Monday, June 30, 2014

Citrus Salad with a Sweet-Mint Dressing

I SIMPLY LOVE THIS VIBRANT CITRUS SALAD!  If you enjoy grapefruit and oranges as much as I do, you will love it too.  The combination of grapefruit, orange, cucumber and avocado is unexpectedly good.  Don’t be afraid!  You will love the the different flavors and textures in this dish. For the dressing, I chose a simple homemade creation with sweet local honey, a lot of fresh mint, some zest for tang, topped with almonds for crunch.  The process of segmenting and peeling the citrus fruit is a bit tedious, but it's well worth the effort to make this gorgeous, refreshing and satiating salad to have as a main dish on hot sunny days or as a side salad for any summer barbeque. 

CitrusSalad

The following recipe serves two.  Please feel free to scale up the portion size as needed.

Salad
  • 1 large Grapefruit
  • 1 Orange
  • 1/3 English Cucumber
  • 1 Avocado
  • fresh Mint;  about 15 leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. Honey (or Vegan alternative)
  • 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil (Blood-Orange Olive Oil)
  • Salt and Pepper;  to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. Almonds;  slivered
  • 1 Grapefruit + Orange-zest;  to taste

Preparations:
  • Wash and clean all fresh produce.
  • Starting with the grapefruit and orange:  Remove the peel and the white pith, and take the fruit segments from between the membranes.  Place into a bowl while preparing the rest of the salad.  Refrigerate if you like.
  • Julienne the cucumber into 2cm long rectangles; no need to remove the peel.
  • Mince the fresh mint leaves and then whisk the oil and honey together with the mint to create the dressing.  Drain the juice from the citrus slices and add it into the dressing.  Also, add a small amount of grapefruit and orange zest.
  • Next, gently toss the salad ingredients together, reserving the avocado pieces until right before serving the salad.
  • Just before plating, gently mix the avocado pieces into the salad to prevent it from melting into the rest of the dish.  Plate onto individual plates or serve family style.
  • Drizzle the mint dressing over the plated dish.  Top with additional mint and almond slivers.
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Monday, June 23, 2014

Zucchini Pasta with Zesty-Mint Pesto

Let’s make a fresh, light and grain-free alternative to ordinary pasta.  A spiralizer is a great tool for anyone who loves pasta, but is looking replace refined carbs with nutrient-rich veggies.  This kitchen gadget creates curlicue spaghetti noodles from zucchini and other veggies.  If you’re a vegetarian, a vegan, or just looking to add more veggies to your diet, this gadget will become your best friend.  This little tool made me fall in love with pasta all over again and I really couldn’t have been bothered to have pasta for quite a long time now.  My husband and I recommend using the GEFU Spirelli Spiral Slicer to shape the zucchini into long spaghetti shapes and then pair it with a simple homemade tomato sauce and freshly made pesto.  I particularly enjoy a good amount of fresh mint, lemon juice and zest in the pesto.  The combination of the marinara and the freshness of the pesto create such a sprightly dressing for the veggie spaghetti—it’s lovely!

ZucchiniPasta

This recipe is entirely gluten and dairy-free.  I encourage you to keep this recipe as raw as you like, but feel free to alter the tomato sauce to your preference and remember that the zucchini pasta also works well sautéed or streamed if you’re looking for a warm dish.  I know how it is: On a hot summer day the last thing you’re looking to eat is a steaming heap of pasta.  But not all summer days are sunny and when you’re looking for something comforting on a miserable, wet day the last thing you want is a SALAD!
Let me know how you like my zesty-mint pesto if you have the chance to try out the recipe.
 
Pasta
  • 3-4 Zucchini
  • 8 oz. Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1 fresh Lemon (2 Tbsp. juice and 1 tsp. zest)
  • 1/2 cup fresh Mint
  • 1/4  cup fresh Basil
  • 1/4 cup fresh Parsley
  • 5 Tbsp. Olive Oil (Blood-Orange Olive Oil)
  • Salt and Pepper;  to taste

