Cucumber Gazpacho

This recipe is brought to you by a friend leaving the country and gifting me half their fridge as well as several weeks of their CSA. With an unplanned abundance of cucumbers and neither of us being huge on eating them plain, I turned to the internet for ideas. Unsurprisingly, Pinterest had my back.

Cucumber Gazpacho {{Baking Bytes}}

I personally forget about gazpacho since cold soup was not really a thing in Alaska. Honestly, it’s hot soup season about 80% of the year anyway so you don’t really need a chilled variety to tide you over. Nonetheless I have had some truly delightful ones, including a watermelon variety at a random restaurant in Poulsbo, Washington that was just fantastic. Maybe next year I’ll add that to my repertoire.

In any case, with about six cucumbers of varying size and species needing a good home, a search for cucumber recipes pulled up several good options: salad dressing, cucumber sandwiches, and gazpacho. I still intend to try the salad dressing, and I had a cucumber sandwich (with herbed goat cheese, spinach, red onion, and challa) for lunch, but the gazpacho really intrigued me. With very little to lose, I gave it a shot.

Cucumber Gazpacho {{Baking Bytes}}

As usual I modified the recipe a bit, mostly to incorporate the ingredients I had on hand. Light and crisp cucumbers are given a little zing with the red onion, herbs, and garlic oil. I added some spinach for extra greens, filler, and a little thickener. My latest Olivelle obsession, Sweet Basil Balsamic Vinegar, was a perfect addition to give a nice tang and a little sweetness at the same time. The result is a cool, refreshing, and surprisingly filling gazpacho perfect for summer afternoons.

Cucumber Gazpacho {{Baking Bytes}}

The fairly neutral palate makes it great for a side dish or appetizer, or pair it with a protein for a light entree. Punch it up with the herbs of your choice, extra onion, or a jalapeño, or keep it as listed for a milder palate. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this recipe and will definitely keep it on the short list for a quick and healthy addition to any meal. Summer may be winding down, but hopefully there’s still some time left to give this chilled soup a try.

Cucumber Gazpacho

Adapted from Amuse Your Bouche
Serves 2-4 

Ingredients

2 large cucumbers (I probably had about 6-8 cups of chunks)
1/3 cup red onion
3 Tbsp garlic-infused olive oil1
1 cup (or 2) packed spinach, frozen and crushed2
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh herbs (I used mostly basil with some spicy oregano)
1-2 Tbsp basil balsamic vinegar3, optional but recommended
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Peel your cucumbers (for those with a firm/bitter skin) and chop into chunks. Don’t worry about peeling it perfectly, just get most of it.
  2. Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and puree to desired texture.
  3. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to use and then serve chilled.4

Notes

If you don’t have garlic olive oil, use plain and add one clove peeled garlic.

I keep excess spinach in the freezer for smoothie, soups, and scrambled eggs. Frozen spinach blends much more easily than raw and helps keep things chilled which is perfect for smoothies as well as gazpacho, as it turns out. For this recipe, place a large handful or two of spinach in the freezer, then crush. You should have about a cup but more or less is just fine.

The balsamic adds a lovely tang so I recommend adding a splash even if you don’t have the basil variety.

The gazpacho will lose a fair amount of its punch over time, so I wouldn’t recommend making it more than a couple hours ahead. If you are eating leftovers the next day, stir in a little extra minced onion just before serving.

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Spicy Cashew Zoodles

This recipe has been a long time coming – I’ve actually made it three times this summer with the intent to photograph and post it, but each time the sun was being temperamental and the pictures just came out terrible. Fourth time’s the charm in getting at least moderately passable photos, so you finally get to enjoy this delight.

Spicy Cashew Zoodles {{Baking Bytes}}

Many moons ago when I was still in college, a friend regularly served this dish at potlucks and her house, and it was always a favorite of mine. Al dente spaghetti and a lightly spiced cashew sauce came together in a dish served equally well cold as it did warm. I made it semi-regularly throughout my college career and typically enjoyed it straight from the fridge. Versatile in its uses from lunch to dinner to side, it’s a great dish to have in your repertoire.

Spicy Cashew Zoodles {{Baking Bytes}}

Amusingly, I all but forgot about this recipe for like five years until I was cleaning up my Facebook “notes” and came across it again. My current love affair with my spiralizer and lower carb inclinations inspired me to use this sauce with zoodles rather than the called-for pasta. A couple of light tweaks later, and I now have a new favorite side dish and another fantastic meal prep option for my work lunches.

