Fresh and Fruity Summer Gazpacho

x

 

You’re so fruity…

x

but that’s JUST the way I like it!

x

Thankfully being called fruity isn’t always a bad thing…especially when you’re describing this fabbbb-u-lous summer soup.

 

Now, I know what you’re thinking… “Fruit in SOUP?? That’s crazy talk!” But trust me! This soup isn’t the average cozy, warm, comfort food you’ve come to know. Instead, it’s served fresh and chilled,  just like traditional gazpacho. I promise, this little gem of a recipe is so gosh darn TASTY you’ll be slurping it up well past Labor Day.

 

The inspiration for my Fresh and Fruity Summer Gazpacho all began when I went out for an impromptu dinner with the boyfriend. After days of hot, humid, and sticky weather the last thing I wanted to do was go out and eat a heavy meal. I did have a hankering for a nice glass (or two!) of wine however. So, needless to say, I managed to I scrounge up some motivation to get out of the house :)

x

Off we went to Christopher’s, a casual neighborhood bar and restaurant walking distance from our apartment. I adore this little place because they pride themselves on using all-natural ingredients and have plenty of vegan/vegetarian-friendly options to choose from–even though they’re known for their burgers. Oh, and they serve a great malbec to boot ;)

x

The boyfriend ordered his usual burger along with a side of sweet potato fries while I decided on two appetizer specials as my main meal– a roasted red pepper and artichoke hummus platter served up with celery, carrots, and pita wedges (it came with pita chips, but our waitress graciously allowed me to sub the chips for an un-fried alternative) along with a side of chilled fruit. The chilled fruit was actually an orange and watermelon based soup, served with yogurt and mint (again, my lovely waitress allowed me to keep it vegan and omit the yogurt…thank you patient waitress!). As soon as I tasted the chilled fruit… I was hooked. It was cool and smooth without being overly sweet–just perfect for this hot and humid summer night.

 

Immediately, I knew I had to rush home and whip up my own version. We even made a pit stop at the grocery store along the way just so I could pick up all the ingredients :) .

x

x

Fresh and Fruity Summer Gazpacho

(Perfect as a light appetizer, snack, or dessert!)

 

x

Ingredients:

  • 4 heaping cups of watermelon, chopped
  • Juice of 1-2 oranges (roughly 1/2 cup)
  • 2 peaches, chopped
  • 8-10 large strawberries, chopped
  • large handful of fresh mint, chopped (NOTE: you could also try a smaller amount of basil instead of mint to tone down the sweetness and a litle savory zing to your soup!)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (optional)

x

Directions:

  • Blend watermelon in a high speed blender or food processor until liquified (I blended mine in my Nutribullet, 2 cups at a time). Then transfer to a medium bowl.
x
x
  • Add 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice, the chopped fruit and mint to the same bowl. Whisk together.
  • Stir in 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice (optional).
  • Portion out the soup into 2-4 bowls (depending upon how hungry you are!).
  • Garnish with a mint sprig and/or orange slice, watermelon cube, strawberry etc…
x

x

And VOILA! You have a totally chill summer treat :)

x

NOTE: Feel free to get creative with your fruit! Toss in some blueberries for color, or blend half watermelon and half cantaloup for a smoother, and slightly creamier tasting soup :)

 

The best part of all? This simple soup is super healthy!

x

C’mon now…you didn’t really think I was going to give you a yummy recipe without explaining all the fabulous health benefits it has to offer did you?? :)

 

Heath Benefits of Watermelon

x

Photo Credit: http://www.whataboutwatermelon.com

 

  • Fat-free! (need I say more?)
  • Low-calorie (due to it’s high water content–roughly 92%– one cup has just 48 calories!)
  • High in vitamin C (reduces the risk of heart disease, asthma, colon cancer, arthritis symptoms, boosts immunity, heals wounds, prevents cell damage, helps prevent aging, protects against free radicals and promotes healthy teeth and gums. Watermelon has 21% of the daily value of vitamin C).
  • High in vitamin A and  beta-carotene (like vitamin C, beta-carotene reduces the risk of heart disease, asthma, colon cancer, arthritis symptoms while vitamin A promotes eye-health).
  • High in lycopene (watermelon has the highest concentration of lycopene found in any fruit or vegetable…even more than tomatoes! Lycopene is a cancer-preventing antioxidant that fights off colon, prostate, breast, lung, and endometrial cancers. Lycopene also protects the body from oxygen damage, protects the DNA in white blood cells, and protects the heart).
  • Source of vitamin B6 (which converts protein to energy and aids in brain function).
  • High in potassium (which regulates the body’s electrolyte and acid/base balance, helps nerve and muscle function, reduces the risk of high blood pressure).
  • Contains citrulline and arginine (together, these essential amino acids improve cardiovascular function, maintain arteries, improve bloodflow, reduce muscle fatigue, repair damaged muscle/bone, reduce healing time for injuries, serve as a precursor for synthesis of nitric oxide, remove ammonia from the body, improve insulin resistance, and help decrease blood pressure).
x
x

