Fudgiest Peanut Butter Smoothie

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This week’s episode of ‘I am not cooking!‘ is brought to you by my faithful blender.

I am a newly converted blending addict. There is no way around it. No matter how much I dream about a nice hot meal I keep on blending. Fortunately it is summer so it’s slightly less noticeable. >she tells herself in affirmation< Continue reading ‘Fudgiest Peanut Butter Smoothie’

Dark Chocolate Raspberry ‘Nana’ Nicecream (AKA Banana Ice Cream)

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This is not the recipe I thought I would post this week, but since today was National Ice Cream Day, I thought I should take the opportunity to share my fresh out of the blender Dark Chocolate Raspberry Nicecream ‘banana ice cream’ with a rich chocolate sauce. This is really some sort of incredible concoction Continue reading ‘Dark Chocolate Raspberry ‘Nana’ Nicecream (AKA Banana Ice Cream)’

Watermelon Basil Sweet Tea

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Right now I can’t cook to save my life. It is just not possible. There are those moments in life when the wheels just come off and you free fall Don Draper style off the high rise. That’s where I am. That’s what my life feels like right now. I’ve tried to ‘pretty it up’ and put lip stick on a pig, but at the end of the day, it is still lip stick on a pig. Nothing more. I am a glass half full type of person, however at a certain point you must also allow yourself to be a realist. Call it as you see it. So here we are.

I’d like to tell you a lovely story of days of yore but tonight I am in my untethered state of being. I’ve been in this space for a while. I’ve have a few non-cooking recipes to share, but just haven’t wanted to face my own words. I wasn’t sure where to start this blog post, nor where to end it. On one hand I am grateful for those that I have in my life and their health and happiness (glass half full), but on the other hand I cannot deny that things ‘suck’ (realist). There, I said it. No gory details, just raw emotions.

Friends and family are what get me through the difficult times. They buoy me forward, make me smile and allow me to forget my troubles. This past July 4th I got together with my usual group of friends. My Guy and I have been spending this holiday together with this intimate group since before we were married, before we had kids or pets or homes to look after. Over the years our lives have moved us all into different areas of Northern California, where we can only manage to see each other regularly on Facebook; yet on this day, the 4th of July, we all converge for our annual gathering. And despite the tsunami of events that have befallen me – not just these past two months, but really these past three years- when I am with this group, my troubles melt away with a feverish drip. We talk about our freedom from all responsibilities, make jokes, act like kids and smile until our cheeks hurt.

In honor of the long holiday weekend, I made this refreshing watermelon basil sweet tea. The spiciness of the tea blended with the sweetness of the fruit and the extremely aromatic basil -with its hint of pepper, anise, and mint- gives this beverage a sweet, and savory, element.

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Watermelon Basil Sweet Tea

Ingredients

1 gallon water

1/2 cup sugar

5 packets decaffeinated black tea

3-5 cups diced watermelon

2 springs Thai basil, blended

watermelon wedge for garnish

Directions

In a large pot over high heat, bring the water to a simmer. Add the tea packets and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Remove packets and allow to cool completely.

Using a blender, blend the melon into a puree. Lightly mash the basil leaves on a cutting board with the flat side of a knife, alternatively a mortar and pestle to release the aromatics or add leaves to a blender with a splash of water and puree. This last method will leave more sediment in the tea but also create more depth. Add the puree and basil to the tea an mix well. Serve with a lot of ice and garnish each glass with a wedge a melon or a spring of basil.

Note: To make this drink more adult, add a shot of tequila, vodka or gin to the glass.

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Shredded Beet & Toasted Sesame Salad- The RAW deal

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I think you know that I’m infatuated with the raw food concept. And while that may sound like an odd concept, on some level we all like raw. Summer is the ‘raw’ Mecca as home gardens and farmer’s markets bust with succulent fruits waiting to burst with sweet juices, fragrant with a lovely floral scent. But let’s be honest, I am not just talking about eating fruits raw, and while I don’t believe I am a full fledged contingent of the growing raw-food advocates group I am enjoying dabbling in it. Do I believe that raw food has more nutrients? Continue reading ‘Shredded Beet & Toasted Sesame Salad- The RAW deal’

Summer Quinoa Pumpkin ‘Risotto’

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It has been good to have time to roll-up my sleeves and cook. Many times it is those simple creations that are the most enjoyable to make. A few unusual ingredients tossed together create a memorable dish. Cooking is very forgiving, unlike baking. Improvising is the key to flexing your culinary muscles.

I recently had the chance to meet up with Chef Josiah Slone at his restaurant Sent Sovi. He prepared a dish for me that will appear in the next edition of Silicon Valley Edible. It is beautifully simple, fresh and delicious. That dish in some way inspired me to create this very light summer pumpkin quinoa risotto (have I peeked your curiosity yet?).

I’ll be honest, I had been thinking about creating a dish with quinoa, but when it came down to preparing it, the fresh ingredients I used were all things that I had in the refrigerator. I tell you this because I think it is important to improvise. The simplest way to do this is to begin with basic substitutions like swapping ingredients — quinoa replaces Aroborio rice (cooking time is greatly adjusted), you could easily exchange the shallot for fresh garlic or ½ finely chopped medium size onion, pumpkin could be replaced with zucchini, and spinach and kale could be interchangeable as well. The key thing to take into account is how soft you like your vegetables. Pumpkin will cook more quickly than thick slices of zucchini for example. Usually the first time I make a recipe I follow the directions exactly- but once I have insight into the textures and the flavor combinations, I like to experiment from that point forward.

