Fresh cucumber salsa

I realized the other day that I have never made salsa before. Mike used to make a delish black bean salsa in the summertime, but since he’s been super busy, tomato duty has fallen to me. So, I dug out a recipe I took from the Boulder farmers market back in 2005 and adapted it to what I had in the kitchen.

I had some tomatoes and a green pepper from our garden and a cucumber from the farmers market, plus a few other things.

The recipe made the freshest, most vibrant, colorful salsa I could have imagined. And it tasted really good, especially when you got a little bit of the marinated tomato juice in the bottom in your bite. I had gotten out my spice blend to add to it, but realized it didn’t even need that. I stuck with a sprinkling of salt and pepper for seasoning, just like I would on a sliced tomato.

Fresh cucumber salsa

4 medium tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a big bowl. That’s it!

Green beans with shallots

Anytime we come home from the farmers market with fresh green beans, I know exactly what to do with them, thanks to this perfectly simple recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

She uses haricot vert, which are skinnier green beans, but I usually just use the regular fat ones. I also skip the tomatoes at the end — I think the beans are just fine without them.

So here’s what you do. Fill up a sink with water and drop in the green beans. Any dirt or grass should sink to the bottom.

Snip off the ends and break them in half if they’re more than about 2 inches long.

Boil a pot of water and drop in the beans for about 4 minutes. This cooks them while keeping them crisp and retaining their bright green color.

Drain the beans in a collander. Then heat a pan (you can use the same one) over medium heat and melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Slice a shallot into thin rings, and saute those until they are translucent.

Drop in the beans and saute those for another few minutes – less if you like them crisp, more if you like them softer. Season with salt and pepper, and just before you serve them, squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the top.

They went perfectly with our little grill-out for two.

Sweet potato fries

I can’t believe I’ve never posted this recipe because I make it all the time. I never ate sweet potatoes as a child, but as an adult I can’t get enough of them. I think I have a thing for orange vegetables. Love carrots, too.

So if you need a side dish for just about anything, these roasted fries have lots of vitamins and just a drizzle of olive oil.

Sweet potato fries

1 extra large or two medium sweet potatoes
2 T. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel your sweet potatoes, then slice them in half lengthwise. My potato was so large I cut the half in half to get 3- to 4-inch long fries.

Make sure your knife is very sharp and you’re very careful when cutting. Though they don’t take any longer to cook, sweet potatoes are hard as a rock when raw.

Also, try to get organic sweet potatoes if you can. I didn’t this time and I can tell a huge difference in the brightness of the color.

Next, slice the potato halves into pieces a little less than a half-inch wide. The end pieces will probably be a little wider and triangular.

For some of the slices you’ll probably have to turn them on their sides and slice them again. Or, just go with thick-cut fries, whatever you like.

Spread them out on a nonstick cookie sheet, drizzle them with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss them a little to coat.

Bake for 15 minutes, flip them over, and bake for 15 more minutes.

And speaking of potatoes, look at my Taterpot!

It was a going-away gift, and I think it’s so cute. Soon my little tater guy should be sprouting fresh mint.

Red quinoa salad

I read a lot of food blogs. It’s one of my greatest sources of inspiration, and it means I hardly ever have to crack open a cookbook anymore. If you want a recipe, it’s usually out there somewhere, beautifully photographed and spelled out step-by-step.

But there’s one thing I’ve noticed about all the food blogs I read. You almost can’t buy a healthy recipe. There’s so much butter and heavy cream in these recipes you’d think Paula Deen was masquerading as 20 different food bloggers. It has not been good for my butt these last few months.

So I decided that I would make a better effort to seek out healthier recipes, and try to post more of them here. There’s no reason I can’t challenge myself to cook a little lighter, and make those Pioneer Woman recipes a once-in-a-while treat.

So here’s one of my first efforts. It’s similar to a tabbouleh salad, but I used red quinoa instead of bulgur (which is packed full of protein). I found it at our farmers market, so I’m not sure how difficult it will be for you to find. You can always substitute regular quinoa.

This recipe makes a very potent salad, so dial down the garlic if you like it more mellow.

Red Quinoa Salad

1 cup (uncooked) red quinoa, rinsed
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for cooking veggies
Juice of a large lemon
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cucumber, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
4 scallions, sliced
1 red pepper, seeded and sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

Start by rinsing the quinoa. Then boil it, covered, with two cups of water for about 12 minutes, or until the water is evaporated and the little spirals start separating from the grain.

This is optional, but I like to saute the red pepper and green onions in a little olive oil before I toss them in, just to soften them a little.

After those have finished cooking and cooled a little, toss them in a large bowl with the remaining ingredients.

I just grabbed some fresh herbs from the garden – a little basil and thyme. But you can use what you have on hand. Basil and mint is a great combination. Oregano would be good, too.

This tastes even better after it has soaked overnight. Serve it with the hummus I posted yesterday.

Healthy tofu hummus

That probably sounds like something you would never want to make, but I assure you our version of hummus has virtually the same taste and texture as any other hummus. It just uses tofu instead of tahini. Blended up in the food processor you never know the difference.

This is actually Mike’s recipe, and one I only made myself because he was sick in bed the other day. But we eat it so often I felt like I had to post it here.

Healthy tofu hummus

1 1/2 tablespoons cumin seeds
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 12 oz. package soft tofu, drained
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (roughly the juice of 2 lemons)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste

Start by toasting your cumin seeds to bring out the flavor. Just put them in a small skillet over medium heat for a few minutes until they start to darken a little. But be careful not to burn them!

After they’ve cooled down a little, grind them up with a mortar and pestle. This step is optional, as you can also toss them in whole.

