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Archive for August, 2010

Warm Quinoa Salad with Kale and Arugula

One of my favorite ways to create a recipe is to hit the farmer’s market, buy what looks best, go through the garden at home grabbing what’s ready and then I look through the pantry. The arugula and bell peppers at the farmers market looked so amazing and my kale and mint at home are both growing like crazy, so I wanted to come up with a meal using these things.  I thought a warm quinoa dish would be perfect. I decided to cook up the kale to wilt it, since it can be tough and bitter, but I left the arugula raw since it would wilt with the warmth of the quinoa and veggies, plus I wanted a little bit of crunch. YUM! this salad had so much flavor going on. We had this as our main dish, it was light but filling and delicious and equally as pretty to look at. This dish would work great as a side dish or your main, as we did. It’s also great cold, right out of the fridge for a quick snack or lunch. Another great vegan dish, perfect for a dinner party or BBQ.

Warm Quinoa Salad with Kale and Arugula
serves 4

1 cup quinoa
1 large bunch kale, stems removed, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil plus 2 teaspoons
1 medium onion, diced
1 lemon, zested
1-2 lemons, juiced
1 bunch of arugula, stems removed, finely chopped
1 bunch fresh mint, stems removed, finely chopped
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Cook quinoa according to the package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil over a medium-high heat. Add onion and red pepper, saute until onions are translucent. Add garlic, cook for 1-2 minutes. Add kale and lemon zest. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until the kale is wilted. Remove from the heat.

In a small bowl add 1/4 cup of olive oil, the juice from 1-2 lemons, 1 minced garlic clove, salt and pepper. Whisk together.

After the quinoa is cooked (about 15 minutes), add to a large serving bowl and fluff with a fork. Add the kale mixture, fresh arugula and fresh mint, toss to combine. Pour the dressing over the top, toss again to combine. Taste, add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve. This can be served warm, room temperature or cold.

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Brown & Black Rice Casserole with Black Beans & Garden Vegetables

Yesterday was a bit cooler of a day and it got me so excited, Autumn is coming, yay yay! It’s my favorite time of year! I can’t wait to do more cooking inside and stop relying on the grill and cold dishes. I wanted to make some sort of casserole or bake with ingredients I had on hand, and it of course had to be cleanse-friendly, so I came up with this recipe on the fly. It is a wordy name, but it is a super simple dish to prepare. It is quite hearty and really can be pretty versatile, as well. I would have added bell peppers if I had any on hand, but since I have an abundance of banana peppers from our garden, I thought that little kick of spice would be nice. You could also add carrots if you had them on hand. I had black rice in the pantry that I thought would make this dish even tastier, so instead of just brown rice, I decided to add a bit of the black rice in. The flavor from the it is unlike any other rice I have had, a bit sweet and nutty. Certainly if you don’t have any on hand, just brown rice would do or you could add in wild rice.

This would also make a great side dish or if you like your meat with dinner, you could to bake it with chicken breasts. For you cheese lovers, topping the casserole with a bit of shredded cheese right at the end to get a little melty top would be delicious, too. Since I am avoiding dairy right now on this cleanse, I was of course thinking about the cheese on top, the whole time I was making this, however when it came out and I took that first bite, I realized quickly, it didn’t need it at all. I put a dollop of guacamole on the side and it was perfect.

I was concerned about how this dish would photograph as the color from the beans and black rice took over and made it a bit muddy. After making this, I think that a yellow or orange bell pepper would have added a bit more of a pop of color. What do you think – does it look tasty?

Brown & Black Rice Casserole with Black Beans & Garden Vegetables
serves 4 as a main course, 6-8 as a side dish

1 cup uncooked organic brown rice
1/2 cup uncooked black rice
1 small red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 banana peppers, chopped, seeds and ribs removed
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1-2 plum tomatoes, diced
1 can organic black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups water
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
small bunch of cilantro, freshly chopped
2 teaspoons kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon organic olive oil

Preheat oven to 375º

Rinse the brown and black rice; our into a 2 quart casserole dish. To the rice add the next 7 ingredients. Stir in cumin, chili powder, salt, fresh cilantro (reserve some for serving) and olive oil, mix well. Pour water over the mixture and cover.

Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes; check at this point to see if more water needs to be added. Bake another 30-45 minutes more, or until rice is cooked (cooking time with vary greatly based on the types of rice used). Stir well before serving and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, top with fresh cilantro.

