Avocado Toast with Arugula, Jersey Tomatoes, & Balsamic Reduction

I'm usually not one for food trends. I've got too much of an "authority issue" that if you tell me something is trendy, I will go in the opposite direction. Macaroons, cronuts, "artisanal" anything, $10 toast... all send shivers up my spine (and not in a good way).

So, when my husband told me he had "avocado toast" at a lunch in NYC with a colleague (one of the only vegetarian things on the brunch menu), I gave him one of those "oh no you di'int" blank stares. (It's a look I am semi-famous for!). He assured me at how great it was and how he couldn't stop thinking about it. "It's crave-able! Trust me." I'm sure I gave him one of my patented Marge Simpson guttural moans.

When we returned home from our trip, with few ingredients on hand to make dinner, I ran over to the farm stand near our house. Tons of Jersey tomatoes, great for sandwiches. "Hmmm... there are some avocados too. Hmmm... alright, I'll make him some friggin' avocado toast!" I caved. Truth-be-told, I have grown to love avocados over the past few years and their health benefits make me love them even more. That week, we had avocado toast every night for dinner. Totally caved. It's so easy to make and so good. Ok, I can see why it is a trend now. I give.

I made it so much in the past few weeks that I started experimenting with fancier ways to prepare it. With tons of basil and other herbs in the garden, I decided to make a Mediterranean version with some balsamic reduction that I picked up at Trader Joe's. If you don't have a TJs near you, balsamic reductions are pretty easy to make, you just need a bit of time and patience. The result is a thick, sweet sauce that has hardly any lingering vinegar flavor.

Mashing the avocado is a great way to involve kids in the kitchen. Mine always seem to fight over who gets to stir whatever I am making. My daughter loves avocados. My son, not so convinced.

You can use whatever bread you have on hand. Since these "artisinal toasts" are essentially just a trendy way of saying "opened-faced sandwich" you may want chose a hearty type that can stand the weight of your toppings. My favorites are the Tuscan Pane from Trader Joe's (pictured above) and Ezekiel bread. You can toast the bread in a plain ol' toaster, or get very chichi, and grill your bread using a little bit of olive oil and a cast iron pan.

Avocado Toast with Arugula, Jersey Tomatoes, & Balsamic Reduction (vegan)
Makes 2-4 (depending on your hunger and the size of the bread)

The recipe is for the avocado mash.

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 TB vegan mayo
  • 1 TB freshly minced basil
  • 1 tsp freshly minced thyme
  • 1/2 TB olive oil
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp good quality sea salt

  • Mash all ingredients in a bowl, leaving some small chunks. Set aside in fridge.
  • Toast or grill bread.
  • Take one piece of toast, spread a thin layer of vegan mayo on the bread. Take a healthy sized scoop of the avocado mixture and spread over the mayo layer. Drizzle with a small amount of balsamic reduction. Add thinly sliced tomatoes (makes sure they are really good, juicy tomatoes-- not those pink and white kind from the off-season). Add more cracked sea salt. Top with arugula (I like a generous amount!) and then finish off with a drizzle of olive oil and cracked black pepper. 
  • Serve with a ton of napkins (or if you are super fancy, you can eat it with a knife and fork. I'm sure that would make your mom proud at how cultured you have become!)

Shredded Cabbage Salad with Coconut Peanut Dressing Recipe (Vegan)

Craving something raw, crunchy and savory, I whipped up this Asian-inspired salad for dinner. The recipe that follows is for the peanut-coconut salad dressing. Toss it with a salad of shredded cabbage, red peppers, shredded carrots, celery, sliced persian cucumbers, slightly steamed broccoli, and diced and fried baked flavored tofu. Garnish with sesame seeds and/or peanuts before serving.

Coconut Peanut Dressing for Salad or Noodles
Makes about 3/4 of a cup

Note: Measurements are approximate. Always adjust to make a dish your own or to suit the ingredients in your pantry.

In a small food processor, combine:

  • 1 TB peanut butter (For a thicker sauce, add 1-2 TB more.)
  • 2 TB tamari or soy sauce
  • 1/8 cup coconut milk (From a can or carton.)
  • 1 TB coconut oil
  • 1 TB rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 TB mirin
  • 1 tsp maple syrup (If you like a sweet dressing, add more)
  • 1 tsp Sriracha
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1-2 tsp of fresh, minced ginger (optional)
  • 1 clove of garlic (suit to your tatste or omit)
Toss with salad and garnish each plate. Makes enough dressing for about 4 servings of salad..

Brunch with The Table at Brandywine at Point Lookout Farms

This past weekend, the family and I partook in lovely brunch served at Wilmington, Delaware's Point Lookout Farm (a privately owned organic garden) and hosted by our friends at The Table at Brandywine.

The farm offers views of rolling hills, woods, wildflowers. The casual brunch was served at the base of the hills on a crushed stone patio flanked by old stone barn ruins and a wood-fired oven and stone island which made the perfect spot to serve the buffet. Sheltered, peaceful, and idyllic, you would never guess that the city is just a few miles away.

The Table at Brandywine creates events to showcase local talent in the Delaware Valley. They bring the community together with local artisans, chefs, and musicians who may have otherwise gone undiscovered. Participants can also get to know others in their area through the shared tables experience. Each event is also held at a different locations throughout the area which acts as a way to highlight places that could have gone unnoticed by the attendees. Like for instance, I had driven by Point Lookout for at least a decade and didn't know it was there! Great discoveries!

A local artist is also featured at each Table at Brandywine event. Saturday's brunch featured ceramicist, and University of Delaware graduate, Haley Harmon. And yes, both my friend and I could not resist buying one of her simple, yet bold, necklaces.

Before brunch was served, we all took a tour of the farm and fell in love with, seriously, the most friendly goats you have ever met in your life. The colorful and diverse chickens and roosters entertained the kids (and we even got to witness that little brown and white striped lady laying an egg!).

Our hosts from The Table at Brandywine, Karen Weber, Rebecca Porter, and Becca Manning, welcomed the group, talked about their mission, and then invited us to dig in!

There were a few items on the menu for vegans and vegetarians, and this little cutie was quite happy with his vegan apple spiced muffins!

The quiche that was served was cooked in this beautiful wood-fired oven. I really, really want to cook pizza here. So much so that I can't stop thinking about how much I want one of these ovens in my backyard. All that wood chopping would be a great upper-body work out to boot!

If you are interested in finding out more about The Table at Brandywine and/or getting involved, like their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter, and follow them on Instagram.

Strawberry Lime Margarita Smoothie Recipe (Vegan)

Dreamy tropical summer breakfast!

I am a smoothie addict! While I tend to opt for heavier flavors using things like raw cacoa, peanut butter, cinnamon, and sweet potatoes in the colder months, in the summer I tend to use more fresh fruit and flavors. This strawberry lime margarita smoothie is a perfect way to begin the day when the temperature is blazing.

Strawberry Lime Margarita Smoothie Recipe (vegan) 
serves 1-2 (makes about 16-18 ounces)

In a blender combine:

  • 1 cup coconut milk (The carton kind, not from a can! I used unsweetened.)
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 small lime (Add the zest and juice.)
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh organic strawberries
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • sweetener (I tend not to use any, but if you like your smoothies sweet, options are: 1 TB agave, two dates, 1/2 TB coconut sugar, or 1/2 TB maple syrup. Add to your taste!)
  • Your favorite smoothie add-ons: I used 1/2 TB of raw coconut oil, 1 TB flax, 1 TB hemp protein powder. 
  • A few ice cubes

Blend until well combined and enjoy!