Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Use Your Zucchini (or other summer squash) in a Mediterranean Orzo Salad

You probably are wondering what to do with your surplus summer squash (zucchini, yellow squash, patty pan squash, and/or spaghetti squash).

For zucchini, you can grate the squash, freeze in baggies by the right amount for zucchini bread and have zucchini bread year round (or add to soups/pancakes/cookies/etc., saute as a side dish, put in lasagna, and much more.

For a side dish, you can grate (or chop) any summer squash, saute it in garlic and olive oil, and top it with some freshly grated Romano cheese (or parmasiano reggiano) and a little salt and pepper.

TIP:  Small to medium sized zucchinis are the most tasty. The larger ones are still ok to eat, but have larger seeds, and are usually best for making zucchini bread or grating and putting in things (like lasagna, pancakes, cookies, muffins, etc.).

Here's the recipe for the Orzo, Cous Cous, or Quinoa Salad:

Mediterranean Orzo Salad
Serves 6

2 1/4 cups orzo (cous cous and quinoa work as well)
2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
15 Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
6 green onions, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 large tomato, seeded and cubed
1 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded, deribbed and chopped

1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
3 tablespoons mayonnaise (optional)

Prepare orzo (cous cous or quinoa) according to package directions. Drain and rinse orzo under cold water to stop cooking process and keep the pasta from being too sticky. Drain again very thoroughly. (No need to rinse & drain cous cous or quinoa.)

Place in a large bowl. Stir in the zucchini, olives, green onions, celery, tomato, and green bell pepper. In a small bowl, beat together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, dill, salt and pepper. Pour over the salad and toss to coat well. Sprinkle on the feta cheese and toss again. Optionally, add the mayonnaise and toss gently. Chill at least for 2 hours and bring to room temperature before serving.

Per Serving: 546 Calories; 30g Fat; 14g Protein; 57g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 28mg Cholesterol; 553mg Sodium. Exchanges: 3 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 5 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates. Points: 15

SERVING SUGGESTION: Serve with a simple caprese salad: sliced ripe tomatoes, layered with fresh basil leaves, sliced mozzarella and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. Fresh ground pepper over the top finishes it beautifully.

Adapted from:
Leanne Ely, Saving Dinner Newsletter

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tip - Preserve Your Herbs

Don't let those fresh herbs go to waste!  If you're not able to use them in the week they are given, then either freeze them or dry them for future use.  I prefer to freeze mine because it preserves the flavor better.

To Freeze:

To freeze any and all fresh herbs, you don't need to blend and put in cubes, add water, or anything laborious--just rinse and let air dry.  Then, put them in a freezer baggie.  Voila!  Done.

If you don't pack too tightly, you can easily pull off the amount you need.  Your herbs won't be as pretty as when they are used fresh, but they will still taste delicious (even cilantro and basil!).

To Dry:

To dry them, you can either just hang them and let them air dry (if your air is dry enough), or you can dry them in a dehydrator below 116 degrees.

There you go.  Fresh herbs year round -- whenever you need them.  Delicious!

Avocado, Cilantro Quinoa with Grilled Zucchini

This recipe is one of my absolute favorites for the avocado, cilantro dressing (that I love to use on practically anything).  This recipe leaves you with a little extra for that purpose.  

It is a great way to use your zucchini (or any other summer squash, green beans, etc.).  If you dislike cilantro, feel free to substitute chopped chives. 

This recipe also has a great way to boil eggs that I use all the time now for perfectly boiled eggs (no cracks, no green lined yolks, etc.).


1 large avocado, ripe
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup lightly packed cilantro
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup plain yogurt
3/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt 

3 large eggs 

1 large zucchini, cut into 3/4-inch thick coins
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
couple pinches of fine grain sea salt 

2 cups quinoa, cooked, room temperature
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled
a bit of chopped cilantro for garnish 


Prepare the cilantro-avocado dressing by blending the avocado, lime juice, cilantro, garlic, yogurt, water, and salt in a blender (or us a hand blender). Set aside. 

Hard boil the three eggs. Place the eggs in a pot and cover with cold water by a 1/2-inch or so. Bring to a gentle boil. Now turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for exactly seven minutes (sometimes I do mine for 8--experiment). Have a big bowl of ice water ready and when the eggs are done cooking place them in the ice bath for three minutes or so - long enough to stop the cooking. Set aside. 

