Greek Tomato & Cucumber Salad w/ Farro

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Photo: Cooking Light, Randy Mayor

This is one of my favorite summer salads from Cooking Light!  It’s hearty enough on it’s own, but you can mix in a handful of spinach or baby kale, or serve alongside fish, chicken or hummus.  Add a piece of flat bread and a good white wine and you’ve got one delicious dinner.  Salud amigas!

Ingredients

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups cooked farro
1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved lengthwise
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large cucumber, cut into small chunks
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)

To make dressing, combine the first 7 ingredients in a large bowl (through black pepper), stirring well with a whisk.

Stir in farro and the next 4 ingredients (through cucumbers), and toss gently to combine. Top each serving with feta cheese.

Greek Tomato & Cucumber Salad w/ Farro

Brown Butter Yeast Waffles

I made these when we were in Raleigh. Recipe from Epicurious. 

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter plus more for serving
  • 2 cups warm whole milk
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/4-ounce envelope active dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • Pure maple syrup (for serving)

Melt 3/4 cup butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring often, until butter foams, then browns (do not burn), 5–8 minutes. Pour into a medium bowl; let cool.

Whisk milk, buttermilk, sugar, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in flour and brown butter; cover with plastic wrap and let batter sit at room temperature at least 8 hours and up to 12 hours.

Heat waffle iron until very hot. Whisk eggs and baking soda into batter. Coat waffle iron with nonstick spray and pour batter onto waffle iron, spreading it to cover surface (amount of batter needed will vary according to machine). Cook waffles until golden brown and cooked through.

Serve immediately with maple syrup and more butter.

Brown Butter Yeast Waffles

Spring Pea Orzo Salad

This is a fantastic recipe from Southern Living. Our new favorite side dish. Good with the pesto shrimp. 

The key to this crowd-pleasing salad is to toss the warm pasta with the dressing so the orzo soaks up flavor. Make it up to two days ahead.

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 to 4 lemons
  • 8 ounces uncooked orzo pasta
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot or red onion
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 cup snow peas or sugar snap peas, blanched and chopped
  • 1 cup assorted chopped fresh herbs (such as mint, chives, and parsley)
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Preparation

Hands-on: 20 Minutes

Total: 1 Hour, 30 Minutes

1. Grate zest from lemons to equal 2 tsp. Cut lemons in half; squeeze juice from lemons to equal 1/2 cup.

2. Prepare pasta according to package directions. Whisk together shallots, next 4 ingredients, and lemon juice. Toss together pasta and shallot mixture. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill 1 to 48 hours.

3. Toss together pasta, peas, snow peas, next 2 ingredients, and lemon zest just before serving. Add salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice to taste.

Spring Pea Orzo Salad

Oven Roasted Pesto Shrimp

These are easy and delicious. You can use skewers, or just put shrimp on the rack within the pan without them. Serve over salad or rice. 

Ingredients

  • 1 package (2 lb.) frozen uncooked peeled and deveined medium shrimp, about 60 total, thawed
  • 1 container (7 oz.) prepared or homemade pesto
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

Directions

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Soak 30 small wooden skewers in water to cover for 10 minutes and then drain. 

In a bowl, combine the shrimp and pesto and toss until the shrimp are evenly coated. Thread 2 – 5 shrimp onto each skewer. (The skewers can be prepared up to this point, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.) 

Arrange the skewers in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with the red pepper flakes. Roast the shrimp until just opaque throughout, 8 to 10 minutes. 

Oven Roasted Pesto Shrimp

Banana Oat Muffins

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These muffins have a wonderful consistency, come together super fast in the food processor, are healthy, and everyone loves them!  If you don’t have a food processor, you could always grind the oats in a blender and then mix the oats and other ingredients with a stand or electric mixer.  Enjoy for breakfast or a great snack!

Ingredients:
2.5 cups old fashioned oats

1 cup plain low fat greek yogurt

2 eggs

1/2 cup honey

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 TBSP ground flax seed

1 tsp vanilla

2 ripe bananas

Nuts of your choosing and/or chocolate chips (I use walnuts or pecans for half and chocolate chips for the remaining half).

1 tsp cinnamon (optional)

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray tin with non-stick cooking spray or line 12 muffin tins with silicone or foil liners.                                                                                                                          
2. Place the oats in the food processor and pulse for about 10 seconds.  Add remaining ingredients to the food processor. 

3. Process until everything is mixed together and oats are smooth.

4. Divide batter among cupcake liners, and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Let them cool on a wire rack for just a few minutes and then dig in.  Best when warm.

Banana Oat Muffins

Healthy Cookies

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This comes from a recipe that gained popularity several years back, called “Nikki’s Healthy Cookies.” They’re bite-sized chewy cookies that could also be baked in a pan and cut into chewy bars. I don’t think adding an entire bar of chocolate to a batch of cookies is particularly “healthy,” and even after cutting the recommended chocolate by half, Derek thought the chocolate was still a bit much. (I took the photo from the version with more chocolate. The outcome of this recipe is just as beautiful, with fewer chocolate bits.)

