Agua fresca del melón -Fresh Melon Drink

agua de melon                                  agua de melon honeydew

This refreshing natural beverage is a perfect compliment to spicy Mexican food. I add no sugar or sweeteners to mine, using a ripe sweet melon and water only. This is wonderful with any kind of firm melon, such as cantaloupe or honeydew. This is similar to agua de sandia.

melon

I large melon

4 cups water, or 3 cups water, 1 cup ice

If you make this the night before your party, you only need to add water and refrigerate. Stir before serving, as the beverage will separate.

Wash melon well.Cut melon in half and scoop out seeds. Scoop out melon fruit and fill the blender, then add 2 cups of water for each blender quart. Blend on high until fruit is liquified. I think it’s sweet enough with just the ripe fruit, but you can add a bit of sweetener if you like.

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Strawberry Sauce – naturally sweet with fruit juice

This strawberry sauce is made with only fruit. I used only strawberries and strawberry jam sweetened with white grape juice. It was sweet enough that I didn’t need to add sugar or other sweetener.

Necessity being the mother of invention,  when I was ready to serve blueberry walnut pancakes to our guests yesterday, I suddenly realized we were out of maple syrup. Having no time to run to the store, I grabbed a bag of frozen strawberries and microwaved them. I put them in the blender with fresh strawberries and several tablespoons of strawberry fruit spread  and hoped for the best. The guests and my family were delighted with the results! I guess you could say that the jam got me out of a jam…..

I froze the leftover sauce and will warm it up next time I make pancakes, French Toast or waffles.

Ingredients: (Makes about 1 1/2 cups)

2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries (or a combination of both)

3 Tb strawberry fruit spread sweetened with white grape juice (I used the Whole Foods 365 brand). You can substitute 2 tsp maple syrup.

Microwaved frozen strawberries until warm. Pour into blender jar with strawberry jam and blend until pureed.

French Toast with Fresh Fruit

This family favorite is a weekend morning treat after a week of eating muesli. Although French toast made with half-and-half is rich and sublime, this lower fat version, made with 1% milk is really good. Spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg and piled high with fresh peaches and strawberries with a hint of maple syrup, it makes a satisfying breakfast.

Serves 3:

3 large eggs
¼ cup 1% milk
1 tsp cinnamon
Several shakes of nutmeg
8 slices of raisin bread
About 1 tsp butter
1 large peach
6 large strawberries
3 Tb maple syrup

 

Whip eggs with milk, cinnamon and nutmeg. Heat a nonstick frying pan and move butter stick across it until it is coated with butter (about 1 tsp). Dip slices of raisin bread into the egg mixture so it begins to saturate the bread but not make it soggy. Place bread in the pan and fry over medium heat a few minutes until it turns light brown, then flip and fry again.

Serve with fresh cut peaches, strawberries or what’s in season. You can heat frozen fruit and serve as well. I like to spread the fruit on a plate and pour about 3 Tb of maple syrup over the fruit, then microwave for a minute. No need to add extra syrup to the French toast.

Eggplant Marinara


Rich with eggplant, mushrooms and fresh tomatoes, spicy with Italian sausage,  garlic and pepper, and fragrant with fresh herbs, this marinara sauce is ideal for pasta or Lasagna. There are two ways to make this marinara: with eggplant purée or sliced Italian eggplant. You could even use both for an extra helping of vegetables. I roasted the mushrooms to bring out their earthy flavor.

I took a tip from The Breakaway Cook Eric Gower, and added ground dried mushrooms for umami, (Japanese for savory deliciousness), which wonderfully expands and rounds out flavors.

Along with my homegrown herbs, I add a fresh bay leaf. I pick them when I get the chance to hike in the hills around Berkeley and Palo Alto. Their aroma brings me memories of my youth hiking and biking those hills. Just be careful about leaving them in too long – the fresh ones are very strong and can overpower the sauce, making it bitter. Just leave it in about 15 minutes.

