Zuchinni Boats by Nikki

Full of goodies!

Last week, I over filled my basket at the Farmer’s Market. Normally, this is not a problem especially when it is stuffed with so many colorful, seasonal fruits and vegetables. However, when you are traveling in and out of the country during the summer, you really need to remember that filling the fridge before the next journey is not a wise thing to do! So, on the eve before my week cycling trip I invited a friend over for dinner. We called it the “empty-the-fridge” dinner! I used the remainder of my summer veggies from Wednesday’s market visit, leftover rice and a variety of cheeses to over-stuff this large, locally farmed zucchini!

summer vegetables + fresh herbs = “empty-the-fridge” dinner!

This is a very simple recipe that is full of vitamins, naturally healthy foods, and looks colorful on your plate! Serves well with warm bread and butter… sometimes I substitute the rice for quinoa, and I have been known to make this recipe with leftover Bolognese sauce too! Enjoy!

Stuffed Zucchini a.k.a Zucchini Boats

Veggie Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Ingredients:

2-3 medium zucchinis, halved lengthwise with the middles scooped out

1 ear of sweet corn

1 small red bell pepper

1 small yellow pepper

1.5 cups chopped, fresh green beans

3-5 mushroom caps, sliced

1/4 sweet, yellow onion, chopped

1-2 tablespoons olive oil + 1 teaspoon

3 tablespoons tomato paste

fresh herbs of choice (I used cilantro and green onions)

cheese for topping (parmesan, shredded mozzarella or cheddar are best!)

Optional: 1/2 cup cooked rice, 1/2 cup cooked quinoa, or 3/4 cup browned, ground beef or turkey

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to boil. If using rice or quinoa, follow cooking directions on package and prepare now.

While waiting for water to boil, chop all veggies and place into a steamer basket in a saucepan with 1/4 inch of water in bottom of pan.

Using a sharp knife, cut the kernals off the corn cob and place in the steamer basket with other veggies.

When water is boiling, place zucchini into pot and par-boil for 8-10 minutes- just until Zucchini begins to glisten. When finished, place upside down on a baking rack over the sink to allow the zucchini to drain for 10 minutes. PREHEAT oven to 185 degrees C or 350 degrees F.

While zucchini is resting, steam veggies just until crisp. Be careful as steaming too long will cause veggies to get mushy in the oven later. At the same time, quickly saute the onion and mushrooms in teaspoon of oil until tender. If you are using ground beef or turkey, now is the time to begin browning it.

Combine all cooked ingredients into a medium bowl. Add the chopped fresh herbs, oil and tomato paste. Mix together until ingredients are covered with sauce.

Pat the zucchini dry with a paper towel. Place in a non-stick baking pan. Fill zucchini with the veggie/rice/meat mixture. Sprinkle cheese on top. Cover with tin foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove tinfoil and bake for another 3-5 minutes to allow cheese to brown a little.

Let cool for 5 minutes then serve and enjoy!

Seriously Saucy Squash by Allison

A touch of Italy makes it’s way to small town America. On a trip to Italy last year I picked up several packages of seeds for my parents, who are avid gardeners, and sent them off and this spring my Dad planted the summer squash seeds I had sent. These bicolor beauties are truly a taste of Italy right in our own backyard!

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I picked one of the squash from the plant above and decided to make a dish with another variety of squash from our neighbor’s garden.

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I am a saucy kind-of-gal who loves sauces of all kinds. I was searching for a sauce that would compliment the delicate flavor of the squash yet add a punch of flavor. The concoction I made is simply that and delicious too!

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Basil is the base of the sauce. Purchase or pick 1 cup of packed basil leaves. Add them to a blender or food processor and add garlic and parmesan and pulse until the basil is finely chopped. Pour in the white wine vinegar, buttermilk and olive oil. Mix well until the sauce or dressing is smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Lightly brush the squash or zucchini with olive oil and grill on each side approximately 5 minutes on each side until blackened and tender. Pour basil buttermilk sauce over grilled summer squash or zucchini and enjoy!

Basil Buttermilk dressing

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 4-6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons white-wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup coarsely grated Parmesan
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2-4 medium zucchini or yellow squash (or a combination), halved and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices

Recipe from Martha Stewart

Very Berry Baking! by Nikki

My Czech Basket…

Don’t you just love the season of summer? I do, and not only because I am a teacher and get the summer for a long holiday, but also because summer means I get to fill my Czech basket with such goodies as berries, apricots, and sweet corn! On Wednesday I woke up around 9:00- fairly late for me even during the summer holiday! My good friend Melissa called and said she was bringing over some perishables before she ventured off traveling for two weeks weeks. Before she headed off to the airport with her sister and dear friend, we walked to our local Farmer’s Market. She was going to stock up on dried strawberries to snack on during her train journey! My mission was to find blueberries.