So here’s my contribution to a healthy, sweet recipe with tweaks that still make for a delicious result. The sweetness comes from the ripe banana (the shredded coconut is unsweetened), and the tiny cookies are packed with healthy fats from the coconut and coconut oil and with protein and fiber from the oats and almond meal. Save the scant chocolate, there is no added sugar.

These freeze well and taste best a few days after baking. We think it’s a perfectly sweet treat that combines healthy ingredients that we eat almost each day, anyway. I hope you enjoy!

Makes about 3 dozen bite-sized cookies.

INGREDIENTS

3 large, ripe bananas, well mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil, liquid or soft (so you can mix and mash it into the other ingredients)
2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup almond meal**
1/3 cup coconut, finely shredded & unsweetened
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 or 3 ounces chocolate chips or about 1/4 dark chocolate bar chopped

**You can make almond meal from whole almonds in your food processor. Just keep an eye on the pulsing because you don’t want to end up with almond butter.

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, racks in the top third.

1. In a large bowl combine the bananas, vanilla extract, and coconut oil. Set aside.

2. In another bowl whisk together the oats, almond meal, shredded coconut, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined.

3. Fold in the chocolate chunks/chips.The dough is a bit looser than a standard cookie dough, don’t worry about it.

4. Drop dollops of the dough, each about 2 teaspoons in size, an inch apart, onto a parchment (or Silpat) lined baking sheet. Bake for 12 – 14 minutes.

I try baking these for as long as I can without burning the bottoms.

Healthy Cookies

Chewy Granola Bars (sweetened with dates)

I’ve been on the search for healthy bars that don’t cost $4 a piece, and when I do find bars with key ingredients, like chia, they always have some sort of syrup coagulator or preservative. So I decided to try making my own – and I think I’ve found something nearly perfect.

These come from a girl who was once a professional granola bar-maker, a calling she found because she was frustrated with the long list of ingredients in bars, even in stores like Whole Foods. These bars are straightforward, use simple ingredients, and call for no refined sugar or added syrup. There is a small, optional addition of chocolate that I love and Derek is indifferent to. It’s about two squares of chocolate for the entire batch of bars.

I found this recipe to be very precise, and my results were just as she described. This is simple, so I hope you find a moment to try! They freeze well and are fine right out of the freezer, too.

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HER TIPS

1. Dates are key. No substitutions. And medjool dates are best.
2. If you don’t have hemp seeds you could add well chopped sunflower seeds or chia seeds (my favorite).
3. It’s important that the nuts are well chopped before adding to the food processor, or the grinding will be too uneven (you’ll get flour too quickly while still having some un-chopped nuts).
4. If you don’t want to add the chocolate, you can simply leave it out and replace with 3-4 tablespoons of nuts (be sure to chop and process them as specified below).
5. Instead of coconut, you can sub another 1/4 cup of hemp seeds and 2-3 tablespoons of chia seeds instead.

INGREDIENTS

1 3/4 cup gluten-free rolled oats
1 cup well-chopped raw nuts (a mixture works well – almonds/walnuts/pecans)
12-15 medjool dates, pitted (may need a few more; err on the side of chewy)
3 tablespoons softened unrefined coconut oil
1 tablespoon thick nut butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup finely chopped dark chocolate
1/4 cup hemp seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

OTHER

9×9 baking pan
Parchment paper

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat your oven to 300° F.

2. Place oats in your food processor and process for 5-10 seconds until ground into a course meal. You still want some whole oats to remain. Transfer to baking sheet.

3. Place chopped nuts in your food processor and turn on until finely chopped. You want about 1/2 course meal and 1/2 small bits. Place on a baking sheet with oats and toast for 10-15 minutes, stirring once, until lightly toasted. Remove both and let cool for at least 10 minutes.

4. Increase oven to 350° F and line a 9×9 cake pan with parchment paper.

5. While toasting the oats and nuts, wipe out your food processor. Place the pitted dates in your processor and turn on until a smooth paste forms. This takes about 30 seconds – 1 minute. They’ll go from chopped, to a large ball, and finally smooth out into a smooth paste. You’ll end up with 1/2 heaping cup. Scrape sides as needed. You may want to start off with 15 pitted dates to make sure you have enough for binding. Date size and plumpness can vary, so it will be best to have a little extra. (Because of the size of dates available to me, I needed 18 of them.)

6. Transfer the date paste to a large mixing bowl. Stir/mash in the coconut oil, nut butter, and vanilla until well combined. Add the cooled oats, nuts, coconut, chocolate, hemp, cinnamon, and salt. Mix together with your hands until fully incorporated. The mixture will look crumbly but should hold together when squeezed. If it feels *very* soft and gooey add 1/4 cup more oats.

7. Empty mixture into your lined pan and spread evenly to the edges and corners. Place a piece of parchment over top and firmly press down with your palms until well-compacted and fully smooth from edge to edge. Be sure the corners well packed. It helps to get above the pan and put your weight into it. Press as firmly as you can. Bake for 8 minutes.

8. Remove and let cool for 1 hour. Place the pan in the fridge and let chill for at least 2 hours. Carefully lift one edge of parchment and slide the bars and parchment from the pan to a cutting board (support the bottom with your hand or flat spatula). Chop into bars with a long, sharp knife. Keep tightly covered in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.

Chewy Granola Bars (sweetened with dates)