 

Juicing.

I am not a dieter and I like to enjoy whatever food I am in the mood for, but I do have some healthy options that I really love and that I take to consistently.  Regular juicing is one of my favorite things to have.  Please know these juicing recipes are not meant as a juice fast, juicing challenge or some excessive force-fed diet I never could and never wanted to upkeep.  Instead of being on a juice diet, juicing is a delicious addition to my diet.  I like to enjoy a 16oz glass with my breakfast in the morning or as a refreshing afternoon pick-me-up in the sluggish hours of the day.

When it comes to juicing, I usually don't tend to adhere a "strict" recipe.  I love my greens (celery, kale, and various herbs like mint, parsley and basil) and I always like add in with a few apples, pears, oranges, lemon or pineapple for a sweet taste.  The following recipes are my favorites, perfect for anyone new to juicing and each recipe is a great base for experimentation. 

A word of caution about experimentation.  I got way overexcited when I figured out that juicing was not just for fruit, which I loved eating anyway, but that I could also shove all kinds of vegetables through the juicer and I still loved the taste.  These were vegetables that normally required a great deal of attention, cooking or mounts of ranch to make palatable.  I thought if I could handle beets and a variety of fancy leafy greens, there probably isn’t much I can’t handle.  “Hop into my juicer, gross, unappealing veggie!” I said cheerfully. “You’ll taste great liquefied.”  Well, this idea didn’t always work and we had some pretty gross juices.  I learned, I can’t make everything taste good (things I normally dislike to eat, most likely didn’t work as a juice either) and that I should stick to simple juice recipes.  As it so often is in cooking, having more and ever more ingredients generally doesn’t improve the flavor.

I’ve been juicing on a regular basis for about a year now and I love the way it tastes and the way it makes my body feel.   I noticed an increase in energy, I feel satiated and well nourished as opposed to eating not so nutrition rich foods.  In addition, drinking regular juices helped calming tummy troubles, balanced skin conditions and fostered hair and nail growth.

Each Recipe Serves 2.  Ready in 5 minutes + 5 minute cleanup.

JuicingIngredients.


TheACC
A good juicy and tart apple is essential for this juice.  Honey crisp apples work best for us, but you should experiment with your favorite kind of apple.
  • 2 large Apples
  • 3 Carrots
  • 1 Celery stalk
  • 1 stalk of fresh Basil or Mint

TheGreenPair
A sweet refreshing juice with that little bit of extra froth.
  • 2 large Apples
  • 1 Celery stalk
  • 2 Carrots
  • 2 leaves of Kale
  • 1 Pear

TheSweetBeet
This gorgeous purple fruit & veggie juice is not only vibrant in color, but also refreshing, smooth and earthy.  After braving to include beets, beet juice soon became one of our favorites.
  • 1/2 Beetroot
  • 2 large Apples
  • 2 Carrots
  • 1 Celery stalk


Are you juicing?  If so, what has your experience been and what do you typically like to juice?  Let me know in the comments!

SignatureEnd
        Nina & Spencer


Ratatouille.
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Monday, March 3, 2014

Oven-Roasted Ratatouille

Roasting vegetables brings out their terrific flavor.  This vegetable dish, either side or a vegetarian main dish, is easy, colorful and good for you!  If you like ratatouille, once you've tried it roasted like this you'll never go back to preparing it the traditional method.  Not only do the vegetables retain their shape and identity, but roasting the traditional garden stew elevates it by caramelizing the vegetables so they take on a lovely sweetness and toasted flavor.

There are endless ways to prepare ratatouille, from the traditional Nician rough-chop garden stew (ratatouille niçoise), to the classic ratatouille à la Julia Child, to the artfully towering creations of contemporary ratatouille in restaurants (confit byaldi).  For example, in the Mastering the Art of French Cooking,  Julia Child insists every vegetable must be cooked separately before they "partake of a brief communal simmer."  The eggplants are cut into slim rectangles; the tomatoes are peeled, juiced and slivered; the bell peppers must be green.  Then all are layered into a casserole and basted heroically.  Julia Child took these pains to ensure that every vegetable maintained its dignity, without melting into a muddy soup.

Our ratatouille is an oven-roasted variation of styles, somewhere between Julia Child's perfectionism and just giving up and dumping everything in the pot at once.  It’s a happy compromise and a no fuss recipe.  Not every pot in the house is used as Julia might have you do.  It takes little time or planning to pull off, but gives us a light—but not too light—new favorite way to prepare ratatouille.  The sweetness of roasted tomatoes, the licorice flavor of summer squashes and basil are important flavor component of this recipe.  Fresh basil is delivered in two stages, via a bouquet that swishes along in the baking pan the whole time, and a smattering of fresh chopped leaves at the end.  A pinch of red pepper flakes sharpens the focus, and a finishing spritz of freshly squeezed lemon juice pulls the whole dish together.  What you end up with is a humble stew, yes, but one that has every bit of integrity any summer harvest deserves.  Even in winter.  Enjoy!

