Gazpacho Andaluz

Gazpacho Andaluz - Under the Monkey Bars blog

La Plaza Mayor in Madrid, Spain

After a few years of tweaking, I’ve finally perfected my recipe for Gazpacho Andaluz, a soup made of raw vegetables and served cold. You’ll love this easy, naturally gluten free and vegan recipe!

Gazpacho Andaluz - Under the Monkey Bars blog

Don and I took an amazing trip to Paris and Madrid in 2013. I hadn’t been back to Madrid since college. So much of the city had changed, yet the food stayed the same: gazpacho, paella, sangria, patatas bravas, tortilla espanola.

For me, gazpacho is summer in a bowl.

As soon as we got home, I started experimenting with different combinations of vegetables to make my gazpacho taste exactly as did in the Plaza Mayor. I needed to recreate that experience of sitting under a misting umbrella with cobblestones underfoot and a sangria in my hand. For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out what ingredient I was missing. Finally I realized that the secret ingredient to Gazpacho Andaluz is white balsamic vinegar! 

Gazpacho Andaluz - Under the Monkey Bars blog

Gazpacho Andaluz - Under the Monkey Bars blog

I made Gazpacho Andaluz a few weeks ago when I was a guest chef at Mandarava Kitchen. Newburyport Olive Oil graciously contributed their robust white balsamic vinegar to cook with that night. It definitely elevates the flavor! If you haven’t tried their oils and vinegars, it’s quite an experience! I have a few more favorites, which I’ll be sharing soon in my next recipe post from our Mandarava tapas menu.

It only takes 15 minutes to make this soup without a stove or pot in sight. Don’t peel anything and only cut each veggie into chunks. Let the blender do the work for you! Once you quickly chop each ingredient, toss it into the blender. When the soup is ready, the only clean up should be a cutting board, knife, blender and spatula — don’t leave behind a drop!

This type of gazpacho is the traditional preparation you would experience if you visited the southern region of Andalusia in Spain. Gazpacho is particularly popular during hot summer nights because it is refreshing and cold. The color is perfection.

Gazpacho Andaluz - Under the Monkey Bars blog

Photo credit: Meg Manion Photography

Gazpacho Andaluz is a recipe that the whole family will enjoy. You can make it ahead and store it for up to 4 days in the refrigerator. Serve it as is or with toppings to stir in, such as cucumbers, peppers, red onion, parsley, and croutons. It’s the perfect summer recipe for a no-stress dinner.

When I studied abroad in Madrid during college back in 1998, my Señora Encarna would say, “Cómelo todo!” at dinnertime. It translates to, “Eat it all!” I sometimes say it to my monkeys with a smile, remembering that incredible experience. That’s why I include “Cómelo todo!” at the end of my recipe posts as a tribute to the lovely lady who made sure I was well fed all those years ago in Spain.

Try this Gazpacho recipe and let me know how you like it in the comments or click on the stars to review it. Cómelo todo!

Gazpacho Andaluz
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Ingredients
  1. 2½ pounds tomatoes (about 8 medium)
  2. 2 medium cucumbers
  3. 2 small sweet red peppers
  4. 1 yellow or white onion
  5. 3 cloves garlic
  6. 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  7. 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  8. 1-2 tablespoons of honey or agave
  9. 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  10. 1 teaspoon sea salt
  11. Freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Wash the vegetables and cut into chunks, leave the skin on the cucumber.
  2. If you're using a large high speed blender, everything should fit into one batch. Otherwise purée in small batches until smooth.
  3. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
  4. Let sit for several hours or overnight in the fridge. The garlic flavor will become stronger over time. Serve chilled.
Notes
  1. - Use organic ingredients when possible.
  2. - Yields 48 ounces.
  3. - This gazpacho will keep for 4 days.
  4. - Newburyport Olive Oil's white balsamic really boosts the flavor in this recipe.
Adapted from Farm Girl Fare
Adapted from Farm Girl Fare
Under the Monkey Bars http://underthemonkeybars.com/

My Guest Chef Experience at Mandrava Kitchen

My Guest Chef Experience at Mandarava Kitchen - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

Last week I cooked and served a mediterranean tapas dinner as a guest chef at Mandarava Kitchen in Newburyport. At 39, I wasn’t expecting to feel the exhilaration of a new experience, but I did. It was incredible and I loved every minute!

