Tag Archives: Recipe

Snacker Day Saturday: 6/23

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These skewers are super capr-easy. And, they’ll use up produce from gardens I know that some of you are growing. Ripe cherry tomatoes literally burst with flavor while roasting in the oven, tofu sizzles, and fresh basil, well…freshens up the whole flavor. All of this gets dunked into a nice cool bath of seasoned balsamic vinegar.

I love any take on the traditional caprese salad. One of my favorite versions that I’ve had is at a little place called the Saxapahaw General Store in Saxapahaw, North Carolina. My parents came to visit me so I took them to the locally-supplied restaurant which is located in a converted gas station. Cool, right? My mom and I decided to do a sandwich swap and ordered a roasted vegetable sandwich and a Mozzarella Caprese sandwich. Although it’s been over a year, I can’t get the taste of the Mozzarella Caprese out of my mind. A freshly baked baguette, meaty slices of ripe tomatoes, delicate fresh leaves of basil, and thick chunks of mozzarella, all coated with a home-made balsamic vinaigrette. Yum.

The other day I was hunkered down in my basement fort, armed with my Hemingway text in one hand and a pen in the other. And I was trying to concentrate. I really was. But all that caught my attention was a view of this out the window:
Once I saw the clouds, I started worrying that the downpour that would surely ensue would blow all of my little cherry tomatoes away. I’ve been working hard on taking care of those little guys – I mean, I get a gym membership’s worth of strength training lugging two watering cans out to the plants each day. I set down Hemingway and ran upstairs to go collect all of my little tomatoes and I saved them all before the sky opened up.

Fast forward a few hours through a soldier falling in love with a nurse, me writing a blog post for the Chamber of Commerce, and working on applications for grad school. Lunch rolled around and my collection of tomatoes sat waiting for me in a little bowl on the counter. And then, inspiration hit: a summery lunch that would use all of my precious tomatoes and some of the basil leaves that have been winding wildly towards the screen window they sit by.

To make my cap-reasy salad skewers, all you need are some tiny cherry tomatoes (aren’t they the cutest?), a few cubes of tofu, some fresh basil, and some good balsamic vinegar for dipping. Pop ’em in the oven, pop ’em in your mouth. Bada-bing, bada-boom. These mini-skewers are as cute as the ingredients that top them. They’d be perfect as hors d’ oeuvres at a party, a fresh summer lunch, or as an appetizer at a barbeque. Or as a refreshing snack in the midst of a Snacker Day Saturday!

Moral of the story: I’m really, really glad I rescued my cherry tomatoes from the storm! Other moral of the story: waiting is challenging. I used all my cherry tomatoes on this lunch so I’m now going to sit outside by my tomato plants and beg and plead them to ripen faster so I can make more of these delicious skewers. Okay, don’t worry, I won’t really go talk to my plants, but I sure am excited for the next batch of them to ripen up!

Capr-easy Salad Skewers
Ingredients
*Note: I’m not including amounts in this recipe. I’ll let you know how to make the skewers, but feel free to make as many or as little as your heart desires (or however many your garden dictates)
Cherry tomatoes
Firm tofu
Garlic powder
Fresh basil leaves
Balsamic vinegar
Italian seasoning blend
How To
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Spray a cookie sheet lightly with cooking spray. Place washed cherry tomatoes onto the sheet.
3. Cut tofu into small blocks and dry them by pressing on them with a paper towel to extract excess moisture. Next, toss them in a little bit of garlic powder.

4. Put the seasoned tofu blocks onto the cookie sheet alongside the cherry tomatoes. Put the sheet in the oven. Bake for 10-20 minutes, or until the tomatoes have burst and the tofu is slightly firm on the outside.
5. Grab some toothpicks. Slide a tomato, a piece of tofu, and a fresh basil leaf onto each.
6. In a small bowl, mix balsamic vinegar with Italian seasoning. Add a drizzle of olive oil if you’d like.
7. Serve up a savory summertime snack that everyone will feel good about eating!

