Monday, April 28, 2014

Mint Watermelon Smoothie

My favorite way to have watermelon EVER.  It’s not messy, it’s easy to make and beautifully paired with complimenting ingredients, a perfect pick me up after a long day of work or school.  This watermelon smoothie is an awesome refresher on hot, sunny days, made simply with fresh watermelon, lime juice and mint leaves.  Due to the absence of dairy, you might think this looks more like lemonade then a smoothie, but the watermelon’s unique texture when blended makes this drink much more substantial and satiating then lemonade.  I am especially fond of the mint in this recipe.

Watermelon Smoothie

Smoothie  
  • 3 cups of cubed Watermelon
  • 1/2 Lime;  juiced
  • 2-3 leaves of fresh Mint
  • a pinch of Salt
 
Preparations:
  1. This recipe is as simple as it gets.  Before, you start, I recommend washing your fresh produce.
  2. Cut slices of watermelon into cubes until you have the needed amount.
  3. Before juicing, I like to firmly press and roll the lime on my cutting board, which makes it then easier to juice.
  4. Juice the lime.  
  5. Blend all ingredients together with an immersion blender (or food processor) until it forms a uniform mixture without chunks.
  6. Pour into a glass and sip with a wide straw.  You could add 1 or 2 ice cubes into the glass to make this smoothie extra chill, but if you are using a refrigerated watermelon, the ice cubes are not needed.
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        Nina & Spencer

Watermelon Salad
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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sunday Edit: Living the Minimalist Lifestyle!

I thought I would take advantage of the Sunday posts and share some personal updates!  I might even have time to do this quite regularly—we'll see.
HAPPY Sunday btw...

Minimalists
Courtney Carver, guest speaker and creator of Project 333 with The Minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn and  Ryan Nicodemus.

Last Wednesday night, The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, were at Weller Book Works in Salt Lake City.  Spencer and I got the chance to attend their lecture on their minimalist lifestyle.  We were so excited for this event that we reserved our tickets months in advance.  It was great to hear their inspiring message.  The topic of minimalism has been of interest to me for years.  I love the visual aesthetics of minimalism and the idea of editing your life until all that remains is beautiful and meaningful.  I would love to have everything I own and everything I do well curated.
I am attracted to all things simple and basic, but I'm actually really bad at it. 
Lot's of things turn out much busier then I intend them to be.
This article, for example, keeps running off with different thoughts instead of staying concise.

Minimalism appeals to me because of its aesthetics, but it also makes me feel better, healthier even.  In many ways, it means that I'm not weighed down or adversely affected by the things I own.  That would be pretty tragic and ridiculous.

My husband and I have embraced minimalism as a couple from the beginning of our relationship; through several cross country moves, different sized living spaces, different jobs and incomes.  Don’t get me wrong, scarcity and necessity (burdened by my husband's student loans) often pushed us to decide whether we wanted to live frugal and minimal, or if we dared to live beyond our means and purchase things on credit.  For us, it seems foolish to want and to make purchases we couldn’t afford. Buying things on credit was out of the question. We ran a really tight budget and bought almost nothing... It was a rough and scary time in our life  ◡╭╮

What I appreciated most about the lecture was that it was not preaching why you should get rid of the things you own, or why you should live differently, but how you’re life can improve once you make the decision to let go of everything that may hold you back.  It's not about subtraction of stuff for the sake of subtraction, but subtraction to narrow the focus on what's meaningful.  The lecture wasn’t a call to spring clean or de-clutter, but a presentation of a lifestyle with less burden.  While adopting this kind of lifestyle could easily lead to adventure, more excitement and money, the main aim is for people to find and to have purpose.  While I imagine, minimalism can be picture perfect and quite luxurious, what motivates minimalism seldom is.  I would love to say minimalism is a frivolous and noble idea people pursue on a whim.  The Minimalists mentioned large amounts of debt, the lacking of meaningful or failing relationships, feeling unwell and depressed as catalysts for their lifestyle changes.  Another motivator is the fear of having not really lived, or of having been deluded into a lifestyle you didn't choose for yourself.  I think if minimalism is a way to escape the trappings of consumerism, it's really powerful and I am happy I attended the lecture.