Spicy Cashew Zoodles {{Baking Bytes}}

Most of the active time involved here is with slicing the veggies, but you can easily do that in advance and store everything in the fridge. Likewise, the sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to use. It’s a delicious way to use an abundance of zucchini and is a definite crowd pleaser since it’s both vegan and gluten-free (watch your sauce ingredient labels to be sure). It’s also more interesting than your typical salad but still a healthy veggie side. I nearly always bring a vegetable to potlucks (unless I’m requested to bring dessert) to ensure there’s healthy option alongside the numerous starches sure to grace the table.

The one caveat with taking it to potlucks is that I recommend not mixing it till you get there. Zucchini releases a lot of water and it has a tendency to get soupy after not too long. This does not affect the flavor in the slightest – just makes it a bit messier to serve and eat. If desired (I never do), you can mitigate this by salting your zucchini and setting it in a strainer for about 20 minutes, then rinsing thoroughly and using a cloth to squeeze any excess water from the zoodles. Follow directions as normal after that.

Spicy Cashew Zoodles {{Baking Bytes}}

For a tasty lunch, add your protein of choice. Steak or chicken is my personal preference, but eggs (I’d do fried, poached or soft boiled) or a vegan option like chickpeas or tempeh would go beautifully as well. Pick your favorite and include that to bring it up to a full entrée. Alternatively, if you think I’m crazy for preferring zucchini instead of spaghetti, you can make the original by cooking a pound of spaghetti to al dente and thinning the sauce with some pasta water. (A mix of spaghetti and zoodles would also be great! I would toss with the zucchini and let it rest for about 5 minutes, then fold in the spaghetti. You likely will not need to add any additional water if you are using zucchini at all.)

Spicy Cashew Zoodles {{Baking Bytes}}

This recipe does not keep particularly well after it’s been mixed, so plan to eat it all or drain as much of the sauce as possible before storing the rest of it. (Excess sauce is great as a salad dressing, on breakfast bowls, or for dipping a wrap.) If you’re still in search of a Labor Day BBQ contribution, you can stop looking now.

Note: I recently discovered the Toasted Sesame oil at Olivelle and basically fell in love. It has a much more prominent sesame flavor which blends really nicely in this sauce. However, it’s plenty delicious with your run of the mill sesame oil, so feel free to substitute that.

Spicy Cashew Zoodles

Adapted from epicurious
Serves 4 (entrée1) to 8 (side dish)

Ingredients

Sauce
1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews
2-3 garlic cloves (or 1/2 tsp garlic powder)
1/4 cup Olivelle Toasted Sesame oil (or regular sesame oil)
2 1/2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce,  to taste
1 1/2 Tbsp rice vinegar
3/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes, to taste

3-4 medium zucchini, spiralized 3mm (6-8 cups, but I never measure too hard)
1 small cucumber, spiralized flat
1 bell pepper, thinly sliced (I like red or orange best)
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

garnishes: 1/4 cup coarsely chopped cashews, sesame seeds, additional red pepper flakes, protein of choice

Directions

  1. Purée sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor until well combined and there are no large chunks of cashew or garlic. Taste and blend in additional red pepper flakes, if desired. (Sauce can be made in advance2 and refrigerated until ready to use.)
  2. In a large bowl, toss zoodles with about 3/4 of the sauce.
  3. Add remainder of sauce, onion, bell pepper, and cucumber, and toss to combine.
  4. Garnish as desired and serve promptly.

Notes

For a more filling entrée, include your protein of choice: keep it vegan with chickpeas, tofu, or tempeh, include poached or boiled eggs if ovo vegetarian is more your thing, or appease the omnivores with thinly sliced steak or chicken. Add in your choice with the veggies in step 3.

This recipe works great for meal prep: Portion your produce into a 4-cup bowl, and refrigerate until ready to eat. Top with 3-4 tablespoons of sauce, microwave for about 30 seconds, then gently toss until coated. Garnish as desired and enjoy!

To use this sauce without zoodles, thin it with water to your desired consistency. Toss with pasta, use as a salad dressing, or drizzle over breakfast bowls to your heart’s content.

