Making the Most of Summer

by Nina Z


How is it already the end of August!? While I've enjoyed my summer Fridays and the extended evening light, I'm ready to say goodbye to stifling hot subway stations and hello to my sweaters and booties.

As I wait for cooler days, I'm still going to enjoy one of my favorite parts of summer: farmer's market produce. 

I needed to make sure none of this went to waste - I'm only one person and can only eat so much kale - so, I whipped up food I could stick in the freezer:

- Kale pesto with basil, walnuts + goat's milk pecorino
- Zucchini pancakes with chives, green onion + lemon zest

I'm actually not a huge fan of zucchini, but they looked so cute and perfectly green... I couldn't pass them up! And frying them in coconut oil couldn't make them taste worse, right?

These little cakes are super simple to make, AND they're gluten- and dairy-free, so they're a hit with all your friends who can't eat this and that.

Here's what you'll need for 14-16 small pancakes:

  • 2-3 small/medium zucchinis, grated
  • 1/2 tsp salt (for zucchini)
  • 4 eggs, whisked
  • 2 TBS green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 TBS chives, finely chopped
  • zest of 1 lemon + 1 tsp lemon juice
  • salt + pepper (+ red pepper flake) to taste
  • coconut oil (for the pan)

Place grated zucchini in a colander, sprinkle 1/2 tsp salt over zucchini and toss to coat. Let zucchini sit for 10 minutes to let some water drain out. Wring zucchini out with paper towel, fine towel, or cheese cloth. You may need to do this in batches.

Combine zucchini, eggs, green onions, chives, lemon zest + juice, and salt + pepper in a large bowl and mix until thoroughly combined.

Heat coconut oil in a large pan (preferably deep to avoid splattering) over medium heat. Make sure coconut oil is covering bottom of the pan.

Spoon in 2-3 TBS batter and flatten with spatula. Cook for 3 minutes until golden brown, and flip. Take out of the pan and place on a plate/pan lined with a paper towel to drain excess oil. Repeat until you're all out of batter!

I'm not gonna lie... I ate a few standing over the pan while I was cooking. But, the rest I let cool, wrapped tightly in foil, stored in a ziplock bag, labeled, and stuck in the freezer for future lazy/easy meals. To defrost, take the pancakes out of the freezer in the morning, leave in the fridge, and they should be set to heat up that evening.

I did the same with the pesto: I separated into batches, kept one in the fridge and the rest in the freezer. And then I enjoyed a maybe-too-large bowl of pasta after a busy day of work, gym + errands:

Here's to spending more Saturdays at the farmers market, and reaping the benefits even weeks later!


Weekends Are Meant for Brunch

by Nina Z


I don't care what anyone says about brunch. I love it and how it makes me feel. Sorry I'm not sorry.

Whether you're rolling out of bed in last night's makeup to go wait on line for bottomless cocktails and some version of a Benedict,

OR, you've already been to the gym and had breakfast and ran errands AND just want to have breakfast-y food again, there's no wrong way to EMBRACE THE BRUNCH!

Pancakes are usually served stacked and can leave you feeling way too full after only one. Where's the fun in that!? I want to have my pancakes, and eat them too! Here's a protein-and-fiber packed pancake that won't leave you feeling more hungover.

Here's what you'll need to make 12 medium-sized pancakes (18-20 small pancakes):

  • 2 large very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats, uncooked
  • 1/4 cup almond milk (or milk of your choice)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

In a large mixing bowl, mash bananas with a fork until smooth. Add in eggs and whisk until combined. Add in oats, milk, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon, and mix until thoroughly combined.

Heat griddle on low-medium heat. Spray with cooking oil or add 1 TBS Earth Balance and spread evenly on pan. You'll know it's hot enough when you sprinkle water on the griddle and it sizzles and steams!

Spoon the pancake mixture onto the griddle to make pancakes of desired size. Let cook for 2-3 minutes on one side or until the edges begin bubbling, then flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes on the other side. The pancakes are done when they are no longer liquid in the center.

Your first batch may take longer than the following batches, since the pan may still be heating up. I was always told growing up that the second batch is better than the first.