Before I tell you all about what it was like to be a chef for the night, let’s rewind ten years. I didn’t enjoy cooking, not even a tiny bit. I was queen of all things in a box: pasta with a jar of sauce and macaroni & cheese were a few of my greatest hits. We ordered takeout or went out to eat about 5 times a week.

Here I am now, a stay at home mom with a few cooking lessons plus hours of cooking at home asked to be a guest chef! I’m still pinching myself. How did this even happen?

My Guest Chef Experience at Mandarava Kitchen - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

It all started on Instagram. One day I posted a picture of a salad I made for lunch and Chef Mary Vyn commented saying that I should come cook with her at Mandarava. The next time I was in for lunch I asked, “Were you serious? I’d love to!” And so the planning began for my debut as a guest chef!

My Guest Chef Experience at Mandarava Kitchen - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

Mandarava is a vegan, organic restaurant that offers one bowl for lunch based on the buddhist philosophy. It’s a scratch kitchen and their homemade bread is almost always gluten free. Therefore, our entire menu for my guest chef dinner was both gluten free and vegan: a perfect match for me. It’s such a challenge to eat out when you are conscious about what you eat. At Mandarava, I know the food is always going to be healthy and delicious.

When I arrived at 2pm, Mary and I enjoyed a cup of tea together while going over the menu details for our tapas dinner. We loosely put together the menu via emails and texts with room to create on the fly. So we nailed down some details over tea and decided who would start cooking what. With 6 courses, we had a lot of chopping ahead of us!

My Guest Chef Experience at Mandarava Kitchen - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

My Guest Chef Experience at Mandarava Kitchen - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

My Guest Chef Experience at Mandarava Kitchen - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

I made the gazpacho, hummus, roasted carrots, and salad from start to finish. Mary created melt-in-your-mouth vegan cheez-its, mission figs, paella, and peaches. Together we baked the bread, garnished, and plated. The entire meal was truly a collaboration.

Tapas Menu:
– Stuffed Mission Figs with a Cashew Cream
Gazpacho Andaluz
– Marjoram Skewered Rainbow Carrots with Hummus
– Arugula Salad with Oranges and Pepitas dressed with Newburyport Olive Oil & Vinegar
– Sweet Pepper Paella
– Grilled Peaches with Maple Cream

My Guest Chef Experience at Mandarava Kitchen - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

My Guest Chef Experience at Mandarava Kitchen - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

My Guest Chef Experience at Mandarava Kitchen - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

My Guest Chef Experience at Mandarava Kitchen - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

Mary made me feel so welcome in the kitchen, but when I got started I was a little unsure of myself. Once I knew where to find everything, things went smoothly and I was super comfortable. We chatted and listened to the Cowboy Junkies. Chopping and roasting, blending and baking. It was actually quite relaxing, and so much fun.

Even though we’d never cooked together, Mary and I had such amazing synergy in the kitchen. We completed each others dishes and finished each other’s sentences. It was such a beautiful collaboration of creativity. I learned so much about what it’s like to work in a kitchen that night.

My Guest Chef Experience at Mandarava Kitchen - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

My Guest Chef Experience at Mandarava Kitchen - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

When the guests arrived, one of my friends called me Chef Westermann. That’s definitely something I’ve never heard before! After it registered, it sounded really good.

I never dreamed of being a chef. Now that I’ve planned, prepped, cooked, and served a successful six course tapas dinner at Mandarava Kitchen, maybe that’s a possibility. Who knows what the future holds! I could actually see myself going to culinary school. Either way, it’s certainly a passion.

My Guest Chef Experience at Mandarava Kitchen - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

My Guest Chef Experience at Mandarava Kitchen - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

I’m beyond grateful to Chef Mary for the opportunity to cook in her magical kitchen. It was already a happy place for me and I’ve definitely made it even happier by experiencing what it’s like to be on the other side of the counter. Thank you to the mother daughter owners of Mandarava Kitchen: Ellie and Mary, for trusting me and welcoming me into your special space. I look forward to setting a date to cook together again in the Fall!