While the eggs are cooling start preparing the zucchini by tossing it with olive oil and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Prepare your grill (medium-high heat). If you are worried about the zucchini coins falling through the grill you can thread them onto kabob skewers (stab through the green skin). Grill until zucchini are tender and cooked through, roughly 5 minutes on each side. Remove from the grill and cut each zucchini coin into quarters (they preserve their shape better if you cut them after grilling).  For a quicker approach, you can also slice/cube (whatever shape you want) and saute the zucchini for a couple minutes (or to be super fast and super healthy, you can even eat them raw--I cube mine when I do this).

Crack and peel each egg, cut each egg into quarters lengthwise. Assemble the salad by tossing the quinoa with about 2/3 cups of the avocado vinaigrette. Top with the grilled zucchini, pine nuts, eggs, goat cheese, and a bit of chopped cilantro for garnish. I serve this family-style, but you could do individual platings.

Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from (which I LOVE!). 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Green Bean Salad with Feta and Preserved Lemons

Need some more ideas for how to use your green beans!  Here's a good one.


2 bunches green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
2/3 of a preserved lemon (see instructions below)
1 tablespoon each lemon thyme and lemon verbena leaves (optional)
Handful of fresh, chopped parsley
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese


Steam the green beans in a small amount of water on the stove for approx. 10 min. (or to your desired softness).  Drain beans and rinse in cold water to stop cooking process.

Rinse preserved lemon. Cut off about 2/3 of the lemon, scraping flesh from the rind. Finely chop the rind; save flesh for another purpose.
Remove the leaves from lemon thyme and lemon verbena stems, if using. Mince leaves.

In a large bowl, place minced preserved lemon rind, minced lemon thyme, lemon verbena, and chopped parsley. Add cooled green beans, along with olive oil. Toss until ingredients are incorporated.  Add lemon juice and black pepper. Toss again. Finally, sprinkle crumbled feta over the top.

To Make Preserved Lemons

All you need are washed and preferably organic lemons (either Eurekas or Meyers), kosher salt, and a glass jar with a tight lid that has been sterilized by running it through the dishwasher. Meyer lemons (which are a cross between a lemon and a tangerine or orange) have a floral, complex, and less puckery taste than regular lemons.

Make two cuts in each lemon so that the quarters created remain attached. Stuff kosher salt into the crevices of the lemons, then place salted lemons tightly into the glass jar. If you have one or two leftover lemons, you may squeeze the juice into the jar before closing it, but you don’t have to. This just gives the lemons a little bit of a head start.

Place the jar on a countertop, and then just watch and wait. Over the next few days, more and more juice will exude from the lemons, filling the jar. You can give it a shake now and then — or not — to keep the salt blended well in the liquid. In about three weeks, the lemons will get very soft, and the brining liquid thick and cloudy. Once that happens, you can store the jar in the refrigerator. As long as the brine covers the lemons, they’ll keep for about a year refrigerated.

To use, pick a lemon or part of one out of the jar with a clean fork. Give the lemon a quick rinse. Remove any seeds. Then, use the peel however you like -- chopped or sliced in thin slivers. Some people discard the flesh, but you can add some of the chopped flesh in with the rind in whatever you're making.

Use preserved lemons in your favorite Moroccan chicken tagine recipes. Or stir it into tuna salad for sandwiches, pasta salad, bean salad, vinaigrettes, marinades for fish or Cornish game hens, or in couscous or quinoa topped with toasted pine nuts.

With their bright, salty-citrus taste and jammy texture, you’ll find that preserved lemons add complexity and depth to so many dishes.

Of course, there are faster ways to make preserved lemons. Some people boil the lemons in the jar in a water bath, thereby cooking the lemons, and making them ready to use the very next day. Others freeze the lemons first, so they start to break down.

Total Servings: 4

Adapted from:
The Food Gal
WebMD Recipe from

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Caramelized Sweet Potatoes with Quinoa and Chard

Want to use up your chard?  This recipe is a great example of how to sneak those greens into practically any meal.  You can either chop the chard into ribbons or dice them small to appear like fresh herbs that have the pack and punch of ridiculously healthy Swiss chard. (You can also use spinach, kale, or other greens in place of chard, if that is what you have on hand.)