Serve immediately with Vermont Maple Syrup.

Having brunch at a restaurant can be fun, but staying home and cooking in your pajamas/gym clothes is a real treat.


Fourth of July: Not-so-traditional Brisket Tacos

by Nina Z


When I hear 'brisket,' I think of the Jewish holidays. No meal was ever complete without this melt-in-your-mouth dish. Typically braised over a long period of time with tomatoes, carrots, onions, potatoes, red wine and savory rosemary and thyme, brisket is nothing short of spectacular.

When I hear 'tacos,' I think of Mexican food. Mexican cooking incorporates all kinds of meats cooked low and slow: beef, pork, chicken, you name it.

Why not combine the two?

As the fourth of July holiday approached, I wanted to make something familiar, but "with a twist," as I always say. I wanted to make something you could eat with your hands, could be easily customized by my guests, and required minimal day-of cooking. Tacos fit the bill.

My friends declared, "It's the fourth of July... you should be making American food," and "No BBQ!?" My rebuttal: "The slow-cooker is very 'American'," and "Who doesn't like tacos!?"

After 7 hours in the slow-cooker, brisket is ready to shred!

After 7 hours in the slow-cooker, brisket is ready to shred!

Here's what you need to make the brisket for Brisket Tacos:
Serves 8-10 people easily with lots of leftovers; can serve up to 16-18 people

Spice rub:

  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 TBS adobo sauce from canned chiles in adobo
  • 1 TBS cumin
  • 1 TBS paprika
  • 1/2 TBS salt + pepper to taste

Brisket:

  • One 7lb brisket - you may not be able to find this whole, so you can buy multiple packages of brisket that add up to 7lbs
  • OR, 4-5 lbs brisket and 2-3 lbs short ribs - this is what I did since I could not find enough brisket; worked out perfectly!

Sauce for the brisket:

  • 1 TBS vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 TBS tomato paste
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 TBS chili powder
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup

Tacos:

  • Corn tortillas
  • Your choice of toppings (see below)

Combine all spice rub ingredients in a bowl. Rub generously over the brisket, wrap brisket in saran wrap, and marinate for at least 4 hours, or ideally overnight.

When ready to cook, place marinated brisket into the slow cooker. Set a sauté pan over medium heat. Heat vegetable oil until shimmering, and add in the rest of the sauce ingredients except for the water, vinegar and ketchup. Cook until the onions and garlic have softened, about 5-6 minutes.

Transfer onion mixture to the slow cooker, add only the water, and set for 6-7 hours on high, or 9-10 hours on low.

When the brisket has finished cooking, transfer from the slow cooker to rest on a wooden cutting board. If you used short ribs too, remove meat from the bones and add to cutting board. Tent with foil for 15-20 minutes. This will let the juices re-incorporate into the meat. While the meat is resting, let the sauce in the slow cooker rest for 5 minutes, and skim off as much fat as you can. Whisk in apple cider vinegar and ketchup.

After the meat has rested, shred with two forks and add back into the slow cooker with the sauce. Then, back away from the brisket as your guests may run you over.

Top with your favorite taco toppings - guacamole and slaw are my two favorites!

Top with your favorite taco toppings - guacamole and slaw are my two favorites!

For a quick taco topping, I made red cabbage slaw, tossed with apple cider vinegar, sesame oil, celery salt, and a dash of salt and pepper.

On the side: Snap pea, radish and red onion salad [on the blog soon!]; black beans and rice; peach and mango salsa; guacamole; red and green lettuce with a lemony-garlic vinaigrette.

This may seem like a lot of work, but I promise you it's not. While the brisket is cooking practically all day, you have time to make side dishes and get ready for your guests to arrive. You can probably even squeeze in a nap. Then, you can decorate for the festivities:

With lots of food you need lots to drink! Mojitos and margaritas galore!

With lots of food you need lots to drink! Mojitos and margaritas galore!

We spent the rest of the night lighting sparklers to celebrate our nation's holiday and the beginning of a much-needed long weekend.

For your next gathering, let the slow-cooker do all the work so you can join your own party!