I was excited to ask Josh and Ryan a question at the end of the event.  I was interested to learn what keeps inspiring their minimalism.
I don’t know what I expected.
I suppose, I thought they were as visual as I am.
I suppose, I was hoping they’d reveal some authoritative text or figure that unfailingly guides them toward betterment, but of course they didn’t.  They are much more practical than I am—they're guys.  They don’t look to aspire to some ideal, they do things, taking stock of their life and “uncluttering” the unnecessary.  In an attempt to answer my silly question, they talked about the experiments they did to figure out which things they really needed and which things actually added value to their life.  They also stressed that minimalism is unique to each individual, that it doesn't have to be idealistic or extreme—though some people may think it is.  I really appreciated to also hear from their guest speakers that had a different take on minimalist lifestyle and it was so refreshing!
Minimalism sure isn’t for everyone, but I think it’s beautiful.
For more information on this subject, check out The Minimalists blog.

HappySunday ♡ Nina

Monday, April 21, 2014

Quinoa Mushroom Risotto

Quinoa makes a great alternative to Arborio rice, the grain generally used in risotto.  My husband and I have been working with quinoa for a while and we're quite smitten with it.  This tiny grain is often considered a super-food because it's a complete protein, it's gluten free, high in magnesium, vitamin B-2, iron and it's a good source of fiber.  While I appreciate quinoa’s high nutritional value, I love to switch to this grain for it's interesting texture.  Bored of rice and pasta?  Then the fluffy, sprouted texture of quinoa might be just the thing for you.  Let’s get started with the recipe and let’s also add mushrooms and fresh snap peas into our risotto—yum!

QuinoaRisotto

Now, to the process of making the perfect risotto.  It only takes about 20 to 30 minutes to prepare this dish, but it does require the chef's undivided attention.  It's not tricky or complicated, nor does it require any special culinary skills.  The risotto just wants to be babied and stirred at all times.  Risotto is not exciting to cook, but if you can handle the monotony, you'll end up with a great rice dish... I mean quinoa. 
The next picture shows the main ingredients you will need. 
Btw, how awesome does the black Hawaiian salt look?  I can tell you it's amazing and it has a wonderful flavor because it tastes mild and smooth.

Risotto
Risotto1
QuinoaRisotto1

 
Risotto
  • 4 Tbsp. Coconut Oil/ olive oil
  • 7 oz. Crimini Mushrooms;  cleaned and sliced
  • Snap Peas
  • 1 cup White Organic Quinoa
  • 5 cups Vegetable Stock;  preferably homemade
  • 1/3 cup White Wine
  • 1/4 Red Onion (optional)
  • 1/4 cup Vegan Sour Cream
  • Parsley, Rosemary and Thyme;  finely minced
  • Salt and Pepper;  to taste (we used black Hawaiian salt)

Preparations:
  • Wash, clean and cut all vegetables, also thoroughly soak and rinse the quinoa in cold water.  This step is essential to get a great tasting quinoa. 
  • Also, rinse the herbs, pull their leaves from the stems and mince finely.
  • Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet  and add the sliced mushrooms and sauté until they are golden and soft.  Remove them from the skillet and set them aside.
  • If you would like to add onions to the dish, this is the perfect time to repeat the last step and sauté the red onion until their soft and translucent.
  • When all the veggies are removed from the pan, add the drained quinoa into the same pan to give the grains a good toasting.  The remaining oils and juices from cooking the mushrooms and onions are an excellent flavor enhancer to the risotto.  Stir the quinoa for about 3 minutes, or until the quinoa is coated with oil and slightly toasted.
  • Now, the first addition is white wine.  Lower the heat, add the wine and continue stirring until the quinoa absorbs all the liquid. This will happen quickly and you want to ensure it does so evenly.
  • Once the wine is absorbed, add the vegetable broth 1/2 cup at a time.  Stir every time you add more liquid.  Allow the quinoa to absorb and almost dry out between the additions of broth. 
  • Keep stirring in the broth 1/2 cup at a time until the quinoa is creamy and the quinoa germ has burst.  This process should take about 20 minutes.
  • Taste the quinoa to determine doneness and to make sure its at the consistency you prefer and also salt and pepper the dish.
  • Once the last addition of broth is almost absorbed, stir in the sour cream and the fresh herbs, remove pan from the heat, cover with a lid and let stand for 2 minutes to help develop the creamy texture.  The finished risotto should be creamy and moist and should hold its shape without running or flattening.
  • Use the time in which the quinoa rests to give the snap peas a quick sauté in butter and deglaze with white wine.
  • Finally, plate the quinoa onto a deep dish plate and top with the vegetables.
  • If you are entertaining guests and you don't want to spend so much time fussing over the risotto, I recommend par-cooking the quinoa.  Prepare the risotto according to the instruction but set it aside to cool before adding the final two 1/2 cups of broth.  In this manner, you can finish and serve a beautifully and freshly made risotto in less them 5 minutes.