Thank you to our dinner guests. Your constant mmmmm’s and easy conversation made my job a breeze! It was wonderful to cook for my super supportive friends and husband that night. It’s been humbling to have so many people believe in me.

Meg Manion Photography beautifully captured so many moments from that evening, even though the lighting was not ideal. Thank you Meg!

Blogging has opened some intriguing doors. Thanks for joining me on this adventure. Stay tuned for recipe posts from our tapas menu coming to the blog soon!

Playground Crawl

Playground Crawl - Under the Monkey Bars blog

Cashman Park in Newburyport

Playground Crawl - Under the Monkey Bars blog

You’ve done a pub crawl, but have you ever taken the kids for a playground crawl?

There will be no beer on this crawl. Gone are the days of stumbling from one Irish pub to the next. We have kids and jobs and schedules and no time to be *that* hung over.

But we can still experience the fun of going place to place in a crawl style. In fact, there may be some little monkeys crawling.

If a pub crawl is a tour of several pubs or bars, with one or more drinks at each, then a playground crawl must be a tour of several playgrounds, with one or more swings, slides, and monkey bar passes at each! Along with some coffee or tea, of course.

Choose an open Saturday on the calendar or make it a weekend quest. Why not put some friends up to the challenge while you’re at it? Kids of all ages will love a playground crawl. It’s all about creating your own special event and the challenge of a crawl.

Now is the time. Besides the fall, June is our favorite weather for playground time. The air is still crisp in the morning so be sure to get an early start.

If you’re motivated, plan your own workout before the crowds show up. Try this playground work out or check out this one. Be a role model for the kids and they will likely join you for some exercises, counting reps until they move on to something else.

Plot your route in advance. Travel by bicycle or car, spending 15-30 minutes at each playground, depending on how engaged the kids are and the size of the playground.

A playground crawl can be done in any town or city. Here’s an example of a playground crawl for my beloved Newburyport:

  1. Cashman Park (5 Pop Crowley Way)
  2. Ayers Playground at Cushing Park (1 Buck Street)
  3. Fuel up at Plum Island Coffee Roasters (54R Merrimac Street)
  4. Frog Pond Playground at Bartlett Mall (151 High Street)
  5. Bresnahan School Playground (333 High Street)
  6. Moseley Woods (Corner of Merrimac and Spofford Streets)
  7. Lunch at Port City Sandwich (40R Merrimac Street)
  8. Inn Street Playground (Inn Street)
  9. Fuel up at Atomic Cafe (56 State Street)
  10. The Brown School Playground (40 Milk Street)
  11. Perkins Park Playground (15 Beacon Avenue)
  12. Jason Sawyer Memorial Playground (Plum Island Beach, Northern Boulevard)
  13. Celebrate with whoopie pies at Chococoa Baking Company (50 Water Street)

Stretch the crawl into other towns to meet friends in Amesbury (Amesbury Town Park Playground), Ipswich (Pirate Ship Park), or West Newbury (Action Cove). The possibilities are endless!

Be sure to pack plenty of water in refillable bottles, healthy snacks, sunscreen, bug spray, and extra clothes in case someone falls in the river trying to feed a duck (learn from the monkeys here guys). Also consider bringing hula hoops, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, jump ropes, and balls.

Kids need time outside more than ever. Get them pumped up about a playground crawl, and exhaust those little monkeys.

Cheers to the parents after bedtime, because you deserve a drink!

Moms: Get in the Picture

Moms: Get in the Picture - Under the Monkey Bars blog Moms: Get in the Picture - Under the Monkey Bars blog

Kids Fashion
Dress :: Ragdoll & Rockets from Lively Kids
Stone bead necklace :: Pretty Little Things
Floral printed tunic :: Ragdoll & Rockets from Lively Kids
Cream knit shorts :: Mayoral from Lively Kids
Sandals :: Birkenstock Kids

Mom Fashion
Kelly Green Romper :: Pretty Little Things
Stone pendant necklace :: Pretty Little Things
Sandals :: Yokono {similar}

Moms: Get in the Picture - Under the Monkey Bars blog

Moms need to be photographed more often with our kids. Don’t you think? I’m always the one taking the pictures. We have very few of me having fun with my monkeys — like these amazing shots from our recent fashion shoot. It’s so important to not only take pictures, but also be in them as well.

