Friday, June 20, 2008

summer strawberry salad with agave balsamic vinaigrette

mixed greens
sliced strawberries
hearts of palm- chopped
goat cheese- crumbled
slivered almonds- toasted
red onion- thinly sliced
cracked pepper

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons amber agave nectar
2 tablespoons (or more) extra virgin olive oil

agave is a perfect mix with mustard and balsamic and really cuts some of the acidity to make it smooth. we love to use agave in salad dressings, on peanut butter toast, in coffee....wherever...if you read this site, you will see that agave nectar is a great alternative to table sugar and is actually sweeter, so you should use about 25% less than a recipe with sugar would call for. it is also lower on the glycemic index, so it shouldn't spike your blood sugar too much. AND it's all natural!

this salad was a quick concoction we made for dinner with james' family in virginia...the crowd was pleased! goes great with a lean grilled steak and grilled whole grain rolls...

yum...beth likes it

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

cold soup for hot people

when i head back east to see the folks, i also intevitably revert to acting like a child. sometimes, i like to prove that i really am all growns up, (despite the fact that i am still in school and just 2 years shy of 30) so i cook up a good dinner. but i must admit, its not always just an act of kindness- sometimes i like to take the reins since my momma tends to have a paula deen type of heavy hand in the butter.

it is freaking hot in pennsylvania, so what better on a hot day, than a cold soup! and gazpacho is like crack for antioxidant lovers. its full of tomatoes, which in-and-of-themselves have a lot of lycopene. When tomatoes are made into juice or sauce the lycopene-o-meter goes way way up! Lycopene is a potent antioxidant that loves free radicals. So for endurance athletes, who probably have more of those floating around looking for some cells to damage, when lycopene is in the body, it hooks up with the free radicals and sweeps them off their feet ("hey baby, wanna bind?") before they kill and damage cells. i kind of see it like a sugar daddy (antioxidant) who distracts a little floosy/gold digger/home wrecker (free radical) before she has a chance to be a home wrecker and swoop on your crib (nice happy cell) and steal your man.

nothing really has been proven proven linking antioxidants and superior exercise performance (but there is a lot of soft supportive literature out there), but they do help fight disease and aging...and the jury is out on whether you can overdo your antioxidants (some say that you can have so many that the free radicals can't do their job and destroy crappy useless tissue...who knows...)

i'm certainly no expert, i just know that i love gazpacho! its a cold blended vegetable soup. if it were served in a glass, people would call it a smoothie. like if i poured my smoothie into a bowl it would be "chilled summer berry soup"..anywho...

4 tomatoes (peeled and de-seeded- see*below)
2 cups V-8 (or tomato juice)
2 slices whole grain crusty bread
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar or sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
2 peeled and seeded cucumbers-chopped
1 red bell pepper-chopped
1 yellow bell pepper-chopped
1 red onion-chopped
1 celery stalk-chopped
3 cloves garlic- minced
1/2 jalapeno- diced
1 handful flat leaf parsley-chopped
1 handful cilantro-chopped
kosher salt

*boil a pot of water. cut an X in the skin of each tomato. submerge tomatoes in boililng water for 20 seconds. remove immediately and dunk in ice water or place under the faucet. peel off skin easily....then core them and squeeze out the seeds as best you can

first, combine the olive oil, vinegar and tomato juice or V8 & crusty bread in one bowl. i used a really seedy grainy bread, but you can use whatever.

in another bowl, chop all the vegetables and mix 'em up. then combine both bowls together and blend until smooth-ish. i use an amazing hand blender (get one-it will change your life), but all you crazy protein shake boys can just use a reuglar old blender if that's what you got. then chill the soup for at least two hours (better overnight- my bowl today was better than yesterday).
you can save some of the chopped veggies or herbs for garnish if you like. avocado and a tortilla chip also makes a nice topper (and that's true for pretty much anything :) )..

i made this last night (along with crab cakes and corn on the cob..HOLY DELICIOUS!!!!)...and it was a big hit with everyone. i changed the recipe from a lot of others that i found in that i used less bread (and made it whole grain) and less olive oil...i also added sweetness from a yellow pepper (most recipes call for green) and good quality oil, it tasted PERFECT. i liked using V8 too...that's what we had on hand...

make it! yum.