Poor man’s caprese

A favorite among foodies is fresh mozzarella with tomatoes and basil, dubbed an “Insalata Caprese” or Caprese Salad for its Italian roots in Capri. Although less pricey than the original’s buffalo milk mozzarella, fresh mozzarella made from cow’s milk is still a luxury item when you’re eating on a budget. And, like many types of cheese, it has a relatively high fat to protein ratio. So, this poor man’s version substitutes cottage cheese and serves it up on crackers or bread. This still has that light, fresh taste, but it’s higher in protein and lower in fat, even if you use full-fat cottage cheese. You can use any bread or cracker as the base; I used a thin rice cake for this gluten free version, but it would be great with a rye crispbread or sliced baguette, too. This makes a great snack or light meal. I think I’d like it with tomato soup, too, despite the redundancy.

Poor man’s caprese

  • Crackers, crispbread or sliced baguette
  • Cottage cheese
  • Thick-sliced tomato
  • Basil leaves
  • Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • Salt & Pepper

Spread 2-3 Tbsp cottage cheese on each cracker. Top with tomato slice, a drizzle of EVOO, salt, pepper and basil leaf. Nosh & enjoy.

Dietary notes: Lots of lycopene & Vitamin A, C & K from the tomato and a healthy dose of protein and calcium from the cottage cheese. ♥ Vegetarian ♥ Gluten Free

Cost: about $2.50 with a half-pound organic tomato.

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Simple cucumber salad

Cucumbers are one of my favorite summer vegetables. I love their cool crispness and often snack on wedges on their own or with hummus. This simple salad is another way to enjoy them and a wonderful way to use both cucumber and mint when your summer garden is bursting with them.

Cucumber salad

  • Diced cucumbers
  • Coarsely chopped mint
  • Chopped scallions
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Vinegar
  • Salt (kosher or ground specialty salt is nice)
  • Toasted caraway seeds (optional)

Toss all ingredients together, going lightly with the olive oil and vinegar. I tend to use a ration of 2-3 part olive oil to vinegar. Serve sprinkled lightly with caraway seeds, if you like. This is lovely with cottage cheese, on a salad, or as a cooling side dish. I sometimes toss in tomatoes right before serving.

Dietary notes: vegan, gluten free, grain free.
Cost: about $.75 for a 1-cup serving

Flourless banana pancakes

YUM. I’m still reeling from the deliciousness of these amazing little banana pancakes! They were so delightful – moist on the inside and slightly crisp on the outside – that it’s hard to believe they’re both gluten AND grain free! And because they were so flavorful, already cooked in butter and textured just right, I didn’t have to butter them and used just a fraction of my usual amount of Vermont maple syrup.

The inspiration came from Grain-Free Foodies but, as I tend to do, I gave  it my own twist. This is a bit of a splurge in terms of fat content, but it’s from good quality sources with a healthy balance of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fats (and some of that butter does get left behind in the griddle). Plus, it has a decent amount of protein (19g). The recipe below was just enough for a single serving, but can easily be multiplied. And, did I mention how EASY these were to prepare? I did all the mixing in my 2-c Pyrex glass measuring cup with a fork, then poured the batter from there right onto the griddle.

Banana pancakes

  • 1 jumbo egg, beaten
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 2 Tbsp natural peanut butter
  • 1 Tbsp ground flax seed
  • 2 capfuls vanilla extract
  • Ground ginger & cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp butter

Beat egg and work in peanut butter and banana (I broke it into small pieces first). Stir in flax and vanilla. Melt butter in cast iron skillet. Spoon batter into 4″ circles – these didn’t spread much. These don’t “bubble” like baking powder pancakes, so you’ll need to watch them for doneness. Plate them up, drizzle with real maple syrup & serve! Made five 4-inch pancakes (just right for one).

Dietary notes: Grain free, Gluten Free, Ovo-lacto vegetarian
Cost: $1.75 per serving, with real butter and 2 Tbsp. 100% maple syrup (WOW!)