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Spinach Salad with Cranberries and Avocado

Being on this cleanse has given me the opportunity to cram in the veggies, even more than I already do. I made a huge and simple pot of vegetable soup on Monday that I have been eating from all week-long, with the weather being a bit cooler, it has been perfect. When I got home last night I was so hungry, I couldn’t even wait for the soup to heat up, so I threw this salad together quick as a little starter before the soup. It is based on a recipe I saved from Whole Living, but the original recipe called for pomegranate instead of cranberries. However, it isn’t in season quite yet and I was unable to find any at the market so I thought the dried cranberries sounded like a great substitute. I also went with baby spinach instead of flat leaf spinach. The salad was so refreshing and light, the crunch from the sunflower seeds and the subtle sweetness from the cranberries were perfect together. What Whole Living said about this recipe “The sunflower seeds and spinach in this salad are top-notch sources of magnesium, which enables your body to create dopamine. The avocado’s vitamin B6 produces serotonin, a calming neurotransmitter.” Even better.

Spinach Salad with Dried Cranberries and Avocado
serves 6

1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 cups organic baby spinach, well washed and dried
2 tablespoons roasted, hulled sunflower seeds
1 Hass avocado

In a large bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons lemon juice, mustard, and oil; season with salt and pepper. Toss spinach, sunflower seeds, and cranberries with dressing in bowl. Transfer to a serving platter.

Halve avocado and remove pit. Scoop out flesh and thinly slice lengthwise; drizzle with remaining lemon juice. Transfer to plate and arrange salad on top. Serve immediately.

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Blueberry Ginger Almond Milk Smoothie

After a week at the beach, filled with friends, food, beach fires, sun and of course, cocktails, I wanted to treat my body to a 10-day cleanse when I got home. Mostly it was because I felt like I had eaten more meat, cheese and alcohol than normal. Though I stayed away from the junk food, the processed crap and yucky meats, I definitely got ice cream one night and may have had a smore or two around the fire over the week. I could feel that sluggish feeling and I knew that meant my body needed some cleaning up. I decided on top of my usual gluten-free, no processed foods lifestyle, I was going to avoid meat, dairy, sugar, caffeine and alcohol for 10 days. I am on day 5 and I am glad I made the decision to do this quick cleanse. Since I did the 30-day cleanse a few months ago and there is little detox I had to go through this time around, in a way, this feels like a breeze. Though, I am not going quite as strict as the last time, I know that just avoiding the major things will make a huge difference in the way I feel. For me, when I cleanse, I try to focus on eating a lot of vegetables, healthy grains and legumes. I go light on the fruits and healthy oils, but I don’t cut them out completely. I hope to cleanse again at the change of the seasons, but it will depend on how my body is feeling. I also really try to include a lot of spices and herbs in my meals, since they are great natural detox and healing aids and are really helpful for purifying your digestive system. I had some ginger in the fridge and thought it would be a great addition to this smoothie. Ginger is warming and promotes digestion and has been used for centuries to aid in gastrointestinal distress. It is also known to boost the immune system and is an effective remedy for coughs, congestion and sore throat.

Most almond milks have a sweetener of some sort added, I try to find one with the least amount of sweetener, I have yet to find one without any. The organic almond milk I used was very lightly sweetened with evaporated cane juice, so this smoothie didn’t need any sweetener added, but if you wish, you could add 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of organic raw honey or whatever your sweetener of choice is. Homemade almond milk is also an option. I came across this recipe on So Good and Tasty for Homemade Almond Milk and I plan to try making it very soon. The nice thing about making your own almond milk is you can control the amount of sweetness and you can even use the pulp from the nuts for a spread.

I have made this smoothie a couple of times this week and not only is it a filling and tasty breakfast, it has definitely helped with the sweet cravings I had early on.

Blueberry Ginger Almond Milk Smoothie
serves 1

1 – 1 1/2 cups organic almond milk (I used vanilla flavored)
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 – 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely minced
a few ice cubes

Put all the ingredients in the blender, blend until smooth. Add more almond milk or ice as necessary.

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Thai Rice Noodle Salad

After all of our friends left the beach on Friday, Mark and I stayed and my parents came out to spend the weekend with us and for the big Greek Family reunion on Saturday. Though my Papou (My Grandfather) passed away 7 years ago and my Yia Yia (My Grandmother) 5 years ago, Papou’s remaining siblings, all the children, the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren all get together every summer at the beach. It is so amazing that we all still get together and are so close. We get tons of lamb, it marinates for days and then my Dad and his cousin Paul grill it up. Everyone brings a dish or a snack to share and everyone eats their faces off. So much delicious, authentic Greek food and other goodies.