The textures in this dish just work. The nutty flavor of the quinoa blended with the saltiness of the broth and Parmesan cheese combine perfectly with the buttery soft squash texture. The spinach and mushrooms intermingled into this summer ‘risotto’ bring a fresh earthy flavor to the palate. This recipe is perfect as a standalone or side dish.

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Summer Quinoa Pumpkin ‘Risotto’

Ingredients

1 cup red quinoa

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 TBS olive oil

1 TBS butter

½ ripe kabocha Japanese pumpkin (approx. 3 cups or 1 lb), skin removed (optional)

8 oz crimini mushrooms, chopped

2 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

4/3 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated

3 cups baby spinach, cleaned with stems removed

Directions

Cook quinoa according to package directions, set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat add oil and shallot and cook until softened. Add butter and pumpkin, cooking for 5-7 minutes. Add mushrooms stirring frequently. Then add broth and cook uncovered over medium high heat for 5 minutes. Stir in quinoa and combine until most of the broth is absorbed. Add in spinach, stir well to combine then add cheese. Transfer to a serving bowl.

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Raw Caramel Cookie Bars (vegan, gluten free)

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There are times when life throws you curve balls and instead of taking a good cut at it, it hits you in the head. Okay, this is not a literal story but it is pretty darn close- figuratively and literally. But I’ll skip over those details. Let’s suffice to say that was my week in a nutshell and now I can’t seem to find time to cook. And despite how I crave to be creating meals in the kitchen I have had to redefine my efforts to match my ‘snacky’ healthy palate. This week, I returned to my new favorite food area of exploration – the world of raw, vegan. Continue reading ‘Raw Caramel Cookie Bars (vegan, gluten free)’

Grapefruit & Greens Ya-Yas Salad

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There are times when you think you find a friend because you believe that they need your help or support. Other times, without you realizing it, that same friend switches places with you and you suddenly realize that despite what you initially thought, they really found you. Audrey was one of those friends. While we became friends without a formal introduction from our common connection, in a most unconventional way, somehow it just worked. A friendship surfaced despite either of us really knowing much about the other. This type of friendship has happened to me a few times over the years and although somewhat unusual, I surrendered knowing that they just felt ‘right’ and I took the leap to let them into my heart. My friendships with Jennifer and Ilina sprung up under similar circumstances and despite our physical distance or our lack of regular conversation, there remains a bond. I know that I can always pick up the phone or send a text and I have no doubt that they would drop whatever they are doing if I was in need.

Friendships really do come in all shapes and sizes but at the core it is the simplicity of the relationship that keeps me engaged. And I feel lucky to have had so many special friends share special moments, look out for me and enjoy spending time together. The long-time girls in my life – Suzie, Stacey, Natalie, Roe, Sue, Burley, Joan, Ingrid, Karen, Maria and Diana – are very special to me. And into this mix grew Ilina and Jennifer and most recently Audrey. These are my Ya-Yas.

This group would be the first to tell you that while I am somehow managing to blog, it is kinda a miracle. I don’t really have time for this, despite how passionate I am about food and writing. So for now, I will keep it simple. Sometimes life doesn’t have a magic formulaic recipe, it just happens and we find it in our hearts to embrace it.

As Audrey said when she shared this recipe with me, “You are going to love this salad- it is simple, fresh and healthy.” Don’t be afraid, there are no exact measurements. Follow your heart and your palate to give this salad your own flair.

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Grapefruit & Greens Ya-Yas Salad

Ingredients

1 head Bibb (Butter) lettuce, washed cleaned and cut

2 cups baby spinach, washed and cleaned

1 red bell pepper, washed, seeded and chopped

1 1/2 large grapefruits, peeled, pith removed and sliced into wheels

1 large cucumber, washed, cleaned and chopped

8 oz Feta cheese, crumbled

½ cup walnut pieces, chopped

¼ cup sugar

Dressing

½ grapefruit, juiced

3 TBS olive oil

1 TBS white wine vinegar

Directions

To prepare salad, wash and clean all produce. In a small pan, over medium high heat add nuts and sugar and continue to stir until sugar melts and nuts are caramelized, then remove from heat. In a large bowl combine all ingredients.

To make a simple deconstructed dressing, once salad is assembled pour dressing ingredients over it. Mix and serve.

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Guacamole Grows Up

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One year ago I had a kitchen accident, an accident that took me down a wild path of recovery and self-discovery. The outcome at a glance was very fortunate, but there is no denying that it has redefined me in many ways. Continue reading ‘Guacamole Grows Up’

Chocolate Chip Cookie – Bean Cake Cookies In Disguise (Gluten Free)

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I have lived on the edge of holding on. Holding onto quotes, phrases, and people. I am horrible at good-byes. And permanent good-byes terrify me. This type of closure pushes a hole deep into my heart. I guess I just can’t let go, so I live by Continue reading ‘Chocolate Chip Cookie – Bean Cake Cookies In Disguise (Gluten Free)’

Vegan Cashew No-gurt

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Let’s just keep it simple.

Appreciating the simple things.

My theme this week is …… SIMPLE….when you suddenly come down with a horrible bout of the stomach flu, things need to reset. For me these past five days, regardless of what I thought I should be doing, were about re-setting from zero to simple.

It is not easy to appreciate simplicity at its onset. It is moments like these, when you can’t possibly eat or drink anything of substance that you realize how amazing a cracker can taste. Then you are well again, and Continue reading ‘Vegan Cashew No-gurt’

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