Preparations:
  • Wash and clean all vegetables.
  • Shape the zucchinis into pasta using a spiralizer.  I recommend GEFU Spirelli Spiral Slicer, which has been working great for us.  It is a sturdy model and extremely user-friendly.  It basically works like a pencil-sharpener.
  • After shaping the zucchinis, place them into a platter or bowl of your choice and set them aside.
  • Zest and juice the lemon.
  • In a food processor, combine basil, mint, parsley, lemon juice and lemon zest;  process until finely chopped.
  • With the machine still running, gradually pour the oil through the feed-tube.  Process until smooth.  Make sure to taste the finished pesto and if necessary adjust the flavor by adding salt, pepper or a spritz more lemon juice.
  • Options: One, set pesto aside and plate below the pasta when you serve the dish (this less messy version is shown in the picture above).  Or, option two, pour over the zucchini pasta and let the noodles marinate in the pesto. 
  • For the marinara, preheat the oven to 350° F and roast 1/3 of the tomatoes in the the oven (alternatively, you can use sundried tomatoes or better yet,  sun dry your own tomatoes and achieve a similar flavor). 
  • Blend the roasted tomatoes in a food-processor and also add the remaining fresh cherry tomatoes.  If you prefer your marinara chunkier, simply cut the tomatoes in half and fold them into the roasted and blended marinara sauce.
  • When it’s time to eat, heap the zucchini pasta onto a plate and pour the tomato sauce over top.  When eating, you want to twirl your fork to combine both sauces—together they are the perfect dressing!

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Vegan Potato Salad

This delicious potato salad is a wonderful summer dish.  Best of all, it’s as satisfying as any potato salad without the dairy and it has a lot of veggie crunch.  Cherry tomatoes, celery, cucumber and oven-roasted red pepper add a fun twist to the traditional recipe, and a spicy dressing made with vegan mayonnaise, mustard, red wine vinegar and fresh herbs make the perfect bath for the potatoes to soak in.  No eggs or onions needed in this salad—yay!

PotatoSalad

Salad
  • 8 Yukon Gold Potatoes or your preferred kind
  • 1 stalk of Celery;  large dice
  • 1/4 English Cucumber;  diced (sliced and then cut into quarters)
  • 1 Red Bell-Pepper;  cut into strips after roasting
  • 6-8 Cherry Tomatoes;  cut 4 times
  • 1/2 cup fresh Parsley and Basil;  finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup Veganaise
  • 1 Tbsp. Spicy Brown Mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar
  • Salt and Pepper;  to taste

Preparations:
  • Wash and clean all vegetables.
  • I recommend starting the recipe by heating the oven to 350° F and heating a medium size pot of water on the stove to a boil.
  • Next, rub the peppers in oil, place on a baking tray and broil until the skins turn back.  Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes and then peel charred shin away.  Deseed and cut the bell pepper into strips.
  • Place the potatoes in boiling water and cook until tender (about 20-30 minutes).
  • Drain the potatoes and let them cool.  I recommend cooking the potatoes the night before to ensure the have the proper texture for cutting and to avoid unnecessary waiting for them to cool while making the salad. 
  • Without peeling, cut the potatoes into ¾-inch cubes and put them in a large mixing bowl.
  • Cut the vegetables and herbs as described above and add them to the bowl with the potatoes.
  • In a smaller bowl, mix up the dressing by stirring together the Veganaise, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper.
  • Add the dressing to the vegetables and give a good stir.  Serve right away or set into the refrigerator to cool.  This potato salad tastes good at room temperature or chilled.
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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunday Edit: Choosing NO Car!

WE SOLD OUR CAR and WE ARE NOT GETTING A NEW ONE.  At least not in the near foreseeable future.  Letting go of the car is an oddly tough choice to make.  It felt unreal putting it up for sale last night, especially when we sold it, handed over the keys and saw it driving off in less then four hours. 
Wow!  It’s done now and there's no going back. 

ChoosingNoCar

My husband Spencer, though on board with the decision to sell, was awfully quiet throughout this whole process.   I knew what was going through his mind, because I was pinched by those nagging questions too. 
Are we making a BIG mistake?
Are we going to regret our decision?  How soon?
Is it foolish?
Idiotic?

IT’S NOT.  After all, we’re selling the car because it’s an unnecessary expense, it’s a luxury item we rarely use, and worst of all IT’S BROKEN.  That’s right, we don’t drive it because it’s broken!  It’s time to stop paying gas, insurance and repairs for a thing that might or might not carry us a few blocks without breaking down.
I’m excited we’re rid of it and I kept reminding Spencer that we’re not going to mourn a thing that lately gave us so much trouble.  We won’t and we can’t.  We are bravely going to move forward—by foot, by bike or by public transportation—and it will be so much better.  The decision to sell the car wasn’t made lightly.  We’ve debated the pros and cons, and discussed it at length with family and friends.  Months passed before we finally went through with it.

