Independence Day Eats & Treats

JULY

Happy Independence Day my friends! This fourth of July is shaping up to be better than years past.  Our country continues to move forward in ways that warm our hearts.  When the Declaration of Independence was signed way back in 1776, it stated “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…” It’s pretty easy to spot the blatant hypocrisy since slavery was still legal during the signing (and looong after) and here we are in 2015 fighting for the pursuit of happiness and the permission to love freely and marry.  Instead of boycotting Independence Day (many do!) I like to treat July 4th as a time to look back, review, and assess our country’s progress and daydream about the positive changes to come.  I tend to be quite the skeptic when talking about the United States of America’s government, but when it comes down to it, I know I’m extremely lucky to live and thrive in this country and I’m grateful for the progress we are making as a nation even if it seems like it takes light years.   I hope you’ll take a moment this Independence Day to be grateful for our freedoms and to know that you can aid others in attaining theirs both in America and around the world.

While you’re reflecting, you should probably feed that belly of yours too!  I plan on eating an entire watermelon by myself followed by lots and lots of delicious cocktails.  I’m actually experimenting with a few new ones that should be ready for the blog in the coming weeks!  So pull out that red shirt and light up the sparklers while you whip up some Independence day eats and treats.

As shown from top to bottom, left to right:

Watermelon Mint Salad     Mint Agua Fresca     Homemade Pizza Four Ways

Mint Simple Syrup Mojito     Cashew Fruit Dip

Watermelon Gazpacho     Mint Ice Cream     Rosemary Infused Bloody Marys

 

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Pollinator Power Salad

Continuing to celebrate Pollinator Week, today we have a recipe for a salad that is jam-packed with good ingredients, and every single one, from the mustard in the dressing to the pumpkin seeds, required pollination to help them grow and reproduce. As you’ll see, the salad looks absolutely beautiful and represents everything that is good about summer. But before you dig in, say thanks to every pollinator that played a role in bringing this food to your table.

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As we mentioned on Monday, about 75% of the food we eat required pollinators to grow and produce seeds. That seems like a lot, but when you look at this salad, it’s so easy to see how that’s possible. In making this salad, I used information from this USDA document to determine which foods required pollination. As you’ll see, I got a bit creative with this salad, but if you have a family of cautious eaters, you can look at Table 1 in that document and find ingredients that suit your household. For example, I didn’t even put tomatoes, which are such a common salad ingredient, in this dish, but they are on the list!

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Red Cabbage and Apple Salad with Tahini-Ginger Dressing {Vegan + Gluten Free}

liveseasoned_sp15_cabbagesalad-3During a hectic week (like this one), I prepare a few cold salads to satisfy my lunch and snack cravings.  I’m not very good at taking breaks once I get into the groove of photo editing. Instead of starving, rely on a few quick and nutritious salads made ahead of time, like this Red Cabbage and Apple Salad with Tahini-Ginger Dressing.

Our friend Nicole sent me home with a big batch of red cabbage and apple salad a couple months ago.  I knew I had to share it on Seasoned after I devoured the entire container in less than six hours.  The Tahini-Ginger Dressing is SO tasty that I drank a bit of it. Yup. Right from the jar. It’s that good.

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Garlic + Parmesan Roasted Chickpeas

liveseasoned_winter14_chickpeas-5I’m a big fan of crispy, salty snacks, but I feel pretty bad about myself when I eat an entire bag of kettle cooked chips.  Maybe you don’t, which I applaud you for, and that case go open another bag while you read this recipe.  I think these garlic and parmesan roasted chickpeas are the perfect substitute for potato chips because they provide the crunch and the salt that I’m craving, but they also pack some protein.  They’re baked, not fried like chips, and really you could season them however you see fit.  I recently kicked my chips and dip habit (thank you, thank you very much) and I found I’m baking these up quite often to satisfy my salt tooth. Is that a thing? It is for me at least.

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Winter Salad

Before we even get started, let me acknowledge that this salad won’t be for everyone. But, if you have a palette for a few strong flavors, then this is the perfect antidote to those slightly depressing and less-than-fresh produce shelves. Why? Because, as you’ll see, other than the lettuce, we rely on a few key canned ingredients to prepare this uber-delicious twist on the Ceasar salad.

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While this may be the simplest recipe we’ve ever published, don’t underestimate it’s quality. I realized we had to share the dish after Calder and I ate it at least a half dozen times over the course of a few weeks!