Serves 8 (with pasta)

3 links turkey Italian sausage or vegetarian sausage

1 Tb olive oil

1 onion, chopped fine

1 Tb  salt (to taste)

½ tsp. red chili flakes

5 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

3 Tb minced fresh oregano OR  3 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary

1 tsp. minced fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp. minced fresh tarragon or 1/2 tsp dried tarragon

several grinds black pepper

2 bell peppers and/or red bell peppers. (can substitute 3 cups frozen or 2 cups jarred roasted red peppers)

1 small (6 oz) can tomato paste

¼ cup red wine

2 lbs or 14 large soft Roma tomatoes (substitute 24 oz can of crushed tomatoes and 24 oz diced tomatoes

1 Tb sugar to taste

1 bay leaf

3 dried mushrooms

1 roasted globe eggplant  and/or  4 Italian eggplants, cut in rounds and quartered

1 cup quartered mushrooms

1  14-oz can artichoke hearts, quartered

I bunch (1/4 cup minced) fresh basil

Italian eggplant method: Roast or barbecue eggplant and peppers. Discarding ends, slice eggplant into rounds, then quarter the rounds.

Globe Eggplant Method: Pierce globe eggplant with a fork, and roast in a heavy oiled baking pan in 400’ oven for 1 hour until it collapses.  Roast red peppers and mushrooms for the last ½ hour alongside the eggplant. You can roast the vegetables a day ahead of time.

You can also barbecue the eggplant peppers and mushrooms.

While eggplant is roasting and cooling, make the rest of the sauce.

Slice, quarter and brown sausages and drain the fat.

Sauté onion and salt in olive oil until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes Add sausage, chopped fresh or frozen bell peppers (if not roasting them), chili flakes, garlic, oregano, rosemary, thyme and black pepper. Sauté another couple of minutes until herbs release their fragrance.

Add tomato paste, then fill tomato paste can with water then stir in the tomato paste that has stuck to the can.

Halve Roma tomatoes and scoop out seeds and fibrous ribs.

Pulse tomatoes in food processor until desired consistency is reached. I did mine on the chunky side. (If you are using canned tomatoes, add them instead.) Stir into tomato paste and herb mixture. Add sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes.

If using chopped Italian eggplant, add it to sauce.

If using globe eggplant, scrape it out from the peel and mince it. Stir it into the sauce.

Quarter mushrooms and mix in sauce.

Grind the dried mushrooms until pulverized in a clean coffee grinder or spice grinder. Stir into sauce.

Add 1/4 cup wine and sip some on the side…

If using roasted bell peppers, stir them into the sauce.

Stir well and let simmer for an hour. You can make this in a crock pot and let it simmer for several hours.

Add quartered artichoke hearts and tarragon for last 10 minutes of cooking. Just before serving over pasta or making lasagna, stir in basil and cook a couple of minutes.

“Daddy Cereal” Oatmeal

When I was a little kid, my daddy made us oatmeal for breakfast so often that we called oatmeal “Daddy Cereal.”  I’m posting this on Father’s Day  in his memory.

These days I make oatmeal for my family. We only like the regular kind, not the quick oats, which taste mushy. (We really dislike the flavored packaged stuff, which is overly sweet and tastes artificial.) Oatmeal really does lower cholesterol, so if you need to keep yours down, it is a delicious choice.

Serves 2

ingredients

2 cups water

1 cup oatmeal

¼  cup raisins

½ tsp cinnamon

shake or two of salt

a handful of walnut pieces

I mix the cinnamon and raisins with the water and oats, which adds a natural sweetness. 1/8 cup raisins per person is 70 calories.

ingredients in pot

Boil,  then cook for 5 minutes on medium flame, stirring often. When it’s done,  add maybe a teaspoon of maple syrup if you want it a bit sweeter. Serve with milk  (or soy milk for a vegan version.) I like to add walnuts to the oatmeal. It adds a delicious crunch as well as extra protein for making it through the morning.

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