For most Americans, or probably most anybody in the world, having a car is the default status, and it’s difficult to imagine life without it.  I don’t care so much about car ownership, because I am much more interested in access.  Salt Lake City offers access to all kinds of things without the need of a car.  Since moving into the heart of downtown Salt Lake last fall, I quite enjoyed not having to use our car every day.  I’m grateful for our current location and the extensive transportation system we could rely on if need be.  I don't feel the need to own a car anymore.   It bothered me more then it did good because it wasn’t really useful to us.  I also think it’s quite liberating that I can go about my day without driving to do anything. 

I suppose, I took it as a given that I always had and needed a car.  In many ways, a car is a sort of status symbol, just as being able to learn driving a car is as a teenager.  Fancy me, I even learned to drive stick shift.  In the words of one of my good friends, this means that I have the privilege and good luck not to be a helpless damsel when it comes to driving.  I would be able to drive anything, even a tractor, out of the sticks if I had to.
But I don't like driving. 
I really don't and I'm ecstatic about each day I don't have to drive. 

When we first moved into the city, we went days without it.  Then weeks.  We drove on special occasions when we planned an outing or wanted to go hiking.  Mostly my husband drove, but he also started to dislike driving.  I suppose you never consider the unnecessary stress of a fast-paced highway commute or congested streets until this drive is not a necessary evil in your day anymore.  And then, the car kept having mechanical problems and we were pretty much afraid to drive it anywhere.  So this is what let us to where we are now... choosing NO car.

So, today is day one of our car-free life.  So far, in the months and weeks of using the car way less, I’ve enjoyed the additional exercise and reduced guilt about pollution and travel expenses.  It’s also nice getting to know and discover all the little streets and alleys of the city as I paddle past.  You see so much more when you’re going slow and have the ability to stop and hop off whenever you like.  You could stop to smell the roses.  This isn’t so much of a cliché, because if you know me, you can see how I’ve done this on more then one occasion.

HappySunday♡ Nina

Monday, June 9, 2014

Strawberry Lavender LEMONADE

StrawberryLemonade
Today we are making a delicious...
                                               strawberry
                                                        + lavender
                                         LEMONADE

...and sweeten it with homemade lavender syrup.  This lemonade sounds unnecessarily fancy and complicated, but it’s actually really simple to make.  Strawberries and lavender are both in season right now and these fragrant beauties are everywhere.  With just these two seasonal ingredients, you can take an ordinary refreshment and make it extraordinary.  What a fruity and refreshing drink.  I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the first hot days of summer and strawberry season.  So yummy! 
Let’s go flowers and strawberry picking!  Oh, how I ♡ June for it’s pretty and awesome bounty.

StrawberryLemonade1

The following recipe makes a 16 oz. glass of lemonade and enough lavender syrup for several drinks. 


Lemonade
  • 1 Lemon;  juiced
  • 5 fresh Strawberries
  • 5 sprigs of fresh Lavender;  flowers
  • 1 1/2 cups Sugar
  • Water

Preparations:
  • The first step in this recipe is to prepare a lavender simple syrup.  
  • Rinse the lavender flowers and remove the stems.
  • In a small pot, heat 1 cup of water.  When the water starts boiling, stir the sugar into it and let the mixture come back to a boil while stirring continuously.  At this point, reduce the heat, drop the lavender flowers into the sugary water and let everything simmer for about 5 minutes.  Allow the syrup to cool and then strain out the lavender.
  • Meanwhile, wash and clean the strawberries and also juice the lemon.
  • Combine 3 tablespoons of lavender syrup with the lemon juice and the berries into a bowl before processing with an immersion blender.
  • When the mixture is blended smoothly, transfer it into a 16oz. glass, fill the rest of the glass with cold water and stir everything together.
  • Grab your favorite straw and enjoy!
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       Nina & Spencer

Watermelon Smoothie
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   Meatless Monday:  Mint Watermelon Smoothie

Monday, June 2, 2014

Moving Day Apartment Tour

For those of you who don't already know, Spencer and I are moving. 
Again. 
Actually, TODAY!
 