In a food processor, puree garlic, chickpeas, tofu, cumin seeds, lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of oil until smooth.

Season with salt and pulse a few more times to combine.

When you serve the dip, drizzle a little more olive oil on top. It’s great with pita wedges, crackers or cut veggies. Perfect for lunches or afternoon snacks.

The perfect roasted asparagus

It’s that time of year (and thank God). You can’t resist the little green bundles at the farmers market, even though you ate it last week and probably the week before. Fresh asparagus is everywhere, and I am a huge fan. I think the best way to prepare it is just to throw it in the oven for a little roast. My secret ingredient is a squeeze of lemon juice that gives it just enough tang to make it a little more interesting.

Roasted asparagus

Wash your asparagus and snap off the woody ends (just put a little pressure about 3/4 of the way down the stalk and it will break off naturally). On a baking sheet (I prefer one covered with a Silpat), roll the asparagus in about a tablespoon of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, maybe a tablespoon.

Put the asparagus in a 400-degree oven for about 20 minutes, turning it at the halfway point, or until the stalks are wrinkly and browned but not burnt.

Home fries revisited

One of the first recipes I ever posted on this blog was for my unabashedly buttery home fries. They are always a hit because the combination of golden potatoes, salty butter and a kick of cayenne pepper is heavenly. I made them again last weekend, this time adding a bit of green pepper into the mix because it sounded good. And I think I like it even better.

So here’s the recipe again. Do treat yourself.

Home fries

2 large golden potatoes (or 4 small ones), thin sliced into 1-inch pieces
1/2 an onion, thin sliced
4 T. butter
2 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1/2 t. cayenne pepper

1. Heat a large skillet over medium and melt your butter. Then add the potatoes and onions. While they’re cooking, season with salt, pepper and cayenne.

2. Cover, and continue cooking on medium about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft. At this point, taste your taters, and if they’re a little bland, hit ’em with a little more seasoning (and if you’re brave, another pat of butter).

Deviled eggs

It took a while to seal the deal but I think deviled eggs are officially a thing. I’m starting to see them as appetizers on local menus, even fancy restaurant menus. And that is awesome, in the same way people think bacon is awesome. I get it.

So, here you go. The only recipe you’ll ever need for deviled eggs. It’s incredibly simple, just like my egg salad recipe. If you want to change it up a little, sprinkle a little curry powder on top, add a couple of sliced scallions – go crazy. You have my permission. Just please, pretty please, buy the good eggs.

But first! Get yourself one of these.

You must serve your eggs on a vintage egg plate. There’s no other way.

Start by hard boiling 7 eggs. Whatever method you love will work. Once they’re cool carefully peel each one.

If you get a dud, don’t panic. Steal the yolk and you’ll just have a little more yummy to mix in with the rest.

Slice each egg in half, put the yolks in a bowl and arrange the whites on your plate.

Using a fork or the back of a spoon, start to mash the yolks into a fine crumble.

To that, add 1/3 cup mayonnaise (ahem, the real stuff), a couple squirts of your favorite mustard and half a teaspoon dry mustard. I don’t know what it is about that dry mustard but it seems to make all the difference. Then sprinkle just a little bit of salt and pepper in the mix and stir it all up.

How you get this mixture into each egg white is up to you. A spoon works just fine for me, but you could certainly use a pastry bag or something like that. Try to fill them as easily as possible.

And then, because we’re doing this the most retro way possible, sprinkle those suckers with paprika.

You may notice that this egg plate has 15 slots and only fourteen eggs in it. That doesn’t seem logical when you consider eggs will always make two halves. But I think I have it figured out. When you go to present that lovely plate to your guests, carefully balancing each jiggly half in its assigned spot, you’re gonna need somewhere to put your thumb.

Easy egg salad

In my opinion, the best egg salad is a simple one. There’s no need for shallots or celery or water chestnuts or any other crunchies that would mar the perfection of a creamy egg salad. My recipe has four ingredients, that’s it.

First, cover six eggs with water in a saucepan. Heat to boiling and then reduce until it’s still gentle boiling for 15 minutes. I don’t buy the take-it-off-the-heat method. The yolks always come out underdone for me. And don’t skimp on the eggs! It took me a while to get used to paying $3 or $4 for free-range organic eggs, but then I realized that $3 or $4 is really not much for 12 of anything.

After your eggs are done, dump out the hot water, transfer them to another container and add cold water. This makes them easier to handle. Drain off that water and set them in the fridge to continue cooling.

Then crackle off the shells and slice the eggs into 1/4-inch pieces.

Add in about half a cup of mayo (real mayo, please), 2 tablespoons of mustard and 1/4 cup of pickle relish. I say about because you can adjust it to however you like your egg salad, and I never really measure when I’m making this.


Nature’s PowerBars

I learned how to make these when I was writing a story about raw food diets. They’re sort of like an energy bar that actually tastes good. The closest thing I could compare them to is a Larabar. They’re basically just nuts, dried fruit and coconut blended up in the food processor.

If you want them to be truly raw, buy all raw nuts and unsweetened coconut (I bought a real coconut for the first time to make this recipe, by the way, but you don’t have to). This time, I just tried to use up what I had left in my cabinets.

Raw fruit/nut balls

1/2 cup finely grated coconut
1 handful macadamia nuts
2 handfuls almonds
1 handful dates
1 handful raisins

Toss all of the ingredients into your food processor and process until the nuts have turned into fine pieces and the mixture is starting to clump together. The smoother the better, in my opinion.

Roll into 1-inch balls and then roll those in a little more coconut. I keep mine in the freezer – I think they taste better cold.