SignatureEnd
        Nina & Spencer


oatmeal3
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    Monday, April 14, 2014

    Veggie Sprout Sandwiches

    Let's make a nicely balanced, crunchy and satisfying veggie sandwich—and yes, it's vegan!  I absolutely adore our homegrown sprouts, so they are featured here.  Sprouts add spice and a crunchy texture and they noticeably enlivening any sandwich.  Of course, if we want to make a nice sandwich, the bread is key.  Isn't it always?  Finally, a homemade, nutty aioli with fresh herbs turns a sandwich of just vegetables into something special!

    SproutSandwich

    A sandwich, in one form or another, might be the most intuitive single-serving meal there is.  Once you got a good piece of bread in your kitchen, it is pretty easy to imagine the things that might fit in or on top of it.  Because vegetables aren't quite as convenient as deli cold cuts, you may have to employ a little more creativity than a meat-lover might, but the finished sandwich can be even more interesting and appealing.  I am speaking from experience here, of husbands and little cousins who look up from their cold cut sandwiches and request to sample (or have me share) my veggies creations.  Naughty!

    For the most part, what I want from a good sandwich is this:  something crunchy,  something salty, tart or sweet, and most importantly, a layering of different textures.  So, let’s get started!

    SproutSandwich1

    SproutSandwich2

    SproutSandwich3

    VeganAioly
    • Veganaise
    • Arugula
    • Walnuts
    • 1 Lemon
    • Vinegar
    • Salt and Pepper;  to taste

    Preparations:
    • To make this aioli, there is no need to use special kitchen equipment—a sharp knife will do.
    • First, wash and clean the arugula.
    • Then, finely mince the arugula and the nuts.
    • Then transfer into a small bowl and combine with the Veganaise, a good squeeze of lemon juice, a splash of vinegar and mix everything together.
    • Additionally, you could now also salt and pepper the aioli (this step is optional). 
    • After preparing the aioli, start assembling the sandwiches

    Sandwich
    • Sandwich bread of choice.  In order to achieve a similar flavor and texture to our sandwich, select medium sliced bread that’s soft and fresh on the inside and crusty on the outside.  If you decide to use a type of toast, or bread without crust, I suggest toasting the slices before making the sandwich.
    • Avocado.  Select avocados that give slightly when pressed gently.
    • 1 large beefsteak or heirloom tomato
    • Fresh or dried oregano
    • Sprouts
    or
    • Sandwich bread of choice
    • 1 English Cucumber
    • 1 small bunch Spring Onions
    • Sprouts
    Preparations:
    • First, wash and clean all the vegetables; this includes rinsing the sprouts.
    • Thinly slice the tomato
    • Cut the avocado in half, slice the inside and then lift it gently out with a large spoon
    • Thinly slice the cucumber and the spring onions
    • Spread the aioli on both parts of the bread
    • arrange the cut vegetables on the sandwich by setting them into the aioli.  This will flavor them and keep them from sliding about and also from slipping off the sandwich.
    • Finally, pile the sandwich high with sprouts and gently press the bread halves together to secure the ingredients.  
    • Cut in half.  Also, you could add a toothpick to hold it together more.
    • That's it—enjoy!
    SignatureEnd
             Nina & Spencer


    DSC_0099
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    Monday, April 7, 2014

    Pear Salad with Blackberry Vinaigrette

    This pear salad with candied walnuts and a blackberry honey vinaigrette is simple to make out of only a few ingredients and it's simply delicious.  I am sure you had this type of pear salad before, but the homemade blackberry vinaigrette makes it special.







