Swimming Cucumbers

This is a family recipe for refrigerator pickles that, in my family, we like to call “swimming cucumbers”.  It is simple and basic, but the tartness from the vinegar and the chilled cucumbery goodness are so refreshing in the heat of summer.  I can remember eating these all the time when I was a kid, and now with fresh organic cucumbers from Sage Mountain Farm, I make them for my kids and they love ’em as much as I did.

Start by washing the cucumbers and slicing the ends off.  Then using a vegetable peeler, I like to give my cucumbers some stripes.  I peel a strip of skin from one end to the other and then I rotate the cucumber before peeling another strip (leaving alternating strips of skin on and skin off).  This is just personal preference.  My kids would prefer not to have any skin on and, as a mom I would prefer them to eat the skins.  So we have found a happy medium with striped cucumber rounds, everybody’s happy.  Do what you like here…but, fair warning, stripes are fun!

Next slice the cucumbers into rounds about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch thick, depending on your preference.  Also, if you like you can make these into half rounds.  Whatever floats yer boat!

Put all of your slices into a lidded container that has a bit of extra room for liquid.  Using a mixture of equal parts water and apple cider vinegar, cover all of the cucumbers.  Finally sprinkle the top of the liquid with a generous amount of fresh cracked black pepper, course grind works best.  Place the lid on the container and tuck these babies away overnight in the fridge.  Next day, enjoy!

For another tasty summer treat, revisit this recipe from last summer- Strawberry Basil Lemonade!

Give us a comment below if you tried either of these recipes!  We’d love to have a conversation with you!

 

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Strawberry Basil Lemonade 

 This summery fresh recipe will knock your socks off!  Really!  It will change your whole concept of what lemonade can be.  Powdered mix, yellow or pink, be gone!  Once you give this a try you will never want anything else, it is truly an adventure!

Are you curious yet?!  I found this recipe on Chow.com and I knew that it would be great.  The smells when you are cooking the syrup are to die for!  Seriously, the syrup on its own could be poured over vanilla ice cream and that would be a delicious summery dessert.

Fresh CSA strawberries and basil really shine, giving this lemonade a tasty twist.  It will surely wow your family and friends.

Strawberry Orange Banana

Sage Mountain Farm
Have a tasty S.O.B.!

When I opened my CSA box this week and saw strawberries and oranges, I knew what I wanted…S.O.B. of course!  Umm, Strawberry Orange Banana, what else?!  This recipe, like some others that I have posted, isn’t really a recipe, but an idea that may inspire you.  Basically I filled my blender with strawberries, bananas and oranges (just peeled because I have a high powered blender, but if you have a regular blender just squeeze the juice from the oranges and use that).  Then I added some ice cubes to chill it down and blended it up.  I know that this is simple, but simple is good.  It’s refreshing and sweet on a hot day, and it also makes an awesome breakfast.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.  What have you been doing with the strawberries from our farm?  Share some inspiration in the comments below!

Two Spinach Smoothies

It’s smoothie time!  I do like me some kale and lettuce, but when I saw the spinach in my CSA box, I immediately thought of smoothies!  The weather is warming up and so I like to change up my usual breakfasts from the comforting oatmeal or hash brown scramble to a cool and frosty treat.

I will admit right off the bat that I have a Vitamix.  For reals though, I got it second-hand so don’t be a hater.  Yes, they are expensive and yes, they are worth every penny (if you actually paid for one, which luckily I didn’t have to).  Don’t worry though, I will not give you any recipe where you will have to blend an entire Chevrolet into a decadent dessert or something.  It’s all fruits and veggies, peeps.  Anything I do in my blender, you can do in yours.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about my favorite way to consume spinach.  I think that a few “go-to” strategies are important when you are eating healthfully, especially if, like me, you grab whatever is easiest more often than what is most nutrient-dense.  It is a bonus when you can set yourself up for success by knowing ahead of time what is easy and healthy!

Sage Mountain Farm
Ready for some smoothie action!

A great tip to be ready for smoothies whenever the mood strikes is to keep frozen bananas in your freezer at all times.  I intentionally buy extra bananas and let them over-ripen on my counter, then I peel ‘em, roll ‘em in foil and freeze ‘em.

Enter my two smoothies…

The first is a fruit smoothie.  The best fruit to hide greens in (that is why we put greens in smoothies, right?!  I mean, if you wanted salad for breakfast, eat it on a plate and have a mimosa to drink!) is mangoes.

Sage Mountain Farm
Frozen Mangoes!

I buy a big bag of organic frozen mangoes.  They are cubed and ready for smoothies.  I think that they can even stand up to kale, if you are so bold!

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Oh…Stick a straw in it!

Green Smoothie – Mango Style!

Spinach (as much as you can cram into your blender)

1 frozen banana, cut into slices

Frozen mango chunks (between ½ and 1 whole cup)

2 cups pineapple juice (or water, or oj, or plant milk, etc.)

Blend it then stick a straw in it and pretend you are on a beach somewhere, soaking up some rays!

Smoothie number two is a treat!  Well, anything healthy and delicious is a treat, but this is a “sometimes-smoothie” for me.  I feel indulgent when I drink this.  I save this for when I need a little boost, a little “me” treat.   It is a chocolate peanut butter smoothie, that also just so happens to contain vegetables.

Sage Mountain Farm
When chocolate and peanut butter love each other very much…

Green Smoothie – Chocolate PB Style!

Spinach (as much as you feel like)

2 frozen bananas, cut into slices

1 heaping tablespoon of natural peanut butter

1 heaping tablespoon of cocoa powder

A dash of cinnamon

A dash of vanilla

1 to 2 cups of non-dairy plant milk (or water, or even cow’s milk if that’s part of your diet)

A few ice cubes (cuz’ this tastes best as frosty as possible)

Blend, then drink while binge watching your favorite show!