Now, for the reading portion of today’s snacker day: I suggest you read a book called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life  by Barbara Kingsolver. No, it’s not a ‘snack-sized’ read like most of the literature I try recommending on Saturdays, but this one is a great book to sit down and enjoy during summer. Barbara Kingsolver and her family grow their own food for a year and chronicle their experiences. If you’ve got a garden of your own, are looking to start one, or are simply interested in eating local, natural, real food, this is a book you’ll probably love. I really enjoyed it when I read it a couple years ago! It came to mind today while I was picking my food for lunch – it felt good that most of my meal came from the vine and landed on my plate mere minutes later. Hope you have a great Snacker Day Saturday!

Strawberry Shortcake Smoothies

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Strawberries always remind me of Alaska. When we lived in Anchorage, we had a small garden where we grew strawberries, chives, rhubarb, and raspberries. The strawberries that we grew were always the cutest. Their yellow seeds weren’t any bigger than an aphid, green stems as small as newly sprouted leaves, and the actual berries were as tiny as thimbles. We’d water them and watch the plants slowly unfurl under the seemingly endless sunlight that only an Alaskan summer can bring.

While we waited for berries  to ripen we occupied ourselves by swimming in a kiddie pool in our front yard, collecting daddy long leg spiders, and playing in our top secret fort in the backyard. We hiked out as a family to the same lake each year to canoe, swim, and stay in a little cabin on an island where we’d roast hot dogs over the fire and complain about the smelly outhouse. We’d gather the cul-de-sac kids and play baseball on our pavement diamond, hitting plastic baseballs into anyone and everyone’s yard without care. We attempted to hatch a ladybug nest in our kitchen one year and a praying mantis the next, never succeeding. We learned to fish, about harvesting and giving back to the earth, and about the abundance of the Alaskan wilderness. We did a lot while the berries ripened.

Alaska will always hold a special place in my heart. It was there that I was born, learned to hike like a billy-goat, developed my tolerance for the cold, started a habit of swimming in any body of water available to me, craved fresh produce, started loving the mountains and lakes and the trees, and the patience to wait for something small and seemingly insubstantial to grow so sweet. There’s nothing sweeter than eating a button-sized strawberry you grew yourself.

Since we didn’t harvest too many strawberries (thanks to two little kids and a host of woodland creatures who loved to snack on them), we usually just ate our strawberries plain. A delicious summertime treat that gleans sweetness from these plump red berries is one I’m sure you all know and love: strawberry shortcake.

I thought I’d try to bring a little bit of strawberry shortcake action into the world of smoothies with this recipe that I came up with today. I love the flavor of the berries in this smoothie, along with the texture that the oats bring. Best of all, it’s bursting with the taste of strawberries that always brings me back to Alaska. My mom tried this smoothie with me and she commented that it tasted like a smoothie version of a strawberry crumble. This smoothie would be a perfect, well-rounded breakfast, or a refreshing dessert that is healthy and wholesome to boot. It’s fun to serve parfait style (as pictured) or to blend all the ingredients up for a great mixture of flavors and textures. It would be an easy party dessert or brunch addition to make beforehand and store in the freezer.

Strawberry Shortcake Smoothie
Serves 1-2 people
Ingredients
For the “strawberries”:
4 oz. non-fat vanilla yogurt (or use vanilla Wholesoy or a different brand if vegan)
1/4 cup vanilla almond milk
1 cup frozen, chopped strawberries
Optional: sugar, if desired. I made mine without and it was great!
For the “shortcake”:
1/4 cup oats
A little more than 1/4 cup vanilla almond milk
Optional: Pinch of Cream of Tartar (I used it to make it taste a little more like shortcake, but if you don’t have it, don’t sweat it)
Sugar (again, add sugar to this mixture if you’d like. I enjoyed mine sans sugar.)
How To
1. The night before you want to make this (or eight hours before), mix oats and milk in a small tupperware or bowl. Store it in the fridge. If you’ve made overnight oats before, this is essentially the same thing. You want this mixture to be pretty thick so adjust oat and milk ratio as necessary.
2. Eight hours or a night after you make the oat mixture, get ready to make a great smoothie! In a blender, combine all components of the strawberry mixture. Add extra milk to this mixture if you need to in order to help it blend smoother.
3. At this point, choose whether you’d like to make parfaits, or just one big glass of strawberry shortcake goodness. If you’re making parfaits: spoon some of the oat mixture into the bottom of small glasses. Top with smoothie mixture. If you’d like to add a little extra flavor and nice presentation, top with a small dollop of vanilla yogurt and a strawberry slice. Sprinkle a few uncooked oats on top as well to add a little extra crunch.  If you’re making a smoothie: dump oats into blender and blend mixture until all is mixed well. Pour smoothie into a glass or two and dive into sweet summertime strawberry-filled bliss. If you’re making the smoothie, feel free to top it off with a little yogurt, some oats, and strawberry slices as well. Hope enjoy it enough to scoop every last morsel out of the parfait glass like I did – this photoshoot was hard to get through without sampling!