Ingredients

  • romaine lettuce
  • hearts of palm
  • artichoke hearts
  • black olives
  • anchovies
  • hard boiled eggs (approximately 1 per person or serving)
  • grated parmesan
  • Caesar dressing (we like this creamy one)

Preparation & Serving Suggestions

  • I make this as a large side salad for the two of us, and find that I only need about 1/3 of the can of artichoke hearts and hearts of palm and about a quarter of a can of olives, but you can easily adjust those amounts to suit your taste.
  • Since anchovies aren’t for everyone, they can easily be served on the side, which is what I also do with the egg since I eat them but Calder doesn’t.
  • Finally, we think it’s fun to grate the cheese directly over our servings, so I put that on the table with a grater.
  • And what else can I say about a salad? Add your dressing, give it a thorough toss, and enjoy!

liveseasoned_w2015_wintersalad2_wmSo easy. So good. So perfect for a meal between the many holiday indulgences that arise at this time of year! enjoy*

 

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Watermelon Mint Salad

Mint is our ingredient of the season. In the kitchen we’ve made a few mojitos, some agua fresco, and a Tex-mex quinoa salad. For the (outdoor) shower we have a sand and salt body scrub.

Guys, today we’re throwing mint and watermelon together and calling it a salad. That’s it! It’s so amazingly simple, yet perfectly refreshing on a hot summer day. If you’re looking for a more complex recipe for watermelon salad, they’re out there, but I’m (nearly) a watermelon purist and those recipes never appealed to me. Though on one sweltering summer day in West Philly I threw mint and watermelon together, and now I’m hooked on this simple pairing!

I usually cut my watermelon in half and use a spoon to eat it straight from the rind. No joke. But, if I’m going to get fancy and call it a salad, then I have a super simple method for easily cutting the melon into cubes without making a huge mess. I promise, this is totally worth two cents.

1. Begin by cutting the whole watermelon into quarters. Follow the steps below for each quarter.

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2. With the rind on the cutting board, make equally spaced cuts down through the melon to the rind – you will end up with cuts on both open faces of the melon.

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3. On both open faces make equally spaced cuts that are perpendicular to your original lines.

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4. The center cubes of the melon should now fall out. Once you’ve removed all of the loose cubes, stick your knife in the melon near the rind and cut out the remaining pieces.

With your watermelon cut, coarsely chop your mint.

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Mix the two together and enjoy… but don’t eat it too fast, if you have some salad still in your fridge by Thursday, we’ll show you how to use your leftovers!

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Quinoa Salad : Variation 1 (vegan & gluten free)

Mint is our ingredient of the season. So far we’ve shared a few mojitos, perfect for sipping while using our minted foot scrub.

Have you tried quinoa yet? It’s an uber nutritious grain, or psuedo-cereal, that’s high in protein, fiber, and minerals.  Quinoa is native to the Andes, and that’s still where most of the world’s crop is grown, but with its increasing popularity over the past decade or so, it’s easy to find in most markets across the US. If you haven’t tried it before, don’t be deterred. Cooking quinoa is as simple as boiling water, and then you can eat it warm and lightly seasoned in place of rice or couscous as a side to meat and veggie dishes. Beyond side-dish status, we love to throw quinoa (warm or cold) into salads. It’s a fantastically simple use that quickly ups the salad’s nutritional content and can turn it into a hearty meal (and we aren’t the only ones singing the quinoa salad’s praises).

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From Crust to Crouton

Yesterday we taught you how to infuse olive oil with rosemary and today we will teach you how to put it to good use.  There are a hundred and one ways to use rosemary infused olive oil, but which is the easiest one?  Adding flavor to homemade croutons!

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“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without.”  I try as best as I can to live by this mantra, which is how I first came to make my own croutons.  I bought two baguettes (something you should avoid) thinking I would eat them both immediately, but a few days later the remaining baguette was hard as a rock.  I could have killed someone with this baguette.  Birds would have ate the murder weapon. How’s that for the perfect crime?  I decided to forgo the murder and figure out what to do with my baguette bat.

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Cold Oat Noodle Salad {Gluten Free}

If you’re willing to experiment in the kitchen, there’s nothing more fun that moving out of your comfort and cultural zones for ingredients.  Have you visited any of the many Chinatowns in the US? That’s where I had my first bubble tea (over 14 years ago now!) and some delicious meals, but when I want to really go shopping, I search out the large grocery stores. My exploration started when I discovered a large Asian grocery store in Philadelphia and then Ming’s Supermarket in Boston. Leaving behind the large markets was one of the urban luxuries that I mourned when moving to central PA, but, as luck would have it, our little town has a number of Asian markets! While they aren’t as big as their city counterparts, they have a surprising amount of variety in a small space.

Side note – did you hear the This American Life episode on Coincidences? The Asian grocery stores in Philadelphia and Boston were both on Washington Ave. When still finding my way around Boston, that little coincidence was a sign to me that everything would be ok! Silly? yes.

What do I buy when I go to the markets? Anything that catches my eye! I went shopping a couple of weeks ago and took a few pictures to show you both what I buy and why I love the markets.

