Strawberry Spinach Orzo Salad

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Old me: fruit in salad? Weird. Put plate away.

New me: fruit is salad?! GIMMEEEEE!!!!

I’m reformed, I must admit. Up until a few years ago, fruit in a salad was unheard of to me. I liked salad. But salad = vegetables. Period. Nothing fishy here folks.

But one day I woke up and decided that I liked fruit better than I liked veggies and I was bored of the saaaaame old boring salads: lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, onions, avocado and dressing. Bo-ring.

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So I was at a restaurant that rhymes with schmilis, and tried a salad with pineapples, mandarin oranges and blueberries and I swear if the floor wasn’t slightly sticky and there wouldn’t have been a baby crying behind me, I would have mistaken this booth for heaven.

One day, I will re-create this salad. But until then, I wanted to experiment with what I had on hand. And that was sweet, sweet strawberries and spinach.

This salad comes together quickly. The most work you’ll do is cooking the orzo, and that’s about as simple as cookie noodles. Scout’s honor. So get to it folks. Don’t wait two decades until you try fruit in your salad.

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Warm Strawberry Spinach Salad
Adapted from here and here
serves 2

For the salad:
1/2 cup uncooked whole wheat orzo (or any other grain)
splash of olive oil
1/4 red onion, sliced
1 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chick peas
4 cups raw spinach
4 large strawberries, sliced
salt and pepper to taste

For the “dressing” :
4 large strawberries, sliced
1 Tablespoon club soda (or champagne, if you’re fancy)
pinch of sugar

To make the salad:
In a medium pot, boil water for orzo and cook according to directions. Drain and set aside until ready to use.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add a splash of olive oil. Add sliced red onion and chickpeas to the skillet with a sprinkle of salt and stir to coat. Saute until onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add in garlic and cook for 3 minutes until aromatic.

Turn off heat and toss in spinach. Allow residual heat to slightly wilt the spinach and remove from heat. (Alternatively you can choose to wilt the spinach completely, in which case leave it over the heat until wilted OR toss everything together with fresh spinach and eat is raw, delicious either way.) Add in strawberries and orzo and mix to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Place in a beautiful big bowl.

To make the dressing: toss strawberries, club soda and sugar in a food processor and pulse until liquefied. Drizzle over your salad (and toss to coat if you like).

Serve immediately. It tastes good cold too!

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Avocado Lemon Pasta – A Quick Summertime Meal

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Meat and potatoes used to be my idea of dinner. There was a starch (usually mashed potatoes, mac and cheese or some form or rice or noodle), a veggie and always always ALWAYS a meat. Dinner wasn’t dinner without meat. Steak, chicken, meat loaf, meat balls… meat damn-near-anything.

I’m either growing up or growing sick of meat but I rarely have meat for dinner lately. I’ll have the occasional piece of chicken or steal a few pieces of Tony’s steak but other than that, I’m pretty meat free. When it comes to dinner at least.

Now, that’s not saying that I eat a sophisticated meal of eggplant lasagna or a fancy ratatouille. No way. I am no chef here, folks.

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So when I stumbled upon this recipe I pretty much freaked. Avocados. Lemon. Pasta. Easy. Fast.

Heaven.

This is a perfect summertime meal. It comes together in about 15 minutes, the flavors are bright and the sauce is creamy. There are only a few ingredients here so it is imperative to use good quality ingredients and to salt and pepper well or this dish will seem lack-luster. And if you insist on some form of meat, I think this would be lovely with a few grilled shrimp or a few sliced of grilled chicken tossed on top.

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Avocado Lemon Pasta
adapted from here

Yield: Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 medium sized ripe Avocado, pitted
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 garlic cloves, skins removed
1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 servings (6 oz) of your choice of pasta
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
parsley, to taste
lemon zest, to garnish

Directions:

In a medium sized pot, bring several cups of water to a boil. Add in your pasta, reduce heat to medium, and cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes. Pay attention to your pasta, there’s nothing worse than mushy s’getti noodles.

Meanwhile, make the sauce by placing the garlic cloves, lemon juice, and olive oil into a food processor. Process until smooth. Now add in the pitted avocado and salt. Process until smooth and creamy. It will be a lovely shade of green and smell lemony.

When pasta is done cooking, drain and rinse in a strainer and place pasta into a large bowl. Pour on sauce and toss until fully combined. Garnish with lemon zest, black pepper and parsley. Serve immediately.

Note: This dish does not reheat well due to the avocado in the sauce. To experiment, I made both servings (I ate one and refrigerated the other) and left the cold serving out for half an hour and it didn’t brown and was pretty tasty slightly cool.

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Amish White Bread Loaf

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Sometimes the Amish just know how to do things right!

