August 13, 2012

Cold summer soup | Probably a smoothie | Something icky

I just made a summer dinner for eight that was so easy and relaxing I barely felt like I'd cooked.  I did cook, but I also let Costco (stuffed grape leaves, hummus) help a little. And I made two of the dishes (quinoa salad and raw candies) the day before. Don't you just love when a dinner party comes together just the way you'd hoped — great guests all getting along and making vibrant conversation, nice food, and a calm and entertained hostess. (Yes, that's right, entertained. I want to be entertained rather than entertaining. Why not?)

I'm focusing here on the first course — a cool and refreshing chilled cucumber and avocado soup that I whipped up in my VitaMix. (Any decent blender will suffice.) I was recently served the soup at my son and daughter-in-law's house, and immediately made plans to serve it at my upcoming dinner party. The recipe can be found on the Whole Foods Web site, and the soup is so easy to prepare it practically makes itself. I pretty much followed the recipe, though I substituted almond milk for the soy milk, and upped the basil. I made the tomato topping ahead of time with a little extra lime juice and it was still perfect three hours later when I served it, so I don't think you have to make it at the last minute like the recipe says to do. I added a few drops of stevia to the soup to balance the extremely tart flavor of the yogurt, and I didn't add extra yogurt to the bowls when I served it. The soup is thick, creamy, cooling and delicious. I served it with Food Should Taste Good chips on the side.

I was still feeling the quinoa salad I'd prepared for a potluck last week so I made another bowlful. My husband and I were the only ones having it again so why not repeat a good thing? It's so delicious I doubt I'd ever get tired of it, but just  to change it up a little I topped it with toasted pumpkin seeds this time.

Here's my plate with the rest of the edibles. We had grape leaves, carrot sticks, hummus, grape tomatoes, quiche topped with fresh tomato sauce, and a wonderful salad brought by my good friend, Wendy. For dessert we had ice cream and raw candies.

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Probably a smoothie but tastes like juice
Cadry's been juicing up a such a creative storm over at her kitchen that it's been giving me a bad case of juicer envy. Truthfully, I don't know where the hell I'd even put a juicer if I were to get one, so I'm depending on my beloved VitaMix, the workhorse of my kitchen, to make me something that may be a smoothie but tastes like a juice — smooce? Here's what went into my "juice":

1 ripe organic peach, with the skin
1 stalk of organic celery
1 heaping tablespoon hemp hearts
1 heaping tablespoon goji berries
1 date
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup prepared organic carrot juice
1/2 cup filtered water

It was thin like juice, and tasted like juice, but I suppose it was probably a smoothie. I had it for breakfast and it was really, really good.

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Something icky
Click if you dare.
Thanks for sticking with me all this time, and to thank you I'm giving you a warning that if you don't like icky stuff, you should leave now and go get the soup recipe. To those who stay, I'm sorry but this has been on my mind all week and I just have to get it out, and hopefully be done with it. You're the first people I've told.

When we got back from our trip to Wisconsin, I was snacking on some toasted nori while unpacking a stained glass art piece. I thought a small piece of nori had fallen onto the glass, and, following the 5-second rule, I picked it up and popped it into my mouth. Only it wasn't nori. I spit it out and saw that it was a dead, dried-up earwig. Sorry, sorry to have shared that. Eewww eewww. Gross, right?

38 comments:

  1. Thank. It makes me feel great when I read all these stories. It helps me from hopelessness and make me more stronger to fly… thank… for everything.

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  2. Awww yuck...earwig!! Those are not my favorite bug.

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    1. Earwigs creep me out more than almost any other bugs. Ewww ewww. They are not as creepy dead, though, unless ...

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  3. wow these all sound so good! and that is so gross about the earwig! i would have freaked!

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    1. I seemed so calm at the time, but I never said a word about it until now, so maybe I was freaking on the inside.

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  4. Okay, it takes quite a bit to gross me out, but you managed it! ACK!!! (And yet... sorry... LOL! I can just picture your reaction!)

    You sure hit the cooking/entertaining/blogging world running! I'd still be in decompression mode after what you went through in WI and that long drive back to Seattle! I'm in awe. The food all looks great, and I must give that Tuscan herb salt a try, especially!