blueberries are so colorful in muffin batter

The evening before, I had returned from The Hague, Netherlands where I spent a rainy weekend with two of my favorite people. It was nice to just spend time together chatting, relaxing, touring a cheese town and making rainy day muffins. Needless to say, I had muffins on my mind when I went to the market that next morning!

one of my favorite foods…

Blueberry muffins are one of my favorite foods. Last year, I found a recipe that I love from the blog the Smitten Kitchen. The muffins turn out fluffy and bursting with blueberries and there is just a hint of lemon zest. Perfect Blueberry Muffins Recipe

these blueberry beauties melt in your mouth

These muffins are best enjoyed warm with a generous pat of butter on the day they are made. And you can always share them with a friend like I did with EC! But these blueberry muffins are not all I have baked this week with my Farmer’s Market goodies… My cycling friend Anne and I are headed out on the road this week. I thought it would be a good idea to use the rest of my berries to bake Raspberry Almond Scones for our ride.

mmm… triangles of raspberry goodness!

Tea time is always better with fresh scones! So I will take a couple of these in my backpack for us to enjoy on our mid-morning tea stop. The rest, I will freeze for later consumption.

All you need is love… and a few other ingredients!

I used my favorite recipe for the scone base found on the blog Joy the Baker. I omitted the coconut, and substituted 3/4 cup raspberries for the chocolate chips listed in the recipe. Raspberries will make the dough sticky and wet so have up to 1/2 cup extra flour handy to mix in! Instead of using my circle pastry cutter, I just cut these scones into triangles with a knife. Depending on your oven they might need to bake shorter or longer than the time given in the original recipe.

I enjoy my scones with a hot cup of black tea with milk!

I hope you are enjoying your summer as well as your local farmer’s markets and gardens! – Nikki

 

You Can’t Beat this Beet Salad! – by Allison 

You Just Can’t Beat this Beet Salad by Allison

 

I confess, I raided my Mom and Dad’s gorgeous garden for the beets used in this recipe. Beets are the bomb, why did I not know this so many years ago when I refused to eat them?! My Mom and Dad planted them in their garden for the first time this year and boy am I happy they did. There’s nothing like sweet, fresh beets; you just can’t beat this beet salad!

Pick them, tear the leaves off, scrub them and trim the ends off each end. Dowse in olive oil and toss to coat and place in a foil and wrap it up like a present and place on a roasting pan. Roast at 250 degrees Celsius for one hour and 20 minutes.

 

Check to see if they are done by inserting a fork into the middle of the beet, if it is soft in the middle and the fork pulls out easily they are done! Cool and set aside. Peel and slice the beets, now it is time to prepare the vinaigrette!

Ingredients:

For the Salad
mixed greens
crumbled goat cheese
coarsely chopped walnuts
For the Vinaigrette
2-3 tablespoons honey
1½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1½ tablespoons minced shallots
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
For the Salad
mixed greens or green leaf lettuce
crumbled goat cheese
walnuts coarsely chopped
recipe slightly adapted from Once Upon a Chef

Watermelon Wow! by L

My daughter T and our watermelon

I needed a break and I wanted some rest. So, my dear husband loaded up our twin daughters into their stroller for a walk. After more than an hour they returned home, along with a huge watermelon. When I asked what they did, he told me that they visited some friends in town and one of our neighbors handed him this watermelon. I’m still not sure how he managed pushing the double stroller and carrying the watermelon at the same time back to our home. But that’s what happens when you go walking around this town of Bonrepòs i Mirambell, Spain. Someone either hands you a home-grown watermelon or a shopping bag full of vegetables tended from one’s own field. I like small towns.

Lately, we have been ending most of our meals with a generous slice of watermelon. To change things up a bit, I decided to recreate a salad that I first tasted at a friend’s wedding reception in Israel. The main ingredient was watermelon, which was cut into small pieces, along with cubes of feta cheese and thin strips of chopped mint leaves and served in the melon’s rind. I was surprised to see this mix of cheese and watermelon together and at first glance I wasn’t interested in trying it, but I am glad my curious taste buds encouraged me to do so. The contrast of the sweet juicy flavors of the watermelon with the salty bits of feta, and the hit of mint left quite an impression on my palate. When the summer temperatures reach incredible heights, this is the salad that I crave for. It is the perfect dish to perk up your senses when you are trying to fight off the lazy urges of the summer heat. And it is so simple to make!

Queso de Burgos, Hierbabuena and the watermelon we were given.