I had all the ingredients on hand last week to make this salad for everyone at the beach house but never got around to it and although this dish has nothing to do with Greek food in the least, since I had everything with me and it was both vegan and gluten-free, I knew it was a good dish to share. If I had shredded carrots I would have added those, but it certainly didn’t need it. Additionally, I left out the fish sauce in the dressing, since I didn’t know if anyone was vegan, but normally I would have included it. Since there was so many people, I actually doubled this recipe and made huge serving of the salad, which was nice since I had leftovers.

*Also, I’ll be honest, the photo above makes this salad seem boring and blah, but it is anything but, the dressing has so much flavor and it’s damn delicious. I need to get better with the camera.

Paul and my Dad making the lamb for the family reunion

Paul and my Dad grilling the lamb

Cold Asian Rice Noodle Salad

Dressing:

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons fish sauce (leave this out to keep it vegan)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of ginger, finely minced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon organic raw sugar (or honey)
juice from 1/2 lime
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Whisk it all together. Set aside.

Salad:

8 ounces thin rice noodles or rice stick noodles (the kind you just have to soak)
1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cucumber, quartered lengthwise, and sliced 1/2-inch thick (I used a beautiful organic heirloom satsuki madori from my garden)
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
1/2 cup of Thai basil, roughly torn or chopped up
1/2 cup of fresh mint, roughly torn or chopped up
*(you can also use fresh cilantro and/or regular basil)
3 or 4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts, chopped
1/2 lime
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
kosher salt, to taste

Prepare the noodles according to package’s directions.
Drain and rinse with cold water. Drain well and pat dry. Add noodles, cucumbers, tomatoes, jalapeno, basil, mint, scallions, peanuts and whatever else, to a large bowl. Pour on the dressing, toss to combine. Squeeze the juice from the other half of a lime over the top. Garnish with a small handful more each of chopped peanuts and sliced scallions. Taste, add salt, pepper or more lime to taste. Serve room temperature or put in the refrigerator for an hour or two and serve cold.

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Mexican Frittata

Andrea and I decided on a whim to whip up this Mexican Frittata the last morning we were all together at the beach house and I have to say, I am super impressed with how it came out for completely winging it. I really love cooking for people, I could have stayed at the beach house another week and just continued to cook, enjoy that view and relax. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible, we leave again in a few days for Seattle, then Chicago. I guess we will have to just make this a yearly trip, then.

My measurements are not exact on some of this, we were trying to use up a lot of the food we had on hand from the week at the beach. I only used half of a green pepper and 11 eggs, because that’s what we had. You can definitely improvise with frittatas, use what you have on hand and get creative. There really are no wrong ingredients. Frittatas are a great way to make breakfast for a large group of people with very little effort. For us, it was a great way to put a lot of the fresh leftover ingredients to good use. I had some ground pork breakfast sausage from Sojourner Farms that I really wanted to make something with, so we came up with the idea to do a Mexican inspired frittata.

Later that same day, we took a trip out to Sojourner to pick up our chickens for the rest of the season, it was so awesome to be able to show our friends the farm where a lot of the food they ate over the week came from and introduce them to the man who grows it all. We even got to meet and pet a bunch of the pigs. Pierre took us around and we really got to spend some quality time on the land. I really cannot recommend enough that you find a pasture-raised farm close by you, that you truly love, that raises safe, healthy and natural animals. Sojourner Farms has pasture-raised chickens, pork, beef and eggs, he also raises bees and makes honey. We are so lucky that it is a short trip to get there and we are rewarded with supporting a sustainable farmer who raises his animals from birth to market and has a great love not only for his practice and the animals, but also for the land he raises them on. It is so important to see where your food comes from and how it is raised. Find a grass-fed farm near you using Eat Wild

Sam and Black at Sojourner Farms

This is Sam and Black from Sojourner Farms, they are huge lovable adults used for breeding.