PB&J Parfait

In my quest to move towards a lower carb lifestyle change, one of the most challenging updates has been breakfast. My go-to has always been peanut butter & banana oatmeal, but since two of the three main ingredients are very high carb, that’s pretty much out. Although I haven’t quite figured out a hot meal replacement for winter, I have finally perfected a wonderful chilled summer option. As a bonus, it’s easy to make ahead of time for a delicious and simple grab-and-go breakfast (or snack).

PB&J Parfait {{Baking Bytes}}

Any “diet” article will tell you to ditch the flavored yogurts for their plain versions mixed with fresh fruit, but I think the flavor of the yogurt can still be too overpowering. For me, the key is to properly mix them together rather than just add the fruit like a topping. Mashing berries (blackberries or raspberries are my favorite) first and then stirring in the yogurt and chia (for a fat and protein boost) means the flavors are consistently spread through each spoonful like a store-bought flavor without all the added sugars.

Peanut butter is always a go-to for me, and layering it with the berry yogurt is reminiscent of a childhood favorite but in a much healthier form. I like the natural peanut butter here since the berries are quite sweet already and because it doesn’t get overly hard when refrigerated for the meal prep option.

Lastly, I recently discovered hemp seeds as another fat/protein source, and they had a nice bit of crunch and a little different flavor without competing too heavily with the rest of the dish. Even overnight they don’t get soggy (just a bit soft) which makes them a nice textural addition. If you don’t have hemp, you could just go without or substitute any seeds or chopped nuts of your choice.

PB&J Parfait {{Baking Bytes}}

Sweet and tart with the swirl of peanut butter and just a hint of crunch, this is a great on-the-go option as well as something that can be enjoyed right away. I often mix the yogurt, chia, and berries together and then add the peanut butter and hemp when I get to work. This allows me to customize how much I want on a particular day, but it works great to do it all ahead of time if your work fridge space is limited.

A few tips for success: chia seeds soak up a lot of moisture, so if you want your parfait to maintain a looser, more traditional yogurt texture overnight then add at least one tablespoon of water with each tablespoon of chia. This is not necessary if you’re eating it right away but for meal prepping it helps with the texture, especially if your fruit is not very juicy. As mentioned I like to use natural peanut butter since it stays spreadable when chilled, but you if you prefer the Jif or Skippy variety you can always just take a little of that in a separate container and keep it at room temperature. Lastly, if you’re using the smallest amount of everything (or keeping the peanut butter and hemp separate) you can get away with an 8oz jar, but a 12oz or larger is much nicer for stirring and eating without making a mess.

PB&J Parfait {{Baking Bytes}}

If you’re looking for a quick, delicious, and healthy lower carb meal, this PB&J parfait is sure to please. And in case you were wondering, no, I don’t do the fancy layering every time I make it for myself. It is pretty and fun to do that, but it’s much quicker to just add them all on top. You can decide for yourself what level of effort is right for you.

PB&J Parfait

Serves one

Ingredients

1/2 cup berries (or any fruit)
1-2 Tbsp chia seeds
1-2 Tbsp water (optional)1
cinnamon, to taste (optional)

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1-2 Tbsp hemp hearts
1-2 Tbsp natural peanut butter2

Directions

  1. For “lazy” parfaits: In small bowl mash the berries until soft. Stir in chia (and water, if using), cinnamon, and yogurt until well combined.
  2. Plop on the peanut butter and sprinkle with hemp. Enjoy immediately or store in the fridge until ready to use.
  3. For “fancy” parfaits: in the bottom of a small jar3 add 1/3 of the yogurt mixture. Layer 1-2 tsp each of hemp and peanut butter. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
  4. Seal the jar and store in the fridge until ready to eat.

Notes

Water is not necessary if you are eating it right away or you are okay with a very thick texture. Chia seeds soak up a lot of moisture so if you want your parfait to stay a bit looser then add at least as much water as you do chia when you’re stirring it into the fruit.

I recommend natural peanut butter (the kind you have to stir) as it will not get overly hard in the fridge overnight (and I like the taste better), but if you are eating it right away you can use any peanut butter.

Use a 12oz jar or larger to ensure everything fits, and to make it easier to stir and eat.