The ingredients that my Israeli friend used were watermelon, feta cheese and mint. For my Spanish version, I used a local cheese called Queso de Burgos con sal and instead of mint, I used a herb called hierbabuena (the good herb)  which looks exactly like mint, smells like mint and tastes like mint, but according to my father-in-law it is not mint. If I was making this dish in Prague, I would purchase some Balkan cheese and mint from my local farmer’s market to add to the watermelon.

When I served the salad for lunch at the home of my Spanish in-laws, they were also surprised to see such a strange combination of ingredients mixed together. However, after a few bites and bowls of seconds and thirds, this watermelon salad made quite an impression. There weren’t any leftovers.

Watermelon with Feta Cheese and Mint Salad

1/2 Watermelon

1/2 block of Feta (or Balkan or Queso de Burgos ) cheese

1-2 stalks of mint leaves (or if in Spain: hierbabuena)

Cut watermelon in small cubes or pieces

Chop cheese into tiny cubes

Slice mint leaves into thin strips.

Use either the watermelon rind for the bowl  or another large bowl, place all the ingredients together.

Mix and blend all the ingredients well.

Refrigerate before serving.

Best enjoyed on one of the hottest days of the summer!

Croissant Sammy with Chicken and Sharp Cheddar by Nikki

Fresh Croissants!

I frequently make a big production in my kitchen, but sometimes a simple, easy sandwich is all you need to satisfy hunger pains. Last Saturday, I mapped my daily run to end at the Farmer’s Market. I went looking for blueberries. Because it was s Czech holiday weekend, the market was very quiet- not a lot of market goers and a few regular vendors were missing from there stations! I had planned on making a summer-inspired Blueberry pie to serve for dessert on Sunday evening. But no blueberries were to be found on this particular day at the market. As I began walking home, I saw one of the regular bread vendors. I don’t consume a lot of bread and usually prefer hearty breads that are whole wheat or multi-grain with seeds. This particular bread vendor offered a variety of brown breads- whole loaves and smaller rounds, but the croissants were big, fluffy and looked really delicious. So I bought two!

Croissant Sammy!

When I returned home, I quickly turned one of my croissants into a sandwich- or sammy as the Kiwi’s refer to it! I stuffed it with lettuce, chicken, and sharp cheddar cheese from New Zealand.

Quick and easy lunch!

I added a few extra veggies and seedless, green grapes on the side, and this was an easy and quick but very healthy lunch… well except for the buttery, flaky-crusted croissant! But like I said, sometimes special breads need to be enjoyed…

 

Croissant Sammy with Chicken and Sharp Cheddar

Using fresh croissants (or other bread rolls of choice), first slather on preferred condiments. I used whole-grain mustard from Marks & Spencer. Stuff the croissants/rolls with your preferred meats or veggies and enjoy!

Strawberry Yumminess by Allison

I am writing from beautiful Washington state for the next few weeks. I’ve had a blast frequenting the local farmers’ markets around Seattle this past week and the Issaquah farmers market was simply amazing. Local flower vendors, restaurant owners, bakeries, fresh produce, designers and coffee specialists were all part of the sampling the market had to offer to its’ community. Wow, my friend M and I had so much fun perusing the walkways and my mind was exploding with ideas of what to make. I picked up two heads of green leaf lettuce for a lovely salad I had promised M I would make! A light, summery salad dressing that compliments fresh greens and ingredients is what was on the list for dinner that night!

Strawberry Lemon Basil Dressing

Ingredients:

I cup of fresh sliced strawberries

1/4 cup of packed fresh basil

3 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp of olive oil

1-2 Tbsp of maple syrup to taste

fine grain sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste (about 1/4 tsp each)

 

for the salad:

shredded toasted coconut

candied sliced almonds

mixed greens or green leaf lettuce

 

Add all the ingredients for the dressing into a food processor and pulse until you’ve reached the desired consistency. You can place leftover dressing in a jar and it will keep in the refrigerator for a few days! Enjoy!

 

 

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Fresh Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes By Nikki

Fresh pasta + sun-dried tomatoes + garlic + olive oil = yummy!

This week I moved apartments. Moving is not fun because moving is always a lot of work. My new apartment is in the same neighborhood- thankfully I am only 3 blocks further from local Farmer’s Market. On Wednesday, despite the mountain of boxes looming and needing to be unpacked, I found myself procrastinating with a stroll to the market.

That is me paying for my fresh pasta!

I usually go straight for the dried fruit and nut vendor, but today I decided to roam the market, and I found fresh pasta! My purchase was Linguine- a wider noodle that is flatter that spaghetti! I already began thinking about how I would make something light and summery with this pasta as the base…

After picking up some of my favorite veggies, I made my way over to the fruit and nut vendor. They had sun-dried tomatoes, and I knew my past dish was complete! Because Wednesday was the Fourth of July (Independence Day), in the USA, I went out for burgers and beers that evening with friends.  It was our expat way of paying tribute and celebrating what would be a day of BBQ’s, beers and fireworks had we Americans been in the US with our friends and family this summer.