Mexican Frittata
serves 8

3/4 lb ground breakfast sausage, I use pastured-raised, antibiotic and hormone free, pork breakfast sausage from Sojourner Farms
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 small yellow squash, halved lengthwise and sliced
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons butter
12 fresh farm eggs, I use brown eggs from Painted Meadows Farms
1 cup mexican blend cheeses, grated (Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Colby, etc)
1 cup of halved cherry tomatoes
2 or 3 scallions, sliced thinly
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped

Heat large oven-safe non-stick skillet (or cast iron skillet) over medium heat until hot, add sausage and cook until browned. Remove the sausage from the pan and drain off most of the liquid, leave a bit and add olive oil. Once hot again, add garlic and shallot, cook and stir until tender. Add in green pepper, zucchini, squash and red pepper flakes, stir and sauté until tender, about 5-10 minutes. Drain off any excess liquid. Whisk eggs, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the sausage and butter to the vegetable mixture in the skillet, allow the butter to melt. Add the beaten eggs to the skillet, fold gently to combine. Allow the eggs to begin to set. With a spatula, lift up an edge of the frittata and tilt the skillet to allow the uncooked mixture to flow to the bottom of the pan. Continue to lift until the egg on top is barely runny. Top the frittata with the halved cherry tomatoes, sprinkle with grated cheese and slide the skillet into the oven. Bake the frittata until it is firm to the touch, about 5-10 minutes. Slide the frittata out of the pan onto a serving platter, top with red pepper flakes, sliced scallions, chopped cilantro and a bit of kosher salt, cut into 8 wedges. We served a bit of salsa verde on the side.

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Greek Black-Eyed Peas Salad

Here is another dish I made out at the beach house for everyone. I am on a big black-eyed peas kick right now (and no, I am not referring to the terrible pop group). I made that Hoppin’ John Salad, not too long ago, which is an Southern tradition brought over from Africa, so, I was surprised to see the beans used in this Greek style salad, as I most definitely think of the South when I think of black-eyed peas. Being a Greek girl, that loves ALL Greek foods, I was excited to try this variation on the classic Greek flavors that I know and it really sounded like the perfect side for an outdoor dinner. Even my cousin Andrea, who doesn’t like beans typically, told me she liked this salad. SCORE!

I was also super excited about using the sun-dried tomatoes preserved in oil, since I always buy them dry and have been looking for an excuse to experiment with these. You won’t want to use the dry ones in this recipe, as you need to be able to slice them and you need the oil in the salad. You can definitely use fresh tomatoes, if you have those on hand, just add a little bit of olive oil to the salad. Since I have so much fresh oregano in my yard, I did add a bunch of fresh chopped oregano to the salad, I really couldn’t resist as it was a perfect match.

I really would prefer to be cooking with dried black-eyed peas, but I have yet to find them locally, so I have been using canned beans. I went ahead and posted the recipe using the dried beans, since that is what I would prefer. If you are substituting canned black-eyed peas for the dry peas, use approximately two 15-ounce cans. Rinse thoroughly. Skip step 1 and step 3 in the instructions. Another tip from Elise on this recipe: Don’t add the lemon juice until you serve the salad: It helps keep the greens bright.

Greek Black-Eyed Peas Salad

Greek Black-Eyed Peas Salad
Serves 8-10
Adapted from original recipe on Simply Recipes by Hank Shaw of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

2 cups dry black-eyed peas
Salt
1 package of feta cheese, about 7 ounces
1 jar of sun-dried tomatoes in oil, about 8 ounces, sliced
1 cup black olives, preferably Kalamata or oil-cured, roughly chopped
1 finely chopped green onion
1 finely chopped garlic clove
1/2 cup fresh oregano, roughly chopped
1 large bunch of baby spinach, about 1 pound, washed, roughly chopped
Zest and juice of a lemon
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add enough salt to make the water taste like the sea. Turn the heat down to low and add the black-eyed peas. Let them cook slowly, uncovered, until they are done, anywhere from half and hour to an hour, depending on how old the peas are. Don’t let the water simmer.

2. Add the spinach to a large bowl. Crumble the feta cheese into the bowl and add all the other ingredients except the lemon juice. Mix well.

3. When the black-eyed peas are done, pour them into a colander and spray them with cold water to stop the cooking. Pick through and discard any loose skins or mashed peas; you’ll find a few, but hopefully not many.

4. Add the black-eyed peas to the salad, mix well. Squirt some lemon juice over and top with freshly ground black pepper. Serve.

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Quinoa Salad with Toasted Almonds

Again, sorry for the lack of posts. This time it wasn’t that I wasn’t cooking or away for work, Mark and I took a week “off” with 5 of our friends and spent some time at my family’s beautiful beach house on Lake Erie that we rented for an entire week. What a much-needed, relaxing time away. We got to just hang out and spend time together, no event to rush off to, no posters to be printed, just good a old-fashioned vacation. Sure most of us still had to pull the laptops out and get some work done, but being away from life, on the beach and with the people you love most, is one of the best ways you can spend your time.

