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Cucumber Melon Summer Salad

I used to LOVE blogging, but these days I love everything else I’m doing in real life so much more, which is why I keep neglecting this space. Even though I kept our organized activities limited this summer (or so I thought), it has allowed us to say yes to so many last minute / spontaneous things…like gatherings with friends!

I’ve brought this salad to a few different potlucks and it’s been well received by adults and kids. The key to it’s success, I think, has to do with the fact that it is simple ingredients but an unconventional combination.

Also, it’s light and refreshing (I keep it chilled until it’s time to eat) and goes with so many things!

We’ve had it with salmon and burgers – even chicken shawarma!

It also calls for seasonal ingredients, so thanks to our CSA I don’t even have to go to the store! Pretty impressive stats for a side dish.

Have I sold you yet?

Cucumber Melon Summer Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cantaloupe or honeydew, cut into wedges and then sliced thinly
  • 1/2 large cucumber (or 1 whole smaller cucumber), deseeded and sliced into half moons
  • 1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 ears of corn, kernels cut off the cob (these can be raw or grilled)
  • black salt
  • cayenne pepper
  • champagne vinaigrette (see below)

Champagne vinaigrette

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

Make dressing by adding everything to a glass jar and shaking until emulsified.

Slice the melon first and arrange on a large platter with the slices fanning out, leaving some holes for other ingredients.

Next slice the kernels off the cobs of corn. I like the corn to be raw because it is super crunchy that way, but if you have leftover grilled corn, that is also great. Scatter the kernels throughout the dish.

For the cucumber, cut it in half length wise so you have two long sections with the inner seeds exposed. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds. Then slice them into thin half moons and layer onto the salad in similar fanning technique as the melon.

Slice the same shape with the red onions and add that on top, finishing with rock salt (I used black salt, but pink salt is great too) and a few dashes of cayenne.

Drizzle dressing on top just before serving.

This salad works with any kind of cucumber – lemon cucumbers are my favorite right now. It’s also nice with honeydew instead of the cantaloupe shown (I’d imagine any kind of muskmelon would be awesome – we recently discovered the white honeydew and it is YUMMY).

Kale and wheat berry salad

It’s time for a summer version of the DIY grain bowl!

I posted my spring adaptation here. That version had brown rice, which is a great GF option, but lately I’ve been in the mood for wheat berries instead.

And as long as I have access to these freshly shucked grains, I am keeping this salad on repeat. My body doesn’t seem to have any issues with wheat berries and I absolutely LOVE the chewy plump texture of the grains.

Which is why I am so happy that our student farm CSA has been giving us enough to keep this on heavy rotation.

And I really do mean HEAVY rotation. I have had it for lunch every day we’ve been home this week and last.

I typically add the cheese and candied pecans to my individual bowl right before serving, but otherwise I make a huge bowl of it at once, which lasts about three servings.

I can’t decide which I like more – the Mt Vikos feta or the Meredith Dairy sheep and goat cheese.

The Mt Vikos isn’t as sharply tangy as most feta, but it’s got a lovely crumble that evenly disperses throughout the salad. The Meredith Dairy, on the other hand, is creamy and thick and rich with much more oomph. A little goes a long way! I usually only have two big chunks per bowl (sometimes three).

Oh man, this salad is so good.

Once again, the lemon miso dressing is the super star feature holding everything together.

Click back to this post for my first take on this wheat berry version of the DIY grain salad.

This one is very similar with a few minor changes.

Kale and wheat berry salad [based on the DIY grain salad from RFCFES]

Ingredients:

  • 2 heads of kale, stems removed, chopped (I used one curly & one dino)
  • 1 cup wheat berries, cooked
  • 1/2 cup feta (or ~6 oz)
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds 
  • 1/2 cup candied pecans
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 recipe for lemon miso dressing (below)
  • 1 ⁄ 2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ⁄ 3 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp mellow white miso paste
  • 1 ⁄ 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 ⁄ 4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Cook the wheat berries using a 2:1 ratio of water to grains.

While that’s cooking, make the dressing by combining the oil, lemon juice, garlic, miso, salt, and pepper in a glass jar with a lid. Use a fork to stir in the miso, then shake well to emulsify.

To assemble the salad, toss the kale with three-quarters of the dressing in a large salad bowl. With clean hands, gently massage the kale with the dressing to soften the leaves.

When it’s done, add the grains, almonds, dried cranberries, and half of the feta along with the rest of the dressing. Toss well, breaking up the cheese if needed and coating all the wheat berries with dressing.

Before serving crumble in the rest of the feta and top with candied pecans.

Here it is before I scoop and serve.

And then I finish it off with extras of the good stuff.

OMG this salad will never get old. I dare you to not eat the entire thing in one sitting…believe it or not, I’ve been close.

Full Belly Farm Dinner and eggplant

How did I forget to blog about our dinner at Full Belly???

This was our third time going (the second time with the kids) and it was just as exquisite as every time before it.

Such a gorgeous setting out in the Capay Valley.