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    1. I'm glad I succeeded where others may have failed — but at such a price. Sheesh.

      I highly recommend the herb salt — it was fun to make and is so useful. It only takes a little to make a huge difference in a dish.

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  5. Well, you may have juicer envy, but I have dinner party envy. I love how you always have dinners, and I love the simple and tasty menus you provide. I really, really, really, really want to start having some of my own.

    As for the earwig, I feel sorry for the little bugger. Here he is caught up in a box to surely die, probably perishing several states away only to continue traveling as a corpse miles from his birthplace, and then this sweet lady (but he doesn't think so!) pops him into her mouth, and then just spits him right out again! Poooooooor earwig.

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    1. It doesn't seem to me like I have many parties — hardly ever, actually, though I want to have more. I have to keep things simple so I don't feel all stressed out. I'd love to come to a dinner at your house!

      I laughed out loud when I read your earwig tribute — first time I've laughed about it since it happened. It didn't seem funny at the time, as I have a rather deep revulsion to earwigs. Ugh.

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  6. that soup looks incredible! oh yum!!

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    1. I love the soup — so easy, too.

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  7. Enviable spread, per usual. If you were my neighbor I'd invite myself over whenever my nose deemed it necessary.

    Smooce! Great word invention. It's no secret that my bout with a juicer was less than stellar. I don't have a Vita Mix, but whatever it can do without having to wash all the parts of a juicer sounds preferable to me.

    Two things we have in common: love for stained glass, extreme aversion to earwigs. Of course I've never tasted one... I played "earwig" in a Words With Friends game and didn't stop screaming until the game was over, even though my rational opponent explained that although they look especially creepy, they do not- in fact- lodge in your ear and squeeze with those nauseating pincers. I'll take his word for it, but I'm still running in the other direction when I see one.

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    1. You're invited whenever you're in town — you and VM.

      I made the smooce again today and was just as happy with it as I was last time. It mimics the taste and consistency of juice but I don't know how it stacks up on the nutrition side. And I'm with you on cleaning the juicer. I know it would discourage me.

      I don't for a minute believe earwigs don't use the pincers. Ugh. As for the taste, it didn't have one. Remember, it was all dried up and dead ... and hard. Had it been alive, I'm sure I'd be locked away in an institution by now.

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  8. OMG yes, that is disgusting! I should have stopped reading, lol. My own fault--you warned us :-)

    I have never been into cold soups for some reason...they just seem wrong to me. But that does sound pretty good. Maybe I will try it and tell myself it is a smoothie?!

    Courtney

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    1. Yes, I warned you. Did you click on the photo? The stained glass is the real piece but the other thing is not the actual insect involved in the incident. It's photoshopped.

      I've never been into cold soups either, and if I hadn't tasted this one before seeing the recipe, I'm sure I wouldn't have made it. But it was so good. Honest.

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  9. Cadry has been giving me juicer envy as well! Your "juice" looks like the perfect solution! Can't wait to give it a try!

    That soup looks absolutely lovely as well. :-)

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    1. I'm drinking a different version of the juice right now but this time I used two peaches, two small dates and no water. It's thicker and more like a smoothie. mmmm.

      As an avocado lover, I'm happy to have found the soup recipe.

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  10. Your smooce sounds so wonderfully healthy and refreshing! Like others have mentioned, you're probably better off using the Vitamix anyway since all of the parts of the juicer can be a hassle to clean. A Vitamix really spoils a person since it practically cleans itself!

    Everything at your dinner party looks delicious! I think it's such a good idea to pick up some prepared items in addition to making things from scratch for a stress free evening. I've got to try that soup!

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    1. How did we ever manage without our Vitamixes? I hate to sound like an advertisement, but I really do love it.

      I used to think I had to cook everything myself, and I do cook most everything, but a little help from Costco is a big thing. Making one or two things the day before also helps.

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  11. Mmmmm, that soup sounds delicious, and I'm going to try it! I won't try the insect snack though....