So, I thought we would show you around our old apartment where we spend all of last winter.  Ironically, while you're reading this, we're in the process of boxing up our things to carry them all down the street to our new home.  I definitely wanted to photograph our apartment before moving so that we all can have a look back and see what this place used to look like.  I’m a bit sad to leave even though I started to despise being home because my allergic asthma has been torturous ever since they changed the pet policy at the beginning of May and started to allow dogs in the building.  Luckily, we quickly found a small, one-bedroom apartment that’s not to far from our current downtown studio and today we are finally able to move.  I wonder if I am going to be happy with our new place.  It’s nice and clean, but a bit more spacious then we actually like it to be.  There are hardwood floors throughout and lots of windows, but it just doesn’t have the stunning, uninterrupted view that our old studio had.  From anyplace in the house, even from the bed you were able to enjoy the skyline of downtown Salt Lake, with the mountains to each side and you were able to see all the way to the end of the valley.  There is no inspiring view to speak of at our new place, unless you’re talking religiously fear inspiring since we’re facing a gothic inspired cathedral, complete with gargoyles and “demon” waterspouts.  Can we be content with this change?  I’m not sure, but hey, now we get to move into a new place and decorate it and I’m sure it's going to be beautiful.  Most importantly, it will be a healthier place to live.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this little mini apartment tour.  Please keep in mind, that we’re trying to keep everything as minimal and as essential as possible—we really like having it that way.

 Welcome
For this place, we tried to work with the space as best we could.  It’s a historic building in the middle of the city, none of the interior is new or newish and everything is a bit—no, a lot—lived in.  How’d they call in the advertisement?  Yes, historic charm.  That’s not too charming to me because I remember touring the apartment and completely disregarding the yucky kitchen and bathroom because there was a lot of natural light, more windows then I could count and a view that made my husband turn to me grinning and say “WE’LL TAKE IT!”

P1040151


Spencer’s Closet and Storage Cupboards.
Let’s start at the door and walk from one room into the next.  First, to the right of the door we have my husband’s closet.  This closet is in a tiny room with a door, which also meant that he had the freedom to decorate it as he liked, or make a mess and then just close the door.

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Bathroom.
To the left of the door and directly across from Spencer’s closet is the bathroom.  We quite enjoyed the old-style tile work.

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Nina’s Vanity, Closet and Storage Cupboards.
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There is nothing minimalist about this closet.
Someone loves makeup.  There are lots of beauty bits on the counter.  I can assure you, they can all fit into the box, but for the most part, I like all my compacts, paint pots, lotions and perfumes at my fingertips. The build-in dresser holds all my clothes, except for a few pieces I hung out to wear this past week.  Sadly, much of the space in the dresser, the bottom drawer to be exact, is stuffed entirely with heavy winter sweaters and hoodies.  I asked my husband Spencer if we should do something about it.  Maybe pair down a few... however, he's convinced I'm in need of every single one of them because I'm always, ALWAYS cold.  While that's certainly true, right now I feel like I’m never going to have need for all these unappealing winter clothes.  I'd love to toss them all out of my closet and donate the whole lot to charity.  Surely, somebody might appreciate wearing them—in Siberia.

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Living Room.
Our favorite room in the house and the place in which we spend most all of our time.

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Bedroom.
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The bedroom is in the same room as the living room due to the murphy-bed that can pop in and out of the wall.  That’s by far, my husband’s favorite feature of the apartment.  The murphy-bed makes a comfortable place to sleep at night, but then it can fold up to leave only a large full length mirror visible.

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Kitchen.
This kitchen is tiny, but it’s been well loved.

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I think that’s it!  I hope you enjoyed taking a look at our apartment.
HappyMonday♡ Nina

Meatless Monday: Creamy Asparagus Soup

When in doubt, MAKE SOUP!  Sometimes I feel a bit uninspired and I can't think of a combination of food from my kitchen that seems to work together as a meal.  What am I going to do with all these lovely asparagus?  Soup!  And it's going to be healthy, hearty and creamy all at once 


AsparagusSoup

DSC_0156

Soup
  • 1 bunch of Asparagus
  • 4oz. Crimini Mushroom
  • 1 Tbsp. Earth Balance Vegan Butter
  • 1.5 Tbsp. Flour
  • 2 cups of homemade Vegetable stock
  • 2 Tbsp. Vegan Sour Cream
  • 1/2 cup Coconut Milk
  • 1 Tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar
  • fresh Rosemary
  • Salt and Pepper;  to taste

Preparations:
  • Wash and clean the asparagus and then break off the tough ends (discard or freeze to make stock)
  • Cut of the tips and set them aside because they are added to the soup towards the very end.
  • Thinly chop the asparagus and mushrooms.
  • Melt the butter in a medium size sauté pan before adding first the mushrooms and then the asparagus.  Sauté for about 10 minutes over medium heat.  Test the vegetables for doneness and then sprinkle in 1/2 of the flour while constantly stirring.  Continue cooking over the lowest possible heat, stirring frequently, another 5 to 8 minutes.
  • Slowly add the vegetable stock while stirring constantly.  Heat to a boil and then turn down to a simmer.  After about 5 minutes, sprinkle in the remaining tablespoon of flour, mixing well.  Cook another 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Puree the soup with the vegan sour cream and the coconut milk, either with a hand-held immersion blender, or bit-by-bit in a food processor or blender.  Finally, season the smoothly blended mix with pepper and correct any last bit of taste imbalances with a little sprinkle of salt.
  • Steam or sauté the reserved asparagus tips until they are tender.   If necessary, gently heat (but don't boil) the soup, ladle it into your favorite soup bowl and add the asparagus tips.  Serve immediately and enjoy.

