Tag Archives: balsamic vinegar

10 Things I’ve Learned This Summer… and Grilled Watermelon Salad

This summer has been crazy! From visiting my mom in Nashville and road-tripping to New Orleans, researching/swimming with whale sharks which are the largest fish species and SO cool, and having a family reunion on a lake in Washington (which is one of my favorite states) to getting my wisdom teeth out and finding out I’m one of the lucky people who gets chronic migranes, there have been ups and downs and loop de loops galore. And I really wouldn’t change this summer for anything. I had a ball. I hung out with my friends, I cooked up a storm, I spent a lot of time bonding with my family, and I had some crazy cool adventures too. Here’s what this summer has taught me (or at least 10 of the things I’ve learned–> in no particular order):

  1. It’s way easier to write a blog when I’m procrastinating schoolwork then it is when I’m putting off hanging out with friends–> even though I’ve cooked more this summer than I do during the year.
  2. Sewing is not as easy as it looks (I made a faux fur jacket that looks super vintage but my goodness was it difficult!–>and my mom helped me finish it up).
  3. I definitely chose the right major in college and after my time with the whale sharks I’m super amped for heading back up to school (on Thursday!)
  4. The more time you spend doing something (in my case cooking), the more you realize you have a LOT to learn. (Graduating high school I thought I knew everything… college taught me this lesson too).
  5. Growing herbs inside is actually pretty darn easy (I have a nice little herb garden going–>plus tomatoes and bell peppers–>and they’re doing well despite the fact I’m known to have the opposite of a green thumb).
  6. There’s no one in your life like your family followed closely by your best friends. The people that are there for you year after year despite what dumb choices you made are really valuable. I owe these people so much.
  7. We will all face a broken heart someday. And we will all think that it will not mend. Broken hearts do eventually heal. And if you truly loved someone they can end up as one of your best friends later even though you may believe you’ll never get there.
  8. We need to practice what we preach. I write all about eco-friendly eating and I really do try to incorporate what I write into my own cooking. Obviously, I have days where I want something that isn’t super green, and that’s ok as long as I do my best. There are people, however, who talk so much about certain issues and then leave them to someone else to resolve. Your cause doesn’t have to be the environment. You don’t even need to have a cause. If you do, however, lead by example. Don’t be hypocritical about it if you really do care.
  9. Sometimes the little things are really what makes the world a wonderful place to be living. Enjoy them. Sit and watch a sunset, eat a chocolate bar, paint a picture (if it’s bad just call it abstract… that’s what I do), play board games, blow bubbles when you’re chewing gum, take a bubble bath, read a book, go surfing (even if you end up not catching a wave and basically being a buoy), go for a bike ride, etc. It doesn’t have to cost you a lot to have a good time.
  10. Every day is precious. We only have so long. Don’t wait until you’re retired to start doing what you want to. By then… it may be too late. Travel now before the ice caps melt, the coral reefs bleach, and more animal species go extinct (even if it’s an icky species it has a place in the ecosystem). See the world in all of its beauty. Change some of your less “green” practices now so your children might get to see the environment like you can now. Stay out too late. Get up too early. Do something you are afraid you’ll fail at. Enjoy every moment you have.

In Washington, I tried wake surfing. I've never done any lake sport before so I was worried...I had a blast!

Grilled Watermelon Salad

  • Watermelon, cut into squares of about 2 in. by 2 in.
  • Arugula
  • Goat Cheese, crumbled
  • Balsamic Vinegar, reduced
  • Tomato, chopped
  • EVOO

Rub the watermelon on both sides with EVOO. Place on grill for about 3-5 minutes a side. Place a bit of arugula on a plate. Top with goat cheese and tomato. Place one watermelon square on top of that then make another layer. Top with another watermelon square. Place more goat cheese on top and drizzle with the reduced balsamic vinegar.

MAKE THIS WHILE WATERMELON IS STILL IN SEASON!!! It is soooo delicious. I love how the watermelon almost looks like a seared piece of ahi tuna and it gets such a delicious savory flavor when it’s cooked. SO GOOD. And using local, organic produce is so good for you and it’s so sustainable.