Both of these breakfasts are full of plant powered nutrition and will help you get your day started right.  They can also be consumed for a snack or lunch, or whenever.  Feel free to experiment with the greens that you include.  Spinach is the easiest green to disguise, but lettuce, kale and chard are all worthy of a try.  “Taste it as you make it”, use what you have on hand and enjoy the bountiful health provided by nature in a cup!

Cimmaron Cherry Smoothie

Cimmaron is a red Romaine variety.

Cimmaron lettuce is beautiful and unusual with its garnet color and its long slender leaves.  I read that this type of Romaine lettuce has been around since the 1700’s!  It has a great mild taste and the color is spectacular.  I usually grab another lettuce first though.  Why?  I don’t know.  Maybe because I think green = lettuce and so subconsciously I just grab the green stuff more often?  Whatever the reason, the Cimmaron is usually left in my crisper, alone and aloof, like a princess in a tower (sigh).  Well, the color of this royal beauty was what inspired me to pair it with cherries for a great way to drink your greens(reds, lol!) in the morning, or anytime!

According to an article on cherries over at Livestrong.com, cherries can help you sleep better, they can prevent disease and they can keep you healthy and fit.  They have a good amount of fiber per cup and they are high in Vitamin C and Potassium.  The health benefits though, for me anyway, are second to the taste.  I love the sweet/tart combination of flavors that cherries have perfected!  All in one tiny jewel colored package!

For this smoothie I opted to use water as my liquid of choice for two reasons…#1 Water is zero calorie.  #2 Water is free, hey practicality has its place, right?!  Some people prefer to add apple juice to their smoothies for more sweetness.  Others prefer any number of milks, plant or animal based, for creaminess and flavor.  Whatever liquid you add will change the flavor, but like I have said before…”Taste it as you make it”.  I did.  When testing this idea out, I started with only one banana.  It wasn’t sweet enough so I added another, bingo!  Just sweet enough to drink lettuce for breakfast without being dessert-like, which I don’t’ prefer first thing in the morning.

Sage Mountain Farm
Have you tried lettuce in a smoothie?

Ingredients

1 bunch/head Sage Mountain Farm Organic Cimmaron Lettuce

2 frozen overripe bananas

1c frozen cherries

2c water (or other liquid)

Blend and enjoy!  Makes 5 cups of smoothie!

As always, I would be thrilled to get your feedback on this (or any other recipe).  Just leave me a comment below!  Do you drink green smoothies?  Have you ever tried lettuce in one?  Let’s have a conversation!

Juicing Celery

Sage Mountain Farm
Gather the goods..then juice ’em!

During this past January we had some very cold (for California, sorry East Coast!) overnight temps at the farm and I think that this stressed our celery.  When you open your CSA box and see celery listed on the packing slip you may or may not recognize it.  While celery should be long and tall, our celery turned out short and thin, possibly due to the stresses of winter weather.

No worries, when life gives you lemons…make celery juice!

The celery has a great flavor and loads of nutritional benefits.  Just Google the health benefits of celery and you will be amazed at all of the nutrients packed into this low calorie vegetable.  Most notably, celery is touted to lower blood-pressure.  So really, you can de-stress with our stressed-out celery, lol!

This juice turns out a lovely shade of light green, just perfect for St. Patrick’s Day or any day you want the “luck-o-the-Irish”!  It is tangy and spicy from the ginger and lemon with a touch of sweetness from the apple.  It is refreshing, I love it!  I used the recipe called Fresh Apple-Celery Juice with Ginger and Parsley from Food & Wine and I tweaked it to take advantage of what I had on hand.

Sage Mountain Celery Juice

Sage Mountain Farm
Tangy and spicy with a touch of sweetness!

1 whole bunch of organic Sage Mountain juicing celery, ends trimmed

4 small gala apples, cut for your juicer (gala was what I had on hand, you could use any variety)

1 bunch organic parsley

2 inches of fresh ginger, let sit on counter to thaw for 5-10 minutes (if you’ve been listening to me and are storing it frozen)

3 T of lemon juice

Instructions

Follow the instructions for your juicer and juice the first four ingredients.  Once complete, stir in the lemon juice and enjoy!

If you don’t like juicing or don’t have a juicer, our celery is also perfect for use in soups.  The leaves and stalks can be chopped and used in a variety soups.  Basic vegetable, a chicken noodle, or even cream of celery could be made using this fresh organic (if ugly-duckling like) celery!

Let me know if you tried the juice down in the comments, I would love to know!

Grapefruit-ade!

What do you do with those delicious grapefruit?  My sons like to eat them cut in half and sprinkled with sugar…sound familiar?  Do you supreme them and put them in salads?  I like all of those ways but my favorite way to enjoy those sweet-tart gems is to make grapefruit-ade.  Think lemonade…with grapefruit juice instead.  Simple idea, but refreshing and super yummy.  Best thing is, you can customize the following “recipe” to suit your tastes.  Having a barbecue or a birthday party and need more servings than usual?  …add more water and more sugar.  Like it tart?  …add less sugar.  Like it sweeter?  …add more, you get it.

Without further ado, here is the way I do it.  Feel free to change it up to make it your own!

2 cups grapefruit juice

1 cup sugar*

6 cups water

Stir the sugar into the juice until it dissolves, then fill your pitcher with the water and stir to incorporate.  Easy-peasy!

I know that this isn’t rocket-science, but some days a fresh perspective on the usual ingredients will spark inspiration!  Leave a comment below and let me know how you liked it, or how you enjoy grapefruits at home!

*(I use unbleached granulated, but beware — the unbleached sugar will slightly alter that bright fun pink of the ruby reds, regular white sugar wouldn’t do that)