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    1. I think you'll like it, Claire. I support your decision to stay away from earwigs. They're not vegan, anyway.

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  12. haha about the big. i can't believe i voluntarily ate a bug when in china. yuck, made me sick, that's karma for you!

    curious what the bread on your plate is? or maybe it is something else?

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    1. Don't think I could eat a bug on purpose, and even the thought of it in my mouth creeps me out a little.

      You're the only one to notice the pita. I've decided to get tested for gluten-intolerance so I have to eat wheat for at least a month for the test to detect antibodies. Also need to eat gluten for the "other" test.

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  13. I love that you were able to have a nice relaxing evening with friends. I always find I'm running around trying to pull things together when friends are over for dinner. I'm going to have to take a tip or two from you. THe quinoa salad looks wonderful.

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    1. There was still a little last minute scrambling, but not the all-day tension and effort that I dread, so yes, it was relaxing. I'd like to pull together a few menus like this so I can have more parties where I'm not feeling stressed. Quinoa salad (or pilaf) is a perfect party food because you can add almost anything you'd like, and serve it hot or cold. And people seem to like it!

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  14. That Quinoa salad looks absolutely delicious. I cannot get enough of that glass of smoothie/juice too. You are such a creative and talented chef and your family is lucky to have you. I will see if i can produce my quinoa salad today. I hope it will turn out great like yours.

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    1. Thanks! I'm sure your quinoa salad will turn out well. :)

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  15. Wow, Andrea, that soup looks fantastic! The salad does, too- gotta love quinoa. All of the ingredients you put in your smooce (ha! love that) sound very good together. I prefer smoothies to juice, so this is right up my alley. Now to just get a VitaMix....

    How horrifying for you with the earwig! We've been seeing them around this year- ugh. I can just imagine how sick you felt after that. :(

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    1. I'm not always a fan of cold soups, but I really liked this one. As for juice, I'm just afraid the juicer would languish on my counter, though I do like juice. I'll just have to pay for someone else to make it right now.

      I would have felt a whole lot worse about the earwig if it had been alive, but yes, it was horrible.

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  16. Your dinner party sounds like a huge success! And I totally agree on the entertained rather than entertaining aspect. The hostess has to enjoy her party, too, right?

    I never made my own juices and I think your smoothy is a great alternative. It's so much easier and there's less waste.

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    1. At least with the smoothie we're getting all the fiber with the juice!

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  17. First, nothing's more satisfying than successfully cooking delicious food for a big group of people, and I must say, it sounds and looks like you did an amazing job! The fact that you did it in such relaxing style is even better :) Also, I love the whole smooce idea. Sounds so scrumptious and refreshing!

    Second, regarding that earwig story - woah! Just... WOAH! Talk about gross!

    It does remind me of a similarly disgusting thing that happened to me, if it makes you feel any better! One time, I was drinking green tea out of an opaque bottle while having a conversation with my dad. I sat the tea down on a table near a plant, continued talking, then took another swig. I felt something in my mouth, but figured it was just a tea leaf, so I used my tongue to hold it over to the side, swallowed the liquid in my mouth, and then excused myself to go and spit it out. Imagine my horror, when out came a spider - which was... ALIVE.

    I actually started screaming. And my dad, of course, started laughing.

    Ewww...

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    1. A live spider? Ugh, that sounds awful. I'm sure I'd be screaming, too. Now I think I'll be very careful to only drink from clear containers.

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  18. I've never had a dinner party like that before, but I sooo want to! That soup sounds mighty interesting. I know for sure my oldest son would drink it up. I might have to slightly warm it, but learning to love chilled soups IS on my to-do list. :)

    And yes, ewww! But at least it's a good story to tell.

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    1. I've been trying to streamline my dinner parties so I don't get so stressed out. I have a tendency to get carried away, but keeping it simple lets me be more relaxed and enjoy the experience.

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  19. Yummy looking dinner party! Smoothie that taste like juice, I like the sound of that. You and bugs. I still remember your mushroom bug story. :-)

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    1. Oh right, the mushroom story. Thanks for reminding me. But, at least in that case I found the worms just in time to prevent them from going into my mouth. Ick.

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