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Butter Lettuce Salad with Roasted Beets, Pumpkin Seeds and Citrus Parmesan Dressing

This salad’s citrus dressing combined with the flavor of roasted beets and the crunch of the pumpkin seeds creates a flavor that’s sure to please, making it a super healthy alternative for lunch or dinner.

Do you ever dine out and wonder why restaurant salads seem so much tastier than those prepared at home?  It’s because the chef had a certain vision and flavor combination in mind instead of chopping up every veggie in the fridge. I know I’m guilty of the latter eighty percent of the time, but not with this one!  The fewer the flavors, the more you actually recognize, taste and appreciate them.  I wanted a salad that had a warm feeling, hence the roasted beets, while simultaneously waking up my taste buds, which is where the citrus dressing comes in.  Butter lettuce is a great vehicle for the beet and pumpkin seed power couple.  Even though there are only four ingredients, this salad is packed with vitamins and minerals that have some pretty powerful effects and there’s even some protein in the mix.  If you prepare the beets ahead of time, you can throw this together in five minutes, making it perfect for lunch or a colorful appetizer before dinner.

Quick tip before you begin:

  • Roasting beets takes some time, so I usually do this step the night before.  I like to roast a bunch of beets at once so I have them in a pinch.  You can store roasted beets for up to a week in the fridge.

Ingredients:

  • Head of butter lettuce
  • 4 small beets
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
  • 4 stems Cilantro
  • 2 oranges, juice and zest
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs parmesan cheese
  • 2 shakes of salt and pepper

Equipment:

  • Sheet pan
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Pairing Knife
  • Skillet

 

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F.  This is a flexible temperature; if you’re cooking something else you can throw them in at that temperature. Cut the leaves off of the beet near the bulb and then scrub them clean. Wrap each individual beet loosely in aluminum foil without drying them off first.  Place them on a baking sheet in case they drip.  Check on the beets after 25 minutes by sticking a fork through the center.  If it goes in easily then they’re finished.  The bigger they are the longer they’ll take, but most beets are cooked completely after an hour.  Once the beets are finished roasting, take them out of the oven and unwrap them to cool.  Once they’re cool enough to be handled, peel them by rubbing them gently with a paper towel or using a pairing knife.  The peel should separate quite easily; if it doesn’t then the beets probably need to be a roasted a little longer.
  • Next you want to roast the pumpkin seeds.  Put them in a small skillet over medium heat.  Shuffle them back and forth every two minutes or so until they’re lightly browned.  The seeds quickly turn from roasted to scorched so keep an eye on them, it should only take about five minutes.

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  • While you’re roasting the pumpkin seeds, wash the lettuce and chop up the beets.  Pull the leaves off of four or five stems of cilantro and add them to the mix.  Top with the warm seeds and your salad is complete.

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  • Now it’s time to mix up the dressing.  Juice two oranges and add a little zest to the juice.  Mix in the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, cheese (leave it out if you want to keep it vegan) and a few shakes of salt and pepper.  Whisk it with a fork and give it a taste.  Adding a bit more of anything your taste buds think it lacks.

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  • Pour some dressing over the salad and then cut it with a knife and fork.  I think this is the best way to mix all the flavors together, which is why I don’t rip up the lettuce leaves while prepping the salad.  Take a big bite and enjoy your fresh and healthy meal.

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A note about our star ingredients: If you’re not a beet lover, I’m begging you to give them another chance.  Beets are high in vitamins like A, B and C and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, and iron just to name a few.  I’m always looking for ways to get more iron since I eat a veggie heavy diet (otherwise meat is a great source of iron) and that’s where beets and pumpkin seeds come in handy-they’re loaded with iron.  Back to the beets, they contain betaine, which is used to help treat depression and tryptophan, which relaxes the mind similar to chocolate.  Beets are also an aphrodisiac because they contain high levels of boron, which is directly related to the production human sex hormones, so eat beets and get busy.  If all that isn’t enough, I don’t know what I’m going to do with you, but if you come over for dinner be prepared to eat it or beat it!

Now about those pumpkin seeds, you can substitute in another roasted seed or nut, but I chose pumpkin seeds because they’re a good source of vitamin B, E and K and they have loads of iron, magnesium, phosphorus and copper.  Like beets, they also contain tryptophan which helps produce serotonin.  Pumpkin seeds are also high in zinc, which means they’re a natural protector against osteoporosis.  They also add some protein to the salad.  The list of benefits goes on, but I don’t want to overwhelm you, just go ahead and pat yourself on the back for treating yourself to this salad.

While you’re chowing down, think of all the great benefits of beets and pumpkin seeds and know that you did something great for yourself today.  Even if making a salad is the only thing you did besides sitting in bed, typing posts and dreaming up new recipes.  If you’re one of those who thinks a salad won’t cut it for the entire meal, that’s cool and that’s me most days, just whip it up as an appetizer!

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