Cucumber Coolers

If I ever decide to open a spa (instead of a wine bar like I’m currently planning), I’m going to serve these Cucumber Coolers to my clients.  They look and taste like refreshing cocktails, but there’s nothing in them except for whole fruits and veg.  Crisp and clean – does it get better than that?

Cucumber Coolers

1 cup water
1/2 cup mint leaves, packed
1 apple, peeled
1 English cucumber, cut into large chunks
juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon (to taste)
1 cup ice

  • Combine all ingredients, in the above order and starting with the juice of just 1/2 lemon, in VitaMix or ohter high speed blender.  Process until smooth.  Taste and decide if you need to add more lemon juice.  Serve garnished with cucumber rounds.

Source: Covered In Flour

Minted Fruit Salad

Fruit salad is one of my favorite foods.  Growing up, it always seemed like a special treat to have fresh fruit salad.  Now that I’m an adult (according to the government, anyway), I get to have fruit salad whenever I want… and I want a LOT of fruit salad.  Several mornings a week, I’ll throw together a quickie fruit salad from whatever fresh fruit I happen to have on hand and take it to work to eat for breakfast at my desk.  But this isn’t your run-of-the-mill weekday fruit salad, although it’s almost as easy.  The addition of mint and fresh orange juice really take this salad to the next level and make it perfect for a fresh dessert or celebratory brunch… or even for any spring weekend when you just feel like having something extra special.

Minted Fruit Salad

2 mangoes
2 oranges
1 cup quartered strawberries
2 bananas
1/2 cup mint, roughly chopped

  • Peel and cut mango as follows: slice the cheeks off, being careful not to cut into the pit.  Score into the mango cheeks in a grid.  Pop mango cheeks inside out and carefully cut the pieces out, creating cubes.  Add to mixing bowl.  Repeat with second mango.
  • Segment an orange: cut the tops and bottoms off, then slice the peel off between the pith and the flesh.  Cut between the membranes and pop out orange segments.  Cut each segment in half and add to mixing bowl.  Squeeze the juice from the membranes over the mango and orange segments.  Repeat with second orange.
  • Slice two bananas and add to mixing bowl, along with strawberries and mint.  Carefully toss all together.

Nota Baker: You don’t have to use the fruit I suggested above.  If you happen to have something else knocking around your produce drawer, or you see a particularly good-looking pineapple at the market, by all means, use that.  Just make sure you invite me over to enjoy it with you!

Source: Covered In Flour

Carrot-Mint Juice

Confession time: I don’t like orange juice.  I’ll drink it on a very infrequent basis, when I’m really in the mood, but I am not the one throwing back a glass of Tropicana every morning.  For a long time, I was a “don’t drink your calories” person.  I stuck to water and tea (unsweetened) as my beverages on a daily basis, and wine for a treat.  I still don’t believe in drinking calories in the form of sugary soda, calorie-laden “coffee drinks,” cocktails (okay, I bend this rule occasionally) or sugar-bomb “juices.”

However… I have come to realize that there is a place for getting nutrients through liquids.  I’m talking about healthy whole-fruit smoothies (especially green smoothies) and fresh juices.  I recently got a VitaMix (cue angels singing) and I’ve been blending and juicing my veg-loving heart out.  Here is one of my first creations: a minty fresh carrot juice that’s full of fiber and Vitamin A goodness.  This is nothing but fruits and veggies, mint, and water.  No added sugar, nothing fake.  Just pure carroty goodness.

Carrot-Mint Juice

1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup mint leaves, lightly packed
1 apple (such as Golden Delicious), quartered and cored
2-3 medium carrots, chopped into thirds
1 cup ice

  • Place all ingredients in VitaMix in the order they appear in ingredient list.  Start VitaMix on variable speed 1, raise quickly to 10, and then to high.  Blend on high for one minute or until desired consistency is reached.  Makes 3 cups.