Grilling

So let me tell you a little about my living situation at the moment… I’m living at my house with my dad and my dad’s friend’s son who has basically become a part of the family for the summer… and they’re both HUGE carnivores. As you all know by now, I’m a pescetarian, however, what you may not know about me is that I definitely do not try to change other people’s eating habits apart from telling them what are “greener” options. Therefore, when they decided to grill up some pork chops tonight, I decided to embrace the grill and make myself a vegan grilling alternative: a Portobello Mushroom Burger. Furthermore, as much as I talk about whole wheat being the “greener” alternative to white flour products, the boys had a TON of white burger buns and the greenest choice is to always make sure not to waste anything so that’s what I used for my burger. I also utilized a delicious seasonal vegetable that’s super easy to grill: CORN! During summer, it has such a delicious sweet flavor and it was really a great side. It doesn’t take much to make corn taste good–>we grilled it in its husk so it got a “smoky husky flavor” as my dad and Alex would say. Earlier this summer, my mom topped our corn with olive oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper while today I just buttered it a little. Either way, it really doesn’t take much. Regardless, here’s a great portobello mushroom burger recipe you’ll have to try! And if you’re more of a meat eater, the marinade would taste delicious on a regular burger as well!

Portobello Mushroom Burger

  • 1/3 cup White Wine
  • 2 tbsp. Tamari Soy Sauce
  • 2 tbsp. White Balsamic Vinegar (or any other vinegar)
  • 2 tsp. Ground Ginger
  • A dash of Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 large Portobello Mushroom
  • Burger Bun (preferably whole wheat)
  • 3 tbsp. Unrefined Sugar
  • optional: Any veggies such as Roasted Pepper, Lettuce, Cabbage, Tomato, etc. that you have on hand.

Mix the white wine, tamari, vinegar, garlic, and cayenne together in a plastic bag. Place the portobello mushroom in the bag for 10 minutes or longer so it can marinate. Take the portobello out of the bag but DO NOT TRASH THE LIQUID. Grill for 3-5 minutes a side or until tender. Meanwhile, place leftover liquid and the sugar into a pot and reduce until it becomes syrupy. Toast bun. When portobello is off of the grill, place onto bun and top with the reduced liquid.

This is a super easy really delicious portobello burger so I hope you enjoy it!

ECO-BENEFITS

  1. Grilling is super versatile! You can make an entire meal on a grill which means no extra energy from other appliances!
  2. Using a marinade as a topping means no waste and you definitely get the delicious flavor!
  3. Corn is in season and easy to find locally and organic. Plus it’s super delicious right now and doesn’t need much to make it delicious!
  4. Vegan cooking is great because you have no animal production wastes involved (which can lead to high greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, excess crop production, etc.)
  5. A lot of times if you use less ingredients in a recipe you have less packaging involved (which causes waste and can be energy-intensive).

Gnocchi with Tomato Basil Sauce and Bruschetta

Step one in becoming a good cook: TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS! I know this… I follow this… and yet I didn’t listen to my gut today. I thought that the gnocchi recipe I was basing mine off of seemed to have too much flour but I had never made gnocchi before so I went with it… And boy oh boy was the gnocchi too floury. So, in this post I’m gonna guesstimate the correct amount of flour (and I’m gonna add more spinach) so that you won’t have the same problem. Because when gnocchi is cooked correctly it can be DELICIOUS.

As an appetizer:

Bruschetta

  • 1 Baguette (whole wheat preferably, but I had white on hand), cut
  • 1 Roma tomato, chopped
  • Fresh Basil, to taste, chopped
  • 2 cloves Garlic, 1 chopped, the other whole
  • 3 tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
  • Optional, add Mozzarella before toasting

Rub the whole garlic clove onto each piece of bread (one side only). Place into a preheated oven (to 350) for 5-10 minutes (or until browned). Meanwhile, mix the tomato, basil, garlic, and balsamic vinegar. When bread is done, top with the mix. It’s so easy and SOOO yummy!

Spinach Gnocchi with Tomato Basil Sauce

  • 1 lb. Red Potatoes (keep skin on)
  • Salt/Pepper, to taste
  • 2 1/2 cups Spinach leaves
  • 2 tbsp. Vegan Margarine
  • 1 Egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Shallot, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. Tomato Paste
  • 1 can Chopped Tomato
  • 3 tbsp. Fresh Basil, chopped
  • 1/3 cup Red Wine (plus extra for drinking)
  • 2 tsp. Sugar

Cook the potatoes in their skins in a pot of boiling salted water until tender all the way through (took mine 35 minutes). Drain and press through a strainer (remove the skins as they come off). Cook the spinach in the hot water for 5 minutes (or until wilted). Chop the spinach and add to the potatoes. Add the margarine, egg, and half of the flour to the mixture. Mix well. On a floured counter, knead the rest of the flour into the dough. Roll the dough into thin ropes and cut 3/4 inch pieces. Press the center of each to curl the sides of the gnocchi. Let chill in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, in a large pan, saute the chopped shallot in the olive oil until a little browned. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, basil, red wine, and sugar and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.