 

 

Blackberry Chévre Ice Cream with Chocolate Balsamic Swirl

Well folks we’ve yet again reached the last week of National Ice Cream Month. So far we’ve played with whiskey, chili peppers, and mint, and this week we venture further off the beaten path with some thoroughly nontraditional ice cream flavors.

If you’re even a vaguely consistent reader, you’ll be well aware of my love affairs with goat cheese and Olivelle products. I use both liberally in my salads, scrambles, and various entrees, sneaking them in whenever possible. M and I go through copious amounts of chévre, so fingers crossed Costco never stops carrying it. The Kirkland brand goat cheese is not only delicious but also extremely affordable. If you have a Costco nearby, definitely give it a try.

Blackberry Chèvre Ice Cream with Chocolate Balsamic Swirl {{Baking Bytes}}For this week, the pièce de résistance if you will, I combined several of my favorite savory items into a brand new dessert adventure. This is one of those thoughts I had where I wasn’t sure if the end result would be spectacular or just strange. Fortunately for me, and subsequently all of you, spectacular was the general consensus.

Blackberry Chèvre Ice Cream with Chocolate Balsamic Swirl {{Baking Bytes}}Step one: blackberry. Starting with a tried-and-true recipe from my trusty ice cream cookbook, I borrowed the blackberry sauce from a recipe by Molly Moon. It’s just a typical blackberry compote but I trusted her to know how much of everything to use. I liked that she suggested straining out only half the pulp, which leaves the lovely texture without overwhelming you with seeds.

Blackberry Chèvre Ice Cream with Chocolate Balsamic Swirl {{Baking Bytes}}Step two: chévre ice cream. Inspired by the delicious blueberry cheesecake ice cream from a couple of years ago, goat cheese ice cream seemed like the obvious 2018 twist. The recipes online varied greatly in the amount used, but I took a gamble on throwing a full eight ounces in the batch and was duly rewarded.

Combined into one delightful concoction, the tart but sweet blackberries blend perfectly with the tangy goat cheese. Somehow neither flavor overpowers the other but instead becomes one glorious experience: creamy, fruity, and tangy in every mouthful.

Blackberry Chèvre Ice Cream with Chocolate Balsamic Swirl {{Baking Bytes}}The last addition was a bit of risk, honestly, but oh so worth it. Olivelle carries several dessert vinegars, the chocolate balsamic being one of my favorites. I often drizzle it over a sliced banana or vanilla ice cream for dessert, and it’s also a delightful addition to brownies or chocolate cake. With the idea that it would be a slightly more sophisticated mix-in than standard chocolate sauce, I decided to give it a chance.

Best. Idea. Ever.

Blackberry Chèvre Ice Cream with Chocolate Balsamic Swirl {{Baking Bytes}}Although M didn’t completely agree1, my other taste testers thought it was one of the most phenomenal ice creams they’ve ever had, and I think it’s easily one of the top five flavors I’ve ever made (not that I’m biased.) The blackberry goat cheese ice cream is truly fantastic on its own, but the balsamic addition adds a depth of flavor and a hint of chocolate without overwhelming anything else.

A swirl or a drizzle (or both) of balsamic vinegar takes this ice cream up several levels in both uniqueness and amazingness, and if you’re feeling a bit adventurous I truly hope you give it a try! It’s admittedly a bit more time-consuming with the various steps, and you might have to wait for an order of chocolate balsamic vinegar to arrive (although definitely check if any of your local stores are a sister of Olivelle – they are all over the nation), but I promise it is oh so worth it.

Blackberry Chèvre Ice Cream with Chocolate Balsamic Swirl {{Baking Bytes}}I hope you enjoyed the serious and found at least one new flavor to add to your repertoire. If you give one a try, be sure and share how it went!

Blackberry Chévre Ice Cream with Chocolate Balsamic Swirl

Adapted from Molly Moon‘s Blackberry Sage Ice Cream
Makes 6+ cups

Ingredients

Blackberry Sauce
12 oz blackberries (about 3 cups)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice

Blackberry Chévre Ice Cream
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup half and half
1/3 – 1/2 cup sugar2