    I was never really a salad person, I hated getting the nutritionally dead and uninspired salads when eating out, but I always loved making my own creations at home, experimenting in my kitchen and using ingredients that I really love.  If you can approach it this way, you can do anything with a salad.  And your salads will taste great--even if you keep them vegetarian or vegan.  Ingredients are key!  They should be tailored to suit your taste preference, and they should be fresh and ripe.  This will ensure that you won't have to fish out the nasties, the flavors are tremendous and the different textures in the salad are exciting.  I think it is essential to build a variety of textures into vegetarian dishes to create a well balanced and pallet pleasing meal.  I am not a picky eater when it comes to vegetables, but I'm often put off by monotextures in vegetarian dishes:  overall mushy texture or everything is grainy, the whole dish is too wet or too dry without offering an element to balance it.  Let's not do that!

    I liked to snip fresh baby greens and herbs from the garden and vegetables or fruit that look and smell particularly good have the potential to make the salad.  I love to sprinkle nuts over top and I like my dressings simple, light and dairy-free.

    Speaking of cheese and my vegan aspirations.  I have been a strict vegetarian for 20 years and the only thing preventing me to embrace veganism once and for all are a few bits of cheese.  I am currently on the hunt for vegan cheese alternatives and have so far been embarrassingly unsuccessful.  I don’t quite understand why tasty vegan cheese is so hard to come by, when most other dairy alternatives are absolutely delicious.  I tasted a few different kinds of cheese, but the last attempt of gourmet vegan cheddar was so revolting, it halted my desire to try more.  My husband shockingly remarked, the cheese had the potent and overpowering taste of Chef Boyardee's Spaghetti O’s.  While I never had the displeasure to sample canned, precooked noodles to validate this comparison,  I will say that the vegan cheese was so nasty I’ll probably do without faux cheese for awhile.  So disappointing and so gross!

    Anyway, back to much tastier ventures and the recipe of one of my favorite winter salads.  The following picture shows all the ingredients we will need to make this dish:

    Pear Salad Ingredients

    Vibaigrette
    • 6oz Blackberries
    • 3oz Red Wine Vinegar
    • 2 Tbsp. raw organic Honey
    • 1/4 cup mild Olive Oil
    • Salt and Pepper;  to taste

    Preparations:
    • To assemble the dressing, combine and blend all ingredients, with exception of the olive oil, in a food processor
    • Process until smooth
    • Then, slowly add the olive oil into the mixture to emulsify the dressing
    • Carefully poor the dressing through a sieve to remove the blackberry seeds
    • Finally, add desired amount of salt and pepper
    • Mix in with your salad greens or transfer the rest into a glass for later use
    • After preparing the dressing, assemble the salad

    Salad
    • a mix of your favorite Salad Greens
    • a hand full of Arugula
    • 1 Bartlett Pear
    • 1/4 cup Candied Walnuts
    • 1 oz. or Vegan Ricotta

    Preparations:
    • Wash and clean the salad greens.
    • Wash and then cut the pear into bite-sized pieces (there is no need to remove the peel on Bartlett pears).
    • At this point, grilling of the pear adds a nice flavor, but it is optional.
    • Combine the pear and the salad greens and toss with a small amount of dressing (start with just a little and add more as desired).
    • Plate, crumble walnuts and cheese over top and serve.
    • Enjoy!

    What’s your favorite salad?  And, what's your opinion on vegetarian/vegan choices in restaurants or products in the grocery isle?  Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.  Also, please let me know if you would like me to share more salad recipes, more breakfast and lunch options, or warm and hearty dishes!

    SignatureEnd
             Nina & Spencer


      Juicing
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