Serves 2-4.  Ready in 45 minutes.

Ratatouille
  • 1 Zucchini
  • 1 Yellow Squash
  • 4-5 Tomatoes
  • 1 large Red Pepper 
  • 2 slices of Red Onion (optional)
  • 2 stalks of fresh Basil
  • Cooking Oil of your preference
  • Red Pepper flakes
  • Salt and Pepper;  to taste
  • Lemon
This recipe can be adapted to suit your own taste.  Please feel free to add additional ingredients like mushrooms, fennel or eggplant.

Ratatouille.

Preparations:
  • Preheat the oven to 375 F
  • Wash and clean all vegetables.
  • Cut the vegetables (we like to choose different cuts for each ingredient).
  • Sprinkle and toss in salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of oil.
  • Fill the vegetables into a small oven-proof casserole dish.  
  • Cover with aluminum foil (shiny side in).
  • Bake for 35 minutes at 375 F or until the vegetables are tender.
  • During bake time prepare prepare a side dish and chiffonier basil for garnish.
  • Uncover und let cool for a minute.  This is also a good time to check for seasoning and to add additional salt if needed.
  • Plate and garnish generously with basil, fresh ground pepper, and a spritz of lemon juice.

RatatouilleChop.
Ratatouille3.

Serving Suggestions:
  • with pieces of crusty bread
  • over pasta or rice
  • leftover ratatouille makes a great stew the next day

Ratatouille4.

SignatureEnd
        Nina & Spencer

Juicing.
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  Meatless Monday:  3 Simple Juicing Recipes

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sunday Edit: Photo Challenge Gallery

February has whizzed past in the blink of an eye and I'm not sad to see the dreary months of winter go.  I am ready for Spring!  In order to get inspired this month, my husband and I organized a photo challenge with our friends.  All through February, we took daily photographs based on our interpretation of a theme.  To me, this truly was a challenge, a learning experience and often, taking daily photographs was simply something fun to do (on an otherwise not so fun day).

Day 1: Self-Portrait
Day1.
Day 2: What You Wore Today
Day2.
Day 3: Clouds
This cell-phone snap turned out the best.  All those pictures I took this morning with the fancy camera of fluffy white clouds and then the iPhone takes the most meaningful image.
Day3.
Day 4: Something Green
Day4.
Day 5: From A High Angle
♡ Photo Challenge Problems:  On day four, I decided I'm tired of photographing things so close to or in my home. I ended up photographing and selecting a picture of the dirty rooftop hallway yet again.
Day5.
Day 6: From a Low Angle
Day6.
Day 7: Fruit
Day7.
Day 8: A Bad Habit
Day8.
Day 9: Someone You Love
Day9.
Day 10: Childhood Memory
I loved writing and receiving letters and this is just a small stack of letters I exchanged with my friend Sophia. I often stood waiting for the mailman and fancied writing with colored ink, gel-, glitter-, and scented pens... such a 90s kid.
Day10.
Day 11: Something Blue
Day11.
Day 12: Sunset
Day12.
Day 13: Yourself with 13 Things
Things from my handbag:
1) Handbag
2) 2014 Planner
3) Phone
4) MK Watch
5) Medication Case
6) Bobbi Brown Powder Compact
7) A Pretty Rock
8) Laura Mercier Lipstick
9) Nivea Chapstick
10) Maybelline Cream Eyeshadow
11) Covergirl Mascara
12) Estee Lauder Eyeshadow Duo
13) Comb
(+Makeup Brush)

Day13.
Day 14: Eyes
Day14.
Day 15: Silhouette
Day15.
Day 16: Long Exposure
Day16.
Day 17: Technology
Day17.
Day 18: Your Shoes
Day18.
Day 19: Something Orange
Day19.
Day 20: Bokeh
Day20.
Day 21: Faceless Self-Portrait
Day21.
Day 22: Hands
Day22.
Day 23: Sunflare
Day23.
Day 24: Animals
Day24.
Day 25: Something Pink
I’m wearing my bright pink winter coat!
Day25.
Day 26: Close-Up
Day26.
Day 27: From a Distance
Day27.
Day 28: Flowers
Day28.

And that was pretty much my February!  Let's hope March brings sunnier skies, warmer weather and the bustle of spring to the Salt Lake Valley.

♡ Nina