If you're needing to use up green beans, squash, or carrots, you can also saute them and add to the quinoa.  You can also use up your cucumbers on the side of this dish.


4 medium sized sweet potatoes
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons mild Indian curry powder
3 cups chard (or other leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, collards) cut in thin strips or chopped small
11/2 cups quinoa, soaked for 5 min. and rinsed in cold water
3 cups water or low sodium stock
3 tablespoons olive oil
Squeeze of lemon
Sweet or hot mango chutney, yogurt, and sliced cucumbers on the side


Peel the sweet potatoes and slice them 1/4 inch thick. Toss them with salt and olive oil. Place them on a baking sheet covered with non stick parchment paper, Silpat pads, or aluminum foil ( or just oil the sheet really well). Cover with foil or another baking sheet. Put the dish into a cold oven (this is important, as the gradual rise in temperature helps bring out the sweet potato flavors). Turn on the oven to 450. Bake for about 30 min. until dark orange and soft. Uncover, and bake for about 15 more minutes or until they get quite dark and caramelized, flip them and bake until the other side is done as well.

In the meantime, in a medium pot heat up the olive oil and sauté the onion in it until translucent. Then add the garlic, ginger, and the curry powder, and saute until sizzling and fragrant. If you are using other veggies, add them to the pot, and saute for a few minutes.

Add the Quinoa to the pot along with 3 cups stock or salted water. Simmer under a lid until all the liquid is absorbed about 15 minutes. During the last 5 or so min., add the greens to wilt them but still keep them a vibrant green. Fluff the quinoa with a fork, season to taste and add the olive oil. A squeeze of lemon is always good. Put the Quinoa on a platter, top with the sweet potatoes.

Serve with some chutney, yoghurt and cucumbers.

Total Servings: 6

By The Family Dinner
WebMD Recipe from

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Red Chili Corn Salad with Limas & Tomatoes

Here's a quick and nourishing salad with a gentle spicy kick from chili powder or hot smoked paprika. It makes good work of essential Latin American favorites like corn, tomatoes, cilantro, and lima beans. I like to set them on a bed of baby spinach to supply that green element for a well-rounded entree.

Serves 4 as a side or starter.


2 cups fresh corn kernels (frozen is OK in a pinch)
1 1/2 cups cooked white lima beans, if canned drain and rinse well
1/2 lb. red ripe tomatoes (cherry tomatoes work well)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder or hot smoked paprika
2 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
2 teaspoons agave nectar (or pure maple syrup)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste


Steam fresh corn on cob for 8-10 min. and remove kernels from cobs when finished.  Or, cut kernels off from cob and steam separately, drain corn into a colander, and rinse with cold water to stop cooking process. Shake the corn to rid of excess water or let drain for 10 minutes while you prepare the rest of the salad. Place corn in a large mixing bowl and add rinsed lima beans. Halve the cherry tomatoes and add to corn and limas. Stir in finely chopped onion and cilantro.

In a large mixing cup whisk together lime juice, chili powder or paprika, olive oil, agave nectar, dried oregano and salt until combined (my Magic Bullet works great to emulsify dressings). Pour over corn and bean mixture and toss. Sprinkle with cracked pepper to taste. Cover and chill salad for 20 minutes to allow flavors to blend.

Adapted from:  The No Meat Athlete WebMD Recipe from

Southwest Spaghetti Squash with Black Beans & Lime

This is not your typical spaghetti squash recipe. Rather than using the squash as a mere substitute for pasta with red sauce, this recipe combines strands of spaghetti squash with Southwestern-inspired ingredients such as black beans, lime juice, tomatoes and roasted corn.


1 medium spaghetti squash
Sea salt and ground pepper
A drizzle of fruity extra virgin olive oil, as needed
A sprinkle of cumin, chili powder, and minced garlic to taste
A splash of water, as needed
Extra virgin olive oil
1 medium sweet or red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 ears of fresh corn, kernels cut off [or try a red bell pepper, diced]
Cumin and chili powder, to taste
1 cup ripe and juicy grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 14-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained well
Two whole roasted green chilies, mild or spicy, seeded, chopped (canned works ok)
1 lime - for zest, and juice
Toasted pine nuts or pumpkin seeds
Fresh chopped cilantro
Lime wedges
Cubes of goat cheese or feta (opt.)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Halve the squash lengthwise and place cut side up in a roasting pan. Season the squash with sea salt and pepper, a drizzle of good olive oil, some cumin, chili powder and garlic. Add two inches of water to the pan to help keep the squash from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Roast in a hot oven for about an hour, until the squash is fork-tender. Half way through roasting, you may want to pour a little bit of water on each squash to keep it moist. When the squash is done, remove it and let it cool.