Bring a large pot of slightly salted water to a boil and add the gnocchi. Cook until the gnocchi rise to the top of the water. Drain and top with the sauce.

ECO-BENEFITS:

  1. Homemade pasta does not have the transportation and packaging that are involved in pre-made pasta.
  2. Organic, local spinach, basil, tomatoes, and garlic are eco-friendified!
  3. Vegan butter cuts back on the amount of animal byproduct and therefore helps fight global warming!
  4. Whole wheat flour and bread uses less energy because it is not refined.
  5. A benefit just for you: Because this recipe calls for wine it basically tells you to enjoy a glass while you cook!

Fish: What Practices Are Actually Sustainable?

Alright. I know I’ve told you guys about Overfishing.org and the Monterey Bay Aquarium sustainable fish sites. And I still hold to the fact that those are the best sites to look at before you decide which fish you’ll be cooking. There are, however, soooo many more ways to practice sustainable cooking when it comes to fish. This post will go a little more into those practices.

  1. This site tells you all about the environmental pros and cons of the different forms of fishing and farm fishing. It is not super detailed, however, it gives the basic information you should know.
  2. The Monterey Bay Aquarium site also talks about what to think/ask about when considering farmed fish. These are: use of marine resources, fish that are carnivorous and have to be fed other wild species, risk of escaped fish to wild stocks, risk of disease and parasite transfer to wild stocks, risk of pollution and habitat effects, and effectiveness of the management regime.
  3. Think about eating lower on the food chain. Smaller fish species, such as anchovies, herring, mackerel, and sardines, do not need as long to reach full maturity and reproduce. Therefore, they tend to be found in larger, more sustainable numbers. Larger fish, such as tuna, reproduce at a much older age and take a very long time to mature. Therefore, they are being overfished and are not maintaining their numbers. Fish lower on the food chain also have less toxins because of reduced biomagnification.
  4. Make sure that the fisheries you’re buying from don’t have high bycatch numbers–> the amount of fish species being caught that are unintended.
  5. Avoid fish caught by trawling–>this involves dragging a net along the bottom of the water and can cause irreparable ecosystem damage.
  6. Try to avoid fish flown overnight to get to your plate: ask questions. This can involve a lot of fossil fuels.
  7. Maybe try fishing yourself: hook and line fishing is the most sustainable type.
  8. Wild or farmed, fish include a lot of transportation, packaging it on ice, processing, and other energy costs.
  9. “Organic” means nothing when it comes to fish. There are no regulations set by the USDA. This doesn’t help the eco-cost at all.
  10. The U.S. has the strictest regulations. For example, shrimp from Asia are destroying mangrove swamps.
  11. Take advantage of the Blue Ocean Institute’s FishPhone: Text the message FISH followed by a type of fish to 30644 when you’re in the supermarket and you can find out about whether a certain type of fish is sustainable.

Overfishing is a problem. No one is disagreeing with that… check out this BBC News Report or this Times article. So, now that I’ve let you know a few more sustainable fishing choices and options, here are some recipes utilizing those options:

Scallops with Wild Rice

  • 1/4 cup wild rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 scallops
  • balsamic vinegar

So this is a super easy, super yummy recipe. It serves one for lunch. Boil the water, add rice and reduce to simmer for 40 minutes (or until the rice is soft). Drain any excess water. Meanwhile, cook the scallops in a little bit of olive oil to brown. In a separate pot, reduce the balsamic vinegar until it thickens. Top the rice with the scallops, and the scallops with the reduced balsamic vinegar.

Anchovy Pasta

  • Note: be really really scarce on the anchovy. They have a very strong taste. I made this mistake because I haven’t cooked anchovies in a long time and it was a fishy experience (but the flavor was still good).
  • A couple of anchovies (canned in olive oil).
  • A clove of garlic, minced
  • Paprika
  • Dill
  • Parsley, coarsely chopped
  • Linguini (any type of pasta works)

While the pasta is boiling, brown the garlic in a pan and then add the anchovy. Cook until the anchovies melt. Add the paprika, dill, and coarsely chopped parsley. Mix into the pasta when cooked (I mixed mine in after taking the picture).