Source: Adapted from VitaMix

Chilled Cucumber-Yogurt Soup

It’s been another hot-hot-HOT summer in DC.  I’ve been dealing with the heat in many ways: getting up before 5:00 a.m. to get my runs in before the sun comes up, jumping through the neighbors’ sprinklers, and eating plenty of chilled soup.  The first chilled soup I ever had was a classic gazpacho – my mom and little brother make it best – and that’s still my favorite.  But I’ve been on something of a Greek yogurt kick recently and this is a perfect, easy, light and refreshing supper to whip up when it’s so hot you can’t face the idea of turning on the stove.  The “soup” is icy cold and minty, and the radishes add a fun crunch.  It’s the second best way to cool off from the heat of a mid-Atlantic summer.

The best way to cool off?  Well, duh… the neighbors’ sprinklers.

Chilled Cucumber-Yogurt Soup with Mint

1 unpeeled English cucumber, chopped roughly
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
juice of 1 lemon (or 2 limes)
2/3 cup packed mint leaves
2 cups Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon sugar
skim milk (optional), as needed
thinly sliced radishes and mint sprigs for garnish

  • Add cucumbers to blender and pulse to begin chopping.
  • Add lemon (or lime) juice, salt, mint leaves, yogurt and sugar to blender and blend until pureed and combined well.  Thin with milk as necessary.  When soup reaches desired consistency, taste for seasonings and adjust (adding more sugar or more salt) as you prefer.
  • Chill soup 1 to 2 hours in refrigerator.  Before serving, stir well.  Garnish with thinly sliced radishes and mint sprigs.

Source: Adapted slightly from Love Soup

Garlic and Citrus Roasted Cornish Game Hens


Cornish game hens have a lot going for them.  First of all, and most importantly, they are delicious.  You don’t get too far without that.  Second, and almost as important, they are absolutely adorable.  Who wouldn’t want their own little individual-sized bird?  It’s like a miniature chicken!  Perfect for a special occasion, because we all know that serving things in individual portions makes them gourmet.  I’m joking, of course, but where there’s smoke…  I served Cornish game hens to my ham-loving parents for Easter and they were charmed.  And I served them to my husband for our anniversary after a long day at the office.  In fact, I’m thinking seriously about hens instead of a turkey for Thanksgiving.  It’s the cuteness.  It’ll bend your mind, man.


Garlic and Citrus Roasted Cornish Game Hens

2 Cornish game hens
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
zest of one lemon (plus the lemon)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
kosher salt and fresh pepper
1 cup orange juice

  • Situate a rack in the lower third of your oven and preheat to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Rinse the hens – including the cavity; I know it’s gross, but you need to do it, okay?  Okay?  Why?  Because I said so, that’s why!  Dry them off with paper towels.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, zest, and chopped fresh herbs.  Season with salt and pepper.  Rub 3/4 of the mixture over the hens.  Stuff the rest under the skin.
  • Cut the lemon (which you zested previously) in half.  Cut a head of garlic in half as well.  Shove half of each into the cavity of each hen.  Tie the legs with kitchen twine.
  • Place the birds into a medium baking pan and pour the orange juice around them.   Drizzle a little more olive oil over each hen – this will help them to brown. Roast 30-35 minutes (or more, if your oven runs cool like mine does) until the juices run clear.

Yield: Serves two.

Source: Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis, with some inspiration from Giada’s Family Dinners, also by Giada.

Wine Pairing: We paired this dinner with a luscious Napa Chardonnay from Cakebread Cellars, one of my favorite wineries, which I am looking forward to visiting next month!  The wine was delightful (tasting notes coming soon, as previously promised) and was a perfect match with the game hens – rich enough to stand up to them, but with some refreshing fruity notes.  If you can’t lay your hands on some Cakebread, I’d recommend any lightly-oaked white wine, nice white Burgundy, or Chablis.  I also think this dish would be nice with Gruner Veltliner, but I think everything is nice with Gruner Veltliner.