EXTRA:  If you happen to have about 50 minutes and you’re interested in simple & sensible vegetarian cooking, I’d recommend the following lecture/book-tour talk given by the lovely Molly Katzen.  I myself am a strickt vegan and some I don't like or agree with some of what she talkes about, but I respect Mollie Katzen for the huge contribution she made to advocating plant-based food starting by the publication of the Moosewood Cookbook in the 1970s.  Katzen holds many culinary honors for her work and advocacy, including the title "one of the best-selling cookbook authors of all time" by the New York Times.  What I like most about Katzen's cookbooks is that the dishes always turn out wonderfully and the recipes are simple to make with ingredients you will most definitely already have in your kitchen.  Her soups especially!  At one point in this lecture Katzen explains that she is always trying to make a recipe as simple as she can because “if a recipe has too many ingredients and if that ingredient list is one or two ingredients to long, that you will likely turn the page and not make the recipe.”  I find this to be so true. 



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Creamy Asparagus Soup

When in doubt, MAKE SOUP!  Sometimes I feel a bit uninspired and I can't think of a combination of food from my kitchen that seems to work together as a meal.  What am I going to do with all these lovely asparagus?  Soup!  And it's going to be healthy, hearty and creamy all at once 


AsparagusSoup

DSC_0156

Soup
  • 1 bunch of Asparagus
  • 4oz. Crimini Mushroom
  • 1 Tbsp. Earth Balance Vegan Butter
  • 1.5 Tbsp. Flour
  • 2 cups of homemade Vegetable stock
  • 2 Tbsp. Vegan Sour Cream
  • 1/2 cup Coconut Milk
  • 1 Tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar
  • fresh Rosemary
  • Salt and Pepper;  to taste

Preparations:
  • Wash and clean the asparagus and then break off the tough ends (discard or freeze to make stock)
  • Cut of the tips and set them aside because they are added to the soup towards the very end.
  • Thinly chop the asparagus and mushrooms.
  • Melt the butter in a medium size sauté pan before adding first the mushrooms and then the asparagus.  Sauté for about 10 minutes over medium heat.  Test the vegetables for doneness and then sprinkle in 1/2 of the flour while constantly stirring.  Continue cooking over the lowest possible heat, stirring frequently, another 5 to 8 minutes.
  • Slowly add the vegetable stock while stirring constantly.  Heat to a boil and then turn down to a simmer.  After about 5 minutes, sprinkle in the remaining tablespoon of flour, mixing well.  Cook another 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Puree the soup with the vegan sour cream and the coconut milk, either with a hand-held immersion blender, or bit-by-bit in a food processor or blender.  Finally, season the smoothly blended mix with pepper and correct any last bit of taste imbalances with a little sprinkle of salt.
  • Steam or sauté the reserved asparagus tips until they are tender.   If necessary, gently heat (but don't boil) the soup, ladle it into your favorite soup bowl and add the asparagus tips.  Serve immediately and enjoy.

EXTRA:  If you happen to have about 50 minutes and you’re interested in simple & sensible vegetarian cooking, I’d recommend the following lecture/book-tour talk given by the lovely Molly Katzen.  I myself am a strickt vegan and some I don't like or agree with some of what she talkes about, but I respect Mollie Katzen for the huge contribution she made to advocating plant-based food starting by the publication of the Moosewood Cookbook in the 1970s.  Katzen holds many culinary honors for her work and advocacy, including the title "one of the best-selling cookbook authors of all time" by the New York Times.  What I like most about Katzen's cookbooks is that the dishes always turn out wonderfully and the recipes are simple to make with ingredients you will most definitely already have in your kitchen.  Her soups especially!  At one point in this lecture Katzen explains that she is always trying to make a recipe as simple as she can because “if a recipe has too many ingredients and if that ingredient list is one or two ingredients to long, that you will likely turn the page and not make the recipe.”  I find this to be so true. 



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        Nina & Spencer