Sweet potato pancakes: substitute 1 medium mashed sweet potato for the banana. You can increase eggs to two if the batter seems too dry.

The fritatta: delicious, nutritious egg-cellence!

The egg has been called a perfect food for years, but they’ve gained recent recognition for being even healthier than we thought! Throw in some fresh organic veggies & herbs and maybe a little cheese from grass-fed dairy cows and you’ve got delicious, nutritious Nirvana! Fritattas are a quick and super easy way to whip up a well-balanced meal – for one or for a crowd. Here are the basic ingredients:

Fritatta

  • Fresh local eggs (I use 2 per person)
  • Onions, veggies & herbs of choice
  • Crumbled or grated cheese (optional; 1/2 – 1 oz per person)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (evoo)
  • Salt & pepper

Saute your veggies in some olive oil (starting with the onions) til soft, sprinkle on your fresh herbs and cheese, then top with your beaten eggs seasoned with salt and pepper. Cook on low heat until top is fairly firm, loosen around the edges, then give it a minute or two under the broiler to brown the top. Slice into wedges and serve. That’s it!

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And the beauty of this delightfully easy healthful dish is that in can be made for about $2 per serving with healthy real foods. What’s not to love?

Dietary notes: Grain Free, Gluten Free, Ovo-lacto Vegetarian
Cost: $2.00 per serving

I heart “real food”

As I write about the foods I prepare, I find myself wanting a simple phrase to describe the organizing principle behind my ingredients. They are most often some combination of fresh, local, unprocessed (or minimally so), organic, free-range, grass fed and relatively “whole.” You won’t see long mysterious words on the ingredients list. They don’t contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). You can see examples on my shopping list. I’ll call them “real foods” for shorthand – that’s so much easier than a long list of qualifiers!

Simple pleasure: cold coffee

Some call it iced coffee, but at my house it’s just cold. Every couple of days, I make a batch of hot coffee in my much-beloved glass Chemex. Even though I rarely drink more than one cup, I always make at least two. That un-drunk cup goes into a glass peanut butter jar (one of a dozen or so in my cupboard) and then into the fridge to be enjoyed at breakfast the next day. I used to pack a glass with ice and dress it up with raw sugar and milk or half and half, sometimes a splash of vanilla extract. But then the automatic ice-maker broke (as they always seem to do) and I just never get around to making cubes the old-fashioned way. At some point I stopped the milk, then the sugar, enjoying the deep roasted notes of my favorite French Roast from Jim’s Organic Coffee. Sipping cold coffee from a cold jar, over breakfast on the back deck, is one of those truly delicious simple pleasures of summer.

The next supper

If I were to start a list of Five Minute Foodisms, I’d put this near the top: always think about your next meal. Some of the biggest barriers to eating well are time and energy. So, save yourself a little of both by preparing some of your next meal along with your current one.

If you’re boiling eggs, chopping vegetables for a stir fry, making a sauce or washing greens for salad, prepare a little extra! At least enough for another meal or two. This is a routine time-saver for me. If I’m cutting up tofu or tempeh for a meal, I cut the whole block and store the rest. If I’m cleaning lettuce, I wash the whole head. If I’m slicing into an onion or tomato, I slice or chop the rest so it’s ready for the next meal, even if I’m not sure what it will be. When I get home from a long day of work, or am feeling lazy on a day off and don’t know what to make for dinner, I can say, well, I’ve got some chopped scallions and tomatoes…maybe a nice salad? Or an easy omelet?

Today I started building a salad with some lettuce, arugula, tomatoes, cucumbers and scallions. I washed extra lettuce and cut some extra scallion tops and threw the rest in containers. I threw in some tofu for protein and cubed the rest of the package. Then I whipped up about a cup and a half of peanut dressing, dressed my salad and put the rest in a glass bottle. It will keep in the fridge for weeks, and I’ll drizzle it over salad or one of my quick vegetable, grain and protein concoctions.

Cooking this way provides me with double the pleasure: a good meal in front of me and anticipation of the next one!