We of course, planned meals and cooked and ate like kings and queens, ok and we may have drunk a bit, too. I had a handful of recipes I wanted to make and some that I wanted to try for the first time, what better group of people to use as guinea pigs than your friends.

Over the next couple of days I will be posting some of the recipes that I made. I did make a huge pot of my chili one night, but I never measure with that and of course forgot photos, but I make that often during the fall, so that will be posted soon.

The first recipe that I tried out was this delicious quinoa salad with toasted almonds. It was a great way to highlight all the lovely veggies that are in season and it was the perfect side to one of our butterflied grilled chickens from Sojourner Farms that Mark and I made for everyone. Since there were 7 of us, I multiplied the original recipe for this salad by 4, to serve 8, but I am posting it here to serve 2. Not only is this recipe gluten-free but also vegan.

It was so good, we were all eating it right after it was done cooking, right out of the bowl on the countertop and before it had fully cooled. It is always hard to please a large group of people with food, but surprisingly everyone loved this salad and the leftovers were perfect for lunch after enjoying some time in the sun and swimming. A couple of things that I had changed since I made such a large batch, was instead of 1 yellow pepper, since we needed so much more, I went with one each of yellow, red and orange peppers. I also went with green zucchini and yellow squash, since I had an abundance of both, and I loved all the color. Because we were at the beach house and our supplies were limited, I also skipped the celery when I made it, and instead of dried red pepper flakes (which we didn’t have), I went with a hot pepper oil from some hot pepper sandwich spread that Allison and Craig had bought for sandwiches, the subtle heat was so perfect. I have become a huge fan of quinoa and I love it’s versatility. It can be served like most grains, though it is actually a seed, it is perfect sweet or savory, hot or cold. It really is the super food, as they call it. It is packed with protein and loaded with fiber. Quinoa can be found with other grains in the natural or organic section at most supermarkets or at natural food stores.

This recipe came from the Whole Living website and it was featured in Body + Soul Magazine, March 2006. I have a subscription to Whole Living, and I really cannot recommend it enough, great recipes, articles and tips for clean and healthy living.

Quinoa Salad With Toasted Almonds
Serves 2
Adapted from Body + Soul Magazine, March 2006

1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup (3 ounces) quinoa
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 yellow bell pepper, ribs and seeds discarded, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/8 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, plus more for garnish (optional)
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 large celery stalk, diced
1 lime, halved

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast almonds until crisp, lightly browned, and fragrant, about 7 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. Meanwhile, place quinoa in a fine sieve and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear; drain well.
In a medium saucepan, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat. Add yellow pepper, garlic, scallions, and red-pepper flakes; cook until the pepper is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
Stir in quinoa, thyme, 1 cup water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook 7 minutes. Stir in zucchini, cover, and cook until quinoa is tender but not mushy, 5 to 8 minutes longer. Remove the saucepan from heat.
Stir in celery, almonds, and remaining 2 teaspoons oil, season with salt, and fluff with a fork. Cool to room temperature before packing into two containers and refrigerating. When ready to eat, squeeze lime over salad, if desired. Serve with additional lime wedge and thyme, if desired.

Quinoa Salad with Toasted Almonds

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I try to keep this blog all about food, cooking and eating, but as it happens, my life trickles in now and again. This is both the fun and weird parts of blogging. I am sure many of you have seen our sweet dog, Derby’s adorable face pop up on here now and again. We lost our sweet baby girl unexpectedly on July 25, which is part of the reason for my lack of posts on here. She was just 6 years old.

She loved spending time with me in the kitchen and every single meal I ever cooked at home, was made with Derby at my feet. I always joked that she was my sous-chef. Derby loved the sound of the cutting board and the oven door opening, especially since I started baking her treats. I even made her a birthday cake this year for her birthday.

As much as I thought I shouldn’t post this on here, I felt like I owed it to Derby, since she was such a part of me cooking and the joy I felt in the kitchen. It has definitely been hard being in the kitchen since she is gone, but food is and always will be a comfort in life. Although it took me a bit to get back in the kitchen, the first few meals were made with tears in my eyes, and the food that falls off my cutting board lies there uneaten, I will never cook a meal in my kitchen and not think of Derby.

