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!

Khaki’s Bomb Balm Skin Care Giveaway

Khaki's Bomb Balm Giveaway - Under the Monkey Bars blog

I’m super excited to share with you the most AMAZING organic skin care products for Under the Monkey Bars first GIVEAWAY! Just in time for Mother’s Day, we’re giving away a set of Khaki’s Bomb Balm ANTI-AGING skin care products.

I know. It’s so exciting I can barely contain myself. Can you tell by all the caps?!?

I’ve been using 10 of Khaki’s Bomb Balm products for 6 months now and my skin has never looked better. I actually got a compliment the other day that I’m “glowing” — and I’m not even pregnant.

I went in to see Khaki at her Face Food Skin Care Studio here in Newburyport for a complimentary consolation back in November. I was having a heat induced reaction to the antibiotics I was taking to treat Lyme. After trying at least 5 products without any improvement (including prescriptions), I was shocked at how quickly Khaki’s handcrafted products cleared up my skin.

Khaki's Bomb Balm Giveaway - Under the Monkey Bars blog

The giveaway features Khaki’s anti-aging skin care set, which retails for $85. I use all 4 of these products daily and absolutely love them: Grapeseed & Grapefruit Cleansing Milk, Anti-aging Rosehip Lavender CreamDusk Radiance Treatment Serum, and Raw Honey Almond Exfoliant. Wait till you open the cream! I can no longer buy skin care products without pressed flowers. It’s just so luxurious!!

Khaki’s Bomb Balm is a completely natural, vegan friendly line of products that you can feel good about using. She’s an esthetician who creates small batch skin care products out of real food right here in Newburyport! Plus, it warms my heart that I’m supporting a local Momma of two little monkeys.

I love winning stuff. Seriously. Did you know that about me? And I actually do win things. But you have to enter the giveaway to win! So fill out the entry form below and cross your fingers. Someone is going to win these luxurious products just in time for Mother’s Day!! The winner will be announced on May 4th.

 a Rafflecopter giveaway.

Potato Leek Soup

Potato Leek Soup recipe - Under the Monkey Bars blog

I always crave soup this time of year. This Potato Leek Soup really warms both the heart and soul. You’re going to love it!

Seemingly French inspired, this soup is actually an Irish recipe. I found it about 4 years ago after taking the advice of one of my doctors to cook with my roots in mind. I’m Irish, so we’re not shy with potatoes at our house. Potatoes get a bad rap but they’re actually pretty good for you because of their fiber, protein, vitamins B6 + C, and potassium.

Add the folate, vitamins K, A + C, and fiber from the onion and leek, and this soup packs a nutritious punch! Think about Potato Leek Soup as healthy comfort food. You won’t believe how rich and creamy it tastes without dairy.

Potato Leek Soup is a staple recipe in our kitchen. The monkeys request it frequently and often pack the left overs in a thermos for school lunch. With 7 basic ingredients, the recipe is super easy to make and really flexible. Add an extra potato and some extra broth and no one will notice. We end up eating it at least once a month. Everything in moderation, right?

If you don’t have one already, this immersion blender is fantastic. It’s a lot faster than transferring the soup to a blender and then back to the pot. I make quite a few soups that require blending and absolutely love the speed and simplicity of it.

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

Potato Leek Soup
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Ingredients
  1. 4 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 1 leek, chopped
  3. 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  4. 6 russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
  5. 5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  6. Sea salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Chop the vegetables. Use only the white part of the leek.
  2. Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onions and leeks. Cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until soft, 8–10 minutes.
  3. Add potatoes and broth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Increase heat to high and bring just to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are soft, 30–35 minutes.
  5. Purée with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender until smooth.
Notes
  1. - Use organic ingredients when possible.
  2. - Try different kinds of potatoes. We like a combination of yukon and russet.
  3. - Serve with a green veggie like kale salad, sautéed zucchini or green beans.
  4. - Garnish with fresh chopped parsley or scallions.
Adapted from Saveur
Adapted from Saveur
Under the Monkey Bars http://underthemonkeybars.com/

Dinosaur Smoothie

Dinosaur Smoothie Recipe - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

Since I got my Vitamix last year, I’ve been making more smoothies than ever. I love trying different recipes. Over time, I’ve developed a few of my own. Our favorite lately is this Dinosaur Smoothie!

Did you read about my cleanse? This is the homemade smoothie I added to my nourishing cleanse. I started making it in the summer with coconut water for extra hydration. Now that it’s winter, I really love how it tastes with almond milk. They’re obviously really different, but the flavor and texture only changes a bit so use whatever you have on hand. 

The star of this smoothie is lacinato kale, also known as dinosaur kale. Those deep green leaves make the smoothie color super bright. Kale adds tons of vitamins to this smoothie including vitamin K, A, C, and manganese. It’s cancer fighting, anti-inflammatory, a natural detoxifier, and it helps support your brain, heart, and eyes. When you shop for kale, try to buy organic as it is one of the most heavily pesticide-sprayed crops. 

I love this Dinosaur Smoothie recipe because there’s no sweetener. Most healthy, non-dairy smoothie recipes call for honey, syrup, agave, dates, or nut butter. Pineapple sweetens up this smoothie naturally, while aiding heathy digestion. Did you know pineapple also supports a glowing complexion? More pineapple please!

Cut up a whole pineapple and freeze it into chunks. You’ll have plenty on hand for the next time you make a Dinosaur Smoothie. Use the hard pineapple’s hard to make flavored water. It’s one of the monkey’s favorites after school!

Try this smoothie and let me know how you like it in the comments. Cómelo todo!

Dinosaur Smoothie
Serves 1
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Ingredients
  1. 3 leaves dinosaur kale (lacinato), rib removed
  2. 5 chunks frozen pineapple
  3. 1/2 banana
  4. 5 oz coconut water or almond milk
  5. 5 ice cubes
  6. 4 inches of cucumber, sliced
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a high speed blender.
  2. Blend until smooth.
Notes
  1. - Yields 16 ounces.
  2. - Buy organic ingredients when possible.
  3. - Freeze the other banana half for another day’s smoothie.
  4. - Substitute any leafy green for the kale: bok choi, swiss chard, curly leaf kale, spinach, etc.
  5. - Avoid almond milk that contains carrageenan. Always read labels!
Under the Monkey Bars http://underthemonkeybars.com/