Tropical Dreamsicle Smoothies

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Weather forecast for digintobooks this week: sweltering hot outside with frequent showers of ice cold drink recipes. When you’re out in the summer heat running, walking, playing with your kids, enjoying a game of tag, mowing the lawn, or whatever else you do when it’s this hot, I’ll be raining smoothies on you. All week.

Actually, not really. But I’ll be doing the next best thing: showing you tantalizing pictures of my latest cool drink concoctions and handing over the recipes so you can try them out for yourself. I figure that we all need a good frigid kick-off to summer with some icy recipes that we’ll be able to use over and over and over again as the summer months get hotter and hotter. Bring it on, sun.

I got the idea to do a week full of cold-drink concoctions while on a walk the other day. It wasn’t just any walk. I had already been out waterskiing in the morning, then swam for a while in the lake, and then caught some rays with a little nap out on the boat. After that, I ate a quick salad for lunch and then went on a walk. At 2:00 in the afternoon. On pavement. What was I thinking?

With heat waves shimmering off the road, beads of sweat dripping down my face, and my feet collecting small blisters, I started to do what anyone would do: see mirages of sapphire blue ponds, huge palm leaves to fan me, and creamsicles. Creamsicles? Yeah. I thought the same thing. See, I don’t even like creamsicles in real life. But in my state of utter desperation for anything cooler than a sun ray beating down on me, I started craving the creamy combination of vanilla ice cream and the sweet, citrusy notes of orange. I hustled (ahem, more like trudged up the super-steep hill) to get home and find myself something to drink. Enter tropical dreamsicle smoothies.

I beg you to make yourself one of these. Trust me, while drinking it you’ll be transported to your mirage location: white sandy beaches that never get too hot, a dazzling turquoise pool, palm trees swaying in a warm breeze, and those palm leaves that fan you whenever you need. You’ll forget that your face is beet red, your legs are quaking from climbing hills that might as well be 90 degree angles, and the fact that the roads are still shimmering with heat waves and will be long after the sun goes down. When you drink this smoothie, you’ll feel energized, refreshed, and way cooler than you did before you started chugging. So quick – freeze some fruit today and make this recipe as soon as you can!

Tropical Dreamsicle Smoothie
(recipe for one large smoothie or two small ones)
Ingredients
1/2 orange, peeled and sliced and frozen
1 banana, peeled and sliced and frozen
1/2 cup vanilla almond milk
4 oz vanilla yogurt (if vegan, try WholeSoy Vanilla yogurt or any other non-dairy brand)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
How To
1. I know I said this in the ingredients, but make sure you freeze your fruit. This way, you won’t have to use ice (which sometimes dilutes flavors) and you’ll get an extra creamy smoothie. Tips for freezing the fruit: for the banana, peel one and then slice into 1 inch rounds. Put the slices into a tupperware container and then freeze for 12 hours or more. You should be able to break apart the pieces before putting them into the blender. If not, let the slices sit at room temperature for about 5 or 10 minutes to let them soften up a little bit. For the orange, peel one and then peel into slices. You can freeze the orange in slices. Once you take it out of the freezer, I recommend using a very sharp knife to cut the segments into very small pieces so the blender has an easier time of blending them.
2. Put the fruit slices into the blender. Add all other ingredients. Blend until smooth. Serve and enjoy!
*Note: in some of the pictures you can see that I topped the smoothies with a little extra dollop of vanilla yogurt. Feel free to enjoy them plain or with a little extra dreaminess by topping the smoothies with vanilla yogurt. Either way, these smoothies are delicious!