We have gotten to know the family a bit now that we have come a few times. They have kids the same age as ours and Kyle’s ag business stuff has overlapped a bit with their farming roles. So even though we don’t subscribe to their CSA, it’s nice to support the farm in this way.

Per usual, the kids loved the tractor ride, even though it meant we returned to the barn dripping with sweat.

And although the farm tour is the same year in and year out, we have managed to attend in three different months of summer, which means the meals served have all highlighted different produce. Our first time we came in June and last year we waited until August. This year we signed up for smack dab in the middle of July.

It was hot, but the table was in the shade, so once we sat down it was perfectly comfortable.

We started with light apps – melon, figs, and melon juice. The juice was out of this world. Such a refreshing thing to sip on until the meal got under way.

This was the menu for the night, although there was an additional course that they added last minute.

I didn’t get everything on camera because it was family style and we were chatting and you know how it goes…I was in the moment and missed out on a pic.

There were some real stunners though.

The home-made bread is always a dream. I also found the pickled quail eggs and pickles to be perfect ways to start the meal.

And don’t even get me started on the local chevre. Holy moly, I’ve never tasted cheese like that before.

This also might be a good place to mention that I ate everything without any concern for my normal dietary restrictions. Lately I’ve been dabbling (dabbling being the key word) with eating this way, but that is a post for another time.

These types of dinners are not the time or place for holding back, but rather a once a year occasion that I should fully embrace.

The mental hurdles involved in eating this way should not be ignored though. Shaking off these habits definitely doesn’t come easily. But like I said, that’s not something I want to elaborate on now.

This melon salad was light and refreshing. The fresh tarragon on top was an interesting addition.

I couldn’t believe when they brought out a full bowl of gazpacho for each of us. It probably could have been a whole meal!

By the way, the kids, too, ate every single course.

And as always, every adult commented on how they were such “good” eaters. Ugh. So many thoughts on this.

While I know these are compliments and are well intended, they are so confusing to me. It’s food. If adults like it, why is it weird (or exceptional enough to comment on) that they like it also. I mean, of course I agree it’s great that they love all the amazing produce put before them. What parent wouldn’t be so proud. But it’s also kinda like a self fulfilling prophecy when you act as if it’s abnormal. This is why it bothers me so much when restaurants have kids menus with nothing but buttered noodles, grilled cheese and quesadillas on it. WE CAN DO BETTER. I also don’t like making how much you eat a moral thing. They are not “good” eaters because they enjoy a diverse diet, they are fortunate to have been exposed to so many things which they take pleasure in trying.

Whoa rant. Sorry!!

This eggplant was my favorite thing of the entire dinner.

I love eggplant, but rarely cook it because my family isn’t as into as I am.

But we have been getting a bunch of eggplant from the UC Davis student farm, so I’m always looking for things to do with it.

Everyone, including Kyle, loved this dish.

The tahini sauce was OMGOMGOMG and the fresh herbs and the simple olive oil and lemon that it was cooked in…dang girl…I don’t have words.

These zucchini/corn cake/vegetable fritters were one of the surprise dishes that wasn’t on the menu.

The kids and Kyle loved them, but I thought they were just ok. They were too similar to Praegers veggie burgers (vegan 2000s flash back) in my opinion. It just didn’t wow me like the rest of the stuff.

Of the two veggies sides that came out next, the Jimmy Nardello peppers were the clear winners. I’d never had this kind of pepper before, and if you haven’t either I implore you to seek them out asap. I’m not even a pepper person and I was blown away. So if you’ve been riding the shishito pepper train this past couple of years, then let this be next on your list to try.

I am sorry I didn’t get a picture of the duck course because it was very very good. I have only had duck one or two times before in my life, and this was nothing like the duck I had. I much preferred the leg to the breast. Like turkey, it reminded me of the dark meat vs the white meat (the breast meat was tougher whereas the leg meat practically fell off the bone). And yet, it wasn’t oily, like duck meat can sometimes be. After the eggplant, this was my other fave.

And then dessert came out! You guys. I had no interest in this dessert. None. I’m like give me chocolate or give me death with desserts. But was I ever eating my words after giving it a try. Oh my goodness, I was speechless. How could meringue and berries taste so good! So rich! So creamy! So indulgent. I take back everything I’ve ever said about berry desserts being lame. I wish you could have seen the cream filling and the ooey gooey jammy center.

And thanks to OIT, this guy was able to eat everything and anything he wanted…from the chevre covered bread to the pavlova.

I left the meal super inspired (and super full).

In fact, I have made eggplant twice since then with very enthusiastic responses.

The first dish I made was roasted in olive oil with tomatoes…and it basically just ended up tasting like tomato-y eggplant. Not a bad thing by any stretch, especially when the tomatoes are plucked from the vine and put straight into the oven…

I paired it with an Ottolenghi meatball recipe and brown rice.

This recipe seemed complicated at first, but I shouldn’t have doubted it. It was from his latest cookbook, Simple. The last time I had ground lamb meatballs was a big hit, and this was a fairly similar recipe so I figured it would be just as good.