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Here is something we posted on our studio blog about our Derby that I wanted to share with all of you:

I’ll be honest, I have been absolutely dreading writing this blog post. My heart is pounding and my hands are shaking. Somehow this blog post  just makes this all so much more real.

On July 25, we lost our beloved dog, Derby Lou, very unexpectedly. She was just 6 years old. We are just still in total shock and disbelief. For anyone that knows Mark and I, you know just how big a part of our lives Derby was, she was our baby (a very, very spoiled baby, at that). She came to the studio with us every single day, was always here with us when we were working late, hung by our sides with every poster we printed, was at every party we had at the store, she was a part of everything we did. Her dog bed sat next to my desk and this studio was built with her in mind. Derby was the sweetest little thing and it was hard for people who met her at Hero (or anywhere for that matter) not to fall in love with her on their first meeting. She loved people who loved her and there were so many. We had people who would come by the store, just to see Derby, to bring her toys and treats or to just play with her. It’s quite possible that some of our customers liked her more than us.

Derby loved her super long walks off leash in the woods as much as she loved her city walks through Allentown during the workday. She loved coming home at the end of the work day and laying at my feet while I cooked dinner, she would come running at the sound of my knife hitting the cutting board.  Derby had so many nicknames and equally as many songs that we made up for her. She was a super funny dog with a heart of gold and personality that couldn’t be matched. We will miss so many things about Derby, like her “baby dinosaur” groans, which was her subtle way of reminding us she was still here, or the funny spastic freak-out roll that she did all over the floor when she was bored.

There is an emptiness at the studio and our house now and an even bigger emptiness in our hearts. That unmistakable sound of Derby prancing across the hardwood floors, the jingle of her collar and those little bully grunts, are all missing and we both notice it so many times through the day. It’s so quiet. The ride home from work, where she used to bounce around, with an excitement level that could never be matched on the ride into work, is now a quiet, somber drive home to the place where she really got to be herself. At home, Derby could really only ever be found on the couch next to one of us or under the bed upstairs chewing on a roll of toilet paper, if god forbid we were too busy to cuddle.

I can’t bring myself to move her food bowl, or her dog bed in our bedroom. I keep waiting to see her smiling face come around a corner, with her “question mark face”, asking us for a walk or to play.  I have slept with her favorite toy every night, just to be able to smell her, and a couple of times a day, every single day since she passed, Mark and I have been remembering all the special moments we had with our little girl, we laugh and we cry together. We are so grateful that in the 6 short years we had together, we got to live and spend more time with Derby, than most people are able to in a lifetime with their pets. The night before Derby got sick we had planned on working late since we had so much going on and were leaving in a few days on a trip, instead we locked up the store, grabbed the leash and we went for a long walk together as a family, it was our last walk. I would give anything to go back on that walk, keep walking and never stop.

Do yourself a favor, enjoy every single day with your pet, take that walk even if you are tired, throw the ball even if you are agitated. Derby made every single day better and she made both of us better people.

Goodbye Derby, we will love you forever.

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Zucchini Pie

Speaking of an abundance of zucchini, I came across this recipe on the Whole Living website last week and thought it sounded like a delicious and different way to use the zucchini I had so much of. I changed a couple of things around, like using fresh oregano instead of dill and parsley, since my oregano is growing out of control and it seemed like a perfect match with the other lovely mediterranean flavors. I also had a ton of cherry tomatoes from our garden, so I quartered a handful of those instead of using a whole tomato like the original recipe called for. If yellow zucchini is unavailable, you can use just green zucchini.

This simple crustless pie had so much flavor and was perfectly filling. I made it for dinner last night and since there was so much leftover, I had a slice of it for breakfast.

Zucchini Pie
Serves 6
adapted from Whole Living

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound (about 2 or 3) green zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 scallions, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 pound (about 2 or 3) yellow zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup freshly chopped oregano
5 large eggs plus 5 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add green zucchini, half the scallions, half the garlic, A teaspoon marjoram, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring frequently, until zucchini has softened and is beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; transfer to a large bowl; set aside.

Rinse skillet; repeat process with yellow zucchini and remaining teaspoon olive oil, scallions, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon marjoram, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Transfer to bowl with cooked green zucchini; let sit until cooled. Drain and discard any liquid.

Add oregano, and eggs to zucchini; stir to combine. Pour into a 9 1/2-inch round, deep baking dish. Sprinkle with tomatoes and feta. Bake until set, about 1 hour. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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