Heat a splash of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, garlic, corn kernels and spices; stir for five minutes until the onion has softened.
When the squash is cool enough to handle: take a fork and scrape the squash, making spaghetti-like strands.

You can assemble the ingredients in a casserole-style baking dish and bake it - or you can do it all on the stove-top in the large skillet.
If you're going to bake it - toss the squash strands into a large mixing bowl. Add a little of your best olive oil to moisten. Season the mixture with more sea salt and pepper. Sprinkle in some added cumin or chili powder, if you like, to taste. Toss well. Add the skillet mixture, tomatoes, black beans, green chilies. Combine. Grate a lime and add the zest. Cut and squeeze the lime juice all over the mixture and toss lightly. Pour the mixture into a casserole style baking dish. Cover and bake in a 350 degree oven until heated through - about 20 to 25 minutes.

If you'd rather do it in a skillet, add the squash to the skillet mixture, and stir in the remaining ingredients, as above. Cover and gently heat through over medium heat - roughly five to ten minutes.
Serve with a sprinkle of fresh chopped cilantro and some lime wedges.

Add a topping of toasted breadcrumbs. Or top with a layer of fresh cooked polenta, like a pie.

Total Servings: 4

Adapted from: The Gluten Free Goddess WebMD Recipe from

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Quinoa and Summer Vegetable Stir-Fry

This easy, toss together quinoa is fabulous hot from the pan. But it's also delicious cool, as a salad. So make more than you think you'll need and you've got picnic food for the next day. Adding quinoa (very high in protein) helps turn this dish into an entree. You can also add beans (white, kidney, black, etc.) to make it extra filling, if you'd like. 


Olive oil
1 onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 yellow summer squash, sliced
A fistful of slender asparagus or green beans, trimmed, sliced
1 Japanese eggplant (small eggplants are way less bitter), peeled, sliced into bite size pieces
1 bell pepper (red, yellow, orange or green) cored, sliced
2 cups Baby Bella mushrooms, trimmed, sliced
A handful of grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
Sea salt and ground pepper
Herbs, to taste- parsley, basil, thyme, red pepper flakes- whatever you prefer
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil, to taste


Make your quinoa with 2 to 1 ratio of water to quinoa. I soak my quinoa in water for a few minutes and then rinse well to remove any of the natural saponin that gives a soapy taste. 

On the stove, bring the water to a boil, add the rinsed quinoa, and cook over medium for 10-15 min (based upon the consistency you like your quinoa). Or, you can make the quinoa in a rice cooker. You'll need roughly 2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa. 

Tip:  I always make plenty extra quinoa and freeze it in smaller containers, so I always have quick quinoa to go to when I prepare meals (rather than having to make it fresh every time).  

As the quinoa cooks, gather and cut up your summer vegetables. When the quinoa is almost done, heat a splash of light olive oil in a wok or large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, stir until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a minute. Add the remaining vegetables. Season with sea salt, pepper, and herbs. Add the balsamic vinegar. Stir-fry until tender.

Alternatively, if you want to preserve the natural enzymes in some of the vegetables, then just toss them fresh instead of stir-frying them. You only need to worry about cooking the onion, garlic, asparagus, green beans, and egg plant. Any summer squash, bell peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes don't need to be cooked. This also reduces cooking time, so your meal is ready faster.

Scoop the cooked quinoa out of the pan or rice cooker and add it into the wok. Stir to combine with the vegetables. Taste test and add more salt or seasoning if it needs it and fresh herbs. Remove from heat. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and toss to fluff.

Serve immediately; or allow it to cool, then cover and refrigerate it to eat as a salad. Before serving it cold, taste test again and adjust seasonings.

Total Servings: 4

Adapted from WebMD Recipe from