Today, despite the need to unpack and organize everything from the move, I needed only four things: a knife, a cutting board, a frying pan and a boiling pot! I searched through my boxes, found my tools, and whipped up a pasta dish that gave me the energy to finally make my new apartment start to look like a home!

Sun-Dried Tomato/Olive Oil Pasta

Bring water to a boil. If using fresh pasta, wait to cook until the saute is 2-3 minutes from finished…

Mince 1 clove of garlic

Slice 5 dried tomatoes into long strips

Chop the green part of one green onion

Heat frying pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add garlic and tomatoes and saute for 5-8 minutes or until garlic begins to change color.

Cook pasta for 2-3 minutes, strain and rinse lightly. Add pasta to the frying pan with 1 tablespoon more of olive oil.

Toss pasta and saute together for 2 minutes… serve with green onion sprinkled on top and enjoy warm!

 

The Green Bean Connection by L

(For the month of July, Liezel will be writing from and about the sunny city of Valencia, Spain.)

I think my father-in-law is pretty cool. In fact, for a girl that is curious and enthusiastic about food, I definitely married into the right family. He is an early riser and while the rest of the household is in dreamland, he takes his daily walk around our pueblo which is called Bonrepòs i Mirambell. Our town is situated about 20 minutes outside the center of Valencia and is surrounded by acres and acres of vegetation. My husband’s town is quite the contrast to the concrete sidewalks of my youth. It’s fascinatingly green and earthy, but the occasional whiff of fertilizer seeping through our windows can make this NYC native gag.

The view from our apartment

When mi suegro returns from his walks, he regularly comes back with a bounty of vegetables and fruits that were grown in the nearby fields. When asked where he got them from, he grins and says “amigos” and proceeds to tell me stories about his friends and their farms. Out of curiosity, I asked to tag along on one of his walks to find out exactly where our food was coming from. He happily agreed to show me around el campo.

Mi suegro leads the way

With hats to protect us from the sun’s hot rays, my father-in-law led the way. As we passed through various fields, he proudly pointed out every type of plant surrounding us. We stopped at la casita of  Tio Pepe, who as my father-in-law likes to put it, is familia. By day, Tio Pepe is an auto mechanic who owns a shop in town, but his heart is in el campo. He spends every free minute out in the fields. The “garden” he tends to is the size of a basketball court and has been in his family for many generations. Before we headed out to the field, Tio Pepe shoved a bag in mi suegro’s hand and told us we could take home anything we fancied. This is common practice with anyone who stops by and if you can’t drop by, he will bring a goody box of his farmed goods to your home. The fruits/veggies of his labor are not for sale, instead he generously nourishes his friends and family with the abundance of produce he cultivates. It’s wonderful to have friends in all the right farms!

Familia

Picking out our lunch

In the orchard there were trees bearing olives, peaches, plums, apples and cherries. Watermelons and honeydew were also maturing in full force. In the vegetable patch, my father-in-law described the variety of tomatoes being farmed, then pointed out the eggplant, peppers, zucchini, pumpkins and lovely green beans. The beans reminded me of the purple carrots I received in my last order of organic veggies back in Prague. To me, the beans appeared to be spray painted with wine.

Green beans spray painted with wine

My father-in-law and I came home with plenty and decided that we would ask my mother-in-law to cook the judías verdes (green beans) to add to our lunch.  Once boiled, the beans’ glossy red tones disappear.  They turn back to plain old green beans that when ready to eat are deliciously tender.They can be simply dressed in olive oil and salt or with homemade mayonnaise which is how they were prepared by mi suegra.

B.M. (Before Mayonnaise)

Mahonesa Casolana  (Homemade Mayonnaise)Ingredients:

One egg yolk

One cup of olive oil

Drop of vinegar

Salt to taste

With a whisk or hand blender,  beat the egg yolk on high.

Add the drop of vinegar.

Continue whisking and add a drop of oil.

Wit the whisk running, slowly keep adding the oil until the mixture begins to look like mayonnaise.

When the emulsion takes place, you can then add the rest of the oil at a quicker pace.

When done, season with salt.

Makes one cup of mayonnaise and can be kept in the fridge for up to three days.

Bajoqueta amb Mahonesa (Green Beans with Homemade Mayonnaise)

1/2 bag of green beans

Water

Salt

Homemade mayonnaise

Wash beans, snip ends and cut in half.

Place in a pot with enough water to cover the beans.

Boil for about 20 minutes or until tender.

Drain.

Then mix with enough mayonnaise, but do not drown the beans in the condiment.

Refrigerate before serving.

A.M. (After mayonnaise)