It doesn’t matter if you look tired or if you have spit up on your shirt. Nor does it matter if you haven’t showered or if you have roots. In the wise words of Elsa, let it go. We’ve all learned too often that life is short. 

My monkeys love taking selfies with me. I always end up looking at the wrong place so my eyes look weird. I rarely like the shots we take, but it’s not about me. It’s about being part of the fun and having those memories for the kids to look back at and see that you were there. You’re always there whether or not you’re in the picture. So why not make the effort to join them more often?

Hand your camera or phone to a friend or set aside some extra cash and hire a photographer. Candid shots of the every day moments are my absolute favorites. I love seeing the joy and love of family life come through a single frame. It’s real and it’s life. 

Record memories with your monkeys. Life is too short to be on the other side of the lens.

Local friends: Don’t forget to stop into the new Pretty Little Things store in Newburyport. Mention “Monkey Bars” when you checkout for 10% off your purchase through June 1st. 

Shoot Details
Fashion :: Pretty Little Things + Lively Kids
Photography :: Mercy Street Studio
Salon: Beautique
Hair: Tammy Silva
Makeup: Raena Mae Mason

Mother Daughter Fashion

PLTMay1a-13

Mother's Day Fashion Shoot - Under the Monkey Bars blog

Kids Fashion
Ruffle dress :: Eliane et Lena Tidyan from Lively Kids
White denim jacket :: Mayoral from Lively Kids
Chain statement necklace :: Pretty Little Things
Nautical layered lace dress :: Hatley from Lively Kids
Anchor hoodie :: Hatley from Lively Kids
Color zip boots :: Mini Boden

Mom Style
Blue dots dress :: Pretty Little Things
Tassel necklace :: Pretty Little Things
Watch :: Michele Chronograph
Brown boots :: Born {similar}

Mother's Day Fashion Shoot - Under the Monkey Bars blog

Our Mother Daughter fashion photo shoot was an absolute blast! It was lovely to spend the day bonding with my monkeys doing things we love together.

We spent Sunday morning at our favorite salon. It’s the first time ever that we all had matching nails. My stylist curled our hair for a more finished look. I haven’t had my makeup done in years and was thrilled at how natural it came out. They monkeys even wore some lip gloss and blush! It was so fun to be pampered. We truly felt like princesses.

I love that our outfits coordinate but aren’t matchy matchy. When you’re a tween, you don’t want to match your sister let alone your Mom. So uncool.

The monkeys naturally express themselves through fashion. It’s so important to feel confident and comfortable in your own skin — especially as kids get closer to middle school. We experiment and play with different looks and styles together. I know I’ll always have that special bond with them when it comes to fashion through the teenage years and beyond.

It doesn’t get more classic than blue and white for summer style. I’ve always loved the nautical look with a twist. Wear boots with dresses during this chilly New England spring, then transition to summer with sandals or flip flops. 

My dress and necklace are from Pretty Little Things, the new boutique here in Newburyport. If you’re in the area, definitely check it out! It’s the perfect little shop to pick up a few on-trend pieces each season. 

At first glance, I bet some Moms will think the clothes in the shop aren’t for them. Don’t make that mistake! Stop in and ask for help from the owner Michelle. I promise you won’t be disappointed. She truly has an eye for fashion and will make you look and feel fabulous! 

Mention “Monkey Bars” when you checkout for 10% off your purchase at the new Pretty Little Things store in Newburyport through June 1st. Shop local!

Shoot Details
Fashion :: Pretty Little Things + Lively Kids
Photography :: Mercy Street Studio
Salon: Beautique
Hair: Tammy Silva
Makeup: Raena Mae Mason