8 oz chévre (goat cheese)3

1 recipe blackberry sauce (above)
1/2 cup egg substitute

1/4 – 1/2 cup Olivelle chocolate balsamic vinegar

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the blackberries, 1 cup sugar, and lemon juice.
  2. Simmer over medium heat, stirring regularly. Mash the berries and bring to a light boil. Remove from heat and let cool about 10 minutes.
  3. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, pressing on the berry pulp to retrieve as much of the juice as possible. Scoop about half of the pulp back into the juice, and stir to combine. (The remaining pulp can be tossed, but it is delicious stirred into plain Greek yogurt! Keeps well in the fridge for at least a couple of weeks.)
  4. Chill the blackberry sauce completely, or until ready to use.
  5. Place the goat cheese  in medium a heatproof bowl.
  6. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream, half and half, and remaining sugar to a light simmer.
  7. When the sugar is completely dissolved, pour the mixture over the goat cheese and whisk vigorously until mixture is smooth – it will be somewhat thick.
  8. Chill the cream mixture completely, or until ready to use. Place a lidded freezer-safe bowl in the freezer to chill.
  9. When everything is completely chilled, whisk the blackberry sauce and 1/2 cup egg substitute into the cream – mixture will be fairly thick.
  10. Churn according to your ice cream maker’s directions.
  11. Retrieve your bowl from the freezer and drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons chocolate balsamic vinegar.
  12. Gently add about 1/4 of the ice cream mixture, and drizzle with another 1-2 tablespoons of the vinegar. Repeat with remaining ice cream (you may not use all the vinegar).
  13. Return to the freezer until completely firm, or overnight.
  14. Serve solo, with a fudgy chocolate brownie, or an extra drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Notes

He thought the ice cream itself was “pretty good”, he just didn’t care for the vinegar aspect. He suggested regular chocolate sauce, which is definitely an option you can utilize too.

I used a half cup, but I think with all the mix-ins 1/3 cup or even 1/4 cup might be plenty, and I intend to reduce it next time. Adjust according to how sweet you like your ice cream and how much you love goat cheese. Alternatively, I think honey would make a great substitute here!

If you are not a huge goat cheese lover, you can reduce this amount to six or even four ounces, but I personally loved the tanginess of having all eight ounces in there. Anti-chévre completely? Feel free to sub cream cheese for a more cheesecake like experience.

If you are skeptical but typically like balsamic vinegars, I highly encourage you to try it! Error on the side of too little; you can always drizzle more on top later. If you think this is the grossest sounding thing you have ever heard, either you’ve never tasted Olivelle’s balsamic vinegars or you just aren’t a vinegar person. It’s okay, we can still be friends. Feel free to substitute regular chocolate sauce instead (as M suggested), but know that the vinegar adds a truly unique flavor that will definitely be lost.

Cold Brewed Coffee: “Latte”

[Welcome to this month’s Cold Brewed Coffee Series! If you missed the first post on making your own cold brew concentrate, you can find it here.]

Happy last week of July! Can hardly believe the month went by so quickly. I hope you have enjoyed both series the last few weeks and in August we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming.

For the last week I’m sharing my favorite treat beverage. Technically, it’s a café au lait but it feels closer to a latte to me since the cold brew is so concentrated. I don’t drink my cold brew this way as often, but it’s a delicious way to start the morning as well as a lovely pick-me-up in the afternoon.

IMG_6056_FotorAs with everything, I like to add a dash (heap) of cinnamon, and a little vanilla is a great addition too. For a sweeter experience, use your favorite coffee syrup, maple syrup, or homemade simple syrup. I don’t often do sweet lattes these days but I have a white ginger simple syrup I’m definitely looking forward to trying out soon.

Cold Brew: "Latte" {{Baking Bytes}}Thanks for following along and I would love to hear about your cold brew adventures. And be sure to come back Friday for the pièce de résistance of National Ice Cream Month!

Cold Brewed Coffee: “Latte”

Makes ~10 oz

Ingredients

2-3 oz cold brew concentrate1
7-8 oz milk of choice (I like to use almond)

optional
1/4 tsp vanilla
cinnamon, to taste
sweetener, to taste

Directions

  1. Heat milk to simmering using method of choice: microwave, stove, milk frother, etc.
  2. Pour cold brew concentrate into a mug, and optional add any garnishes (vanilla, cinnamon, simple syrup).
  3. Carefully stream in the heated milk.
  4. Enjoy!

Notes

My preference is 2 oz cold brew and 8 oz almond milk, but you may prefer slightly different ratios depending on the strength of your concentrate and the type of milk you use.