Like this bread for instance. Its totally soft, like… melt in your mouth soft! And totally delicious, eat plain kind of delicious. And super simple, 6 ingredients kind of simple. No eggs, butter or milk needed (I believe that makes it vegan friendly).

If yeast intimidates you, as it once did me, don’t let it be a bully!! This is super simple stuff!! Toss everything together, knead by hand or mixer or even bread machine, and let it rise. Shape it, and let it rise again, then bake and ENJOY!!

Now let’s get yeasty!!

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Amish White Bread Loaf
Yields 2 loaves (recipe halves well)

Ingredients:
2 cups Warm Tap Water (test On Your Wrist, Should Be Warm Like A Baby Bottle)
1-½ Tablespoon Dry Yeast
⅔ cups Sugar (Use 1 Teaspoon Of This In With Yeast Mixture)
1-½ teaspoon Salt
¼ cups Oil
5-½ cups Bread Flour (Or Whole Wheat, Or All Purpose Flour)
Melted Butter, For Brushing The Top Of Finished Loaves, Optional

Directions:
1. Put water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of sugar in a bowl, set aside for 10 minutes while yeast proofs.

2. Meanwhile pour the rest of the sugar as well as the salt, oil and flour into mixer bowl. When yeast proofs, add to other ingredients in mixer bowl and using a dough hook, mix for 8 minutes on 1 or 2 setting.

3. Pour into a large greased bowl, cover and set aside for 1-1/2 hours if using bread flour. When through rising, gently deflate dough and divide the dough in half. By hand, fold and shape dough into two loaves and place in two 9 x 4 greased loaf pans. Let rise for 30-45 minutes. Bake at 325 degrees (F) for 35 minutes.

4. Turn out of pans onto a cooling rack and brush tops with butter. Test for doneness by thumping on bottom of loaf – it should sound hollow. Cut end off, slather on butter and eat!!!

(If you use all purpose flour, rising time will not be as long. The prep time includes first rising time. It only takes about 15 mnutes to actually get this ready to rise. On dry days 5-1/2 cups of flour works up great, with high humidity you may have to use a little more flour.)

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*The only things I’d like to note is that rise times are just an estimate!! If your dough hasn’t doubled, give it some extra time. If you only have time for the first rise just cover it and let it rise in the refrigerator. When you are ready for the second rise, let it come to room temperature and proceed. Also, make sure that you put your dough in a draft free space. An oven (turned off, of course) is a great place, as is a microwave (bonus: boil a cup of water in the microwave beforehand, remove it and place your bread in there to rise.)

Vegan Pumpkin Bread with Brown Sugar-Walnut ‘Crumble’

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Confession time:

I am not a vegan. But this quick bread is.

This quick bread is WAY cooler than I am. Way more delicious too.

But if I were to be classified as delicious we’d have problems. You see, that’s called cannibalism. And it’s illegal, albeit creepy as hell.

Say it with me now kids: cannibalism is creepy and totally illegal. Vegan bread is delicious and TOTALLY legal.

Can’t you just picture this lesson Sesame Street? I’d be a great teacher.*

This bread is vegan which in a nutshell means no butter, no eggs, no dairy. Are you having a panic attack at the sight of ‘no butter?’ Don’t.  It is moist and flavorful and downright amazing! Whips up quick too! And just think, this is something you can make when you are out of eggs and butter and you have a gazillion things to do before your in-laws, friends, or mailman arrives. So hop to! You don’t want to miss out!

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Vegan Pumpkin Walnut Bread
Slightly adapted from Joy the Baker

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (or whole wheat flour or only all-purpose flour, I used 100% Whole Wheat)

2 cups light brown sugar, packed

1/3 cups granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (I used ground nutmeg)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree (or just under two cups)

1 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup water (I forgot to add this and it still worked!)

Handful of chopped walnuts and brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place a rack in the center of the oven. Grease and flour two loaf pans (mine are 8×4×2) and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.

In a medium bowl, carefully whisk together pumpkin puree, oil, maple syrup and water.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and use a spatula to fold all of the ingredients together. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl well, finding any stray flour bits to mix in.

Divide the dough between the two greased pans and sprinkle with a few walnut pieces. Repeat with brown sugar (I like to grab a handful of brown sugar and squeeze it in my hand to make it semi-solid and just sprinkle the crumb like pieces on top.) Bake for 1 hour (mine was done in 48 mins), or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven. Let rest in the pans for 20 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack.

Serve warm. Maybe even wrap one loaf up in plastic wrap and store in the freezer for future munching, or tie a bow around it and gift it to a hungry friend.

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*Disclaimer: Don’t worry parents, I will not be responsible for the shaping of young minds in classroom like surroundings.