I got a little nervous when I saw the amount of pesto I made. It was equal to the amount of meat! I’ve never made meatballs where the meat is such a low percentage of the ingredients list! Maybe I eyeballed the arugula wrong, but still…I had concerns as I began rolling them out.

They were very very green. 😛

But, of course, Ottolenghi knows what he’s doing. And they were wonderful.

I made the sumac yogurt topping as well, and served it over the whole thing.

Eight thumbs up.

Would definitely recommend and make again.

Next eggplant dish I tried was more like the one from the farm dinner.

I sliced the eggplant suuuuuper thin and massaged it in olive oil before adding MORE olive oil (and lemon juice) and then roasting it.

I also made a tahini sauce to go on top, similar to the tahini one served at Full Belly.

In the other pan I roasted chicken breasts, surrounded by potatoes and cherry tomatoes, garnished with fresh basil, salt and pepper on top.

As the kids say, easy peasy lemon squeezy.

A word on this eggplant dish. WOW with a capital W.

I did not realize that I was actually making fried eggplant chips, but that’s essentially what I did. Due to the (thin) way I sliced them and massaged them by pressing them with oil, they ended up basically frying in oil and crisping up into heavenly salty bites that we were all quite taken by.

So there you go.

If you want to make eggplant that everyone will argue over, the trick is to add a lot of oil and roast it until it’s unrecognizable. Ha!

Power Plates hemp chimichurri

Have you guys made Gena’s hemp chimichurri yet?

I’m a big fan of this sauce, and have been finding ways to put it on everything since I made a double batch of it a few weeks ago. It stays good for a while, but you may find yourself making another batch sooner than you thought because you used it all up. Or maybe that’s just me.

For these sweet potato bowls, I followed Gena’s recipe in her cookbook Power Plates.

It’s a go to for me when I’ve hit a road block in my meal prep and I’m feeling like I need some veggie packed inspo.

It is currently on sale for $5.99 on the kindle. Highly recommend you take advantage if you don’t already have it.

This bowl has rice, black beans, sweet potatoes, greens, and pepitas topped in the hemp chimichurri sauce.

I so rarely cook black beans with stuff in them (like onions), unless I’m making chili, and the kids loved it, so this was a very happy discovery.

But really, this was the star of the show.

Hemp Chimichurri

  • ¼ cup shelled hemp seeds
  • 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup firmly packed fresh parsley
  • ½ cup firmly packed fresh cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Almost forgot the avo! Phew.

Happy Friday!

Kids in the kitchen

Back in Spring, when we were bored and looking forward to Summer, the kids and I wrote down a bucket list of things to make together. We have actually been really good about doing them!

As you may have picked up from what little I mention here, Kyle travels quite a bit for work. One of the nice things about his job is that he returns with strawberries!

Often it’s more than I can handle, so we give them away to anyone who is within a 60 mile radius of us. But now that the season has slowed down (peak picking is in Spring), he brings me a much more reasonable amount to use up.

I’ve still frozen them (and made jam) aplenty.

But lately, I’ve been making strawberry cobblers. Or crisps. Or crumbles. Whatever it is called when you bake fruit in a deep dish and top it with a crunchy, buttery, oaty topping.

I usually do this with nectarines, because you know we get INSANE amounts of those every year. But they don’t ripen until late July, and so strawberries have filled the dessert void as we wait for our nectarine tree to shower us with stone fruit.

Where does the kiddo part of this come into play? We got to talking on the 4th of July and I realized (gasp) my kids had no idea what whipped cream was!!

I had to remedy that asap.

[Ignore the eye injury, he’s fine.]

We used the real deal heavy whipping cream (local and organic) and I let them add sugar and watch as the liquid turned into fluffy clouds of deliciousness.

It was a BIG hit.

As if you’d expect anything different.

So much so that we’ve made a few more since…

Which has bridged the gap quite nicely because it is now finally time for…

All. The. Nectarines.

I’m trying to pick them in stages so that we don’t have 50 ripening at the same time. I can barely keep up with all this produce though (!!!) because ever since we got back from Hawaii we have garden veggies and CSA shares coming out of our ears.

Not that I’m complaining.

The other thing I realized my kids hadn’t been exposed to was the almighty burrito.

They’ve had tacos galore. There’s no deficiency in the Mexican fare in our household. But for some reason, they’ve never laid their hands on a burrito, neither from my kitchen or any restaurant.

So, obviously, I decided to change that.

Not that it takes much encouraging, but I got them excited about it by asking them to brainstorm what they wanted and then taking them to the store right after to go get everything.

In truth, we already had everything but tortillas and ground beef, but whatever. They picked which kind of beans to make and what veggies would go in.

I made the black beans from scratch, starting them in the IP before we went to the store for the rest of the stuff. They had red onion, chili peppers, salt, cumin, and chili powder in them.

In addition to the beans, they chose cabbage, avo, ground beef, and tomatoes (only for V).

In fact, they loved them so much that we made them again a few days later!

This time with some fresh pico de gallo that I made.

Next on our cooking list…sushi, pita chips, and jello…