Health Benefits of Strawberries

x

Photo Credit: http://www.chefsexpressions.com

(Check out my original post for Oh So Sassy Strawberry Shortcake here!)
  • Fat-free!
  • Low-calorie (1 1/2 cups charts in at less than 100 calories!)
  • Low-sugar
  • High in vitamin C  (Just 1-cup of strawberries will give you 100% of your daily vitamin C requirement. It is important to obtain your daily vitamin C requirement from food, since humans are one of the only mammals who cannot produce it naturally).
  • Contains a phytochemical known as ellagic acid (which has the ability to suppress cancer cell growth, prevent collagen destruction, fight cholesterol, and prevent inflammation).
  •  Contain lutein and zeaxanthin (these powerful antioxidants work to neutralize free radicals** that have a negative effect on cells).
  • High in antioxidants
  • Contain flavanoids and phytochemicals (these help to reduce harmful blood lipids and oxidative damage—two markers for heart disease and diabetes).
  • High in potassium (just like in watermelon, potassium regulates the body’s electrolyte and acid/base balance, helps nerve/muscle function, and reduces the risk of high blood pressure).
  • High in fiber (fiber improves digestive health, quells hunger, and can also help to fight type-2 diabetes due to its ability to slow the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream).
  • Good source of folate (folate promotes pre-natal health and is important in the early stages of pregnancy as it aids in proper development of the baby’s spinal cord, brain, and skull).
  • Contains folic acid (which may help to prevent serious birth defects like spina bifida).
**I’m sure you’ve heard the terms “free radicals” thrown around by the news and various health sources a lot lately, but you may not know exactly what they are. Free radicals are actually damaged, degenerated cells that in an effort to repair and regenerate themselves, end up damaging and weakening the healthy cells around them. This can lead to cancer. This is why it’s important to fight those free radicals with proper nutrition!**
x

Health Benefits of Peaches:

Photo Credit: http://www.tropicalproducts.net

  • Fat-free!
  • Low-calorie (approx. 30 calories in a medium peach).
  • Contains potassium (provides 8% of the daily requirement, or 140 mg).
  • High levels of beta-carotene (which the body turns into vitamin A).
  • High in vitamin C (just like strawberries and watermelon).
  • Good sources of lutein and lycopene (these carotenes and flavonoids–also present in watermelon and strawberries–help prevent macular degeneration, heart disease and cancer).
  • High in fiber (promotes overall colon and digestive health).
x
x

x

x

Health Benefits of Oranges:

x

Photo Credit: http://www.thedailygreen.com

  • Rich in vitamin C (duh :) ).
  • Contains hesperidin (this flavonoid can help decrease blood pressure).
  • Rich in magnesium (which improves bone health/bone density).
  • Decreases LDL cholesterol (due to high concentration of flavonoids).
  • High in fiber
  • Rich in folate
  • Reduces inflammation (this can help prevent cardiovascular disease).
  • Contains most of the B- vitamin complex (including B-1, B-2, B-3, B-5, B-6 and B-9).
  • Contains calcium, potassium, magnesium
xx

Health Benefits of Mint:

x

Photo Credit: http://www.herbcompanion.com

  • Has antibacterial properties
  • Rich in flavonoids (which protect cells from aging and act as antioxidants).
  • Soothes the stomach/aids in digestion (flavonoids may help relieve gas spasms in the intestines).
  • Source of vitamin A (due to beta-carotene, which is present in mint leaves).
  • Source of vitamin C (one large orange fulfills your daily requirement for the day).
  • Rich in iron, calcium, and magnesium
  • Reduces IBS symptoms (the essential oils help to relax smooth muscles in the sphincter and intestines).
  • Essential oils reduce pain/irritation (menthol is the essential oil responsible for this when applied topically).
  • Increases saliva and bile production (this may help to explain why mint soothes the stomach and suppresses a cough so well).
x
x

Pretty cool huh?

Now, go COOL DOWN with a big ol’ bowl of summer gazpacho!

x

 

x

Healthfully yours,

Ashley Michelle 

 

 

Sources:

Surprising Health Benefits of Watermelon

Worlds Healthiest Foods: Watermelon

Health Benefits of Strawberries

Wikipedia: Strawberries

Best Health Magazine

Why Cancer and Inflammation?

Health Benefits of Peaches

Healthy Foods: Peaches

Livestrong: Health Benefits of Mint

Livestrong: Nutritious Elements of Oranges

Livestrong: Health Benefits of Oranges


Oh So Sassy Strawberry Shortcake

Perfect for date night :)

Okay, so I know it’s only halfway through the work week…

but who says date-night is ONLY for the weekends?

x

Tonight…BREAK THE RULES.

x

Light a couple of candles, cue the romantic music, and grab a fork–because this decadent little recipe is BEST when shared. You now have permission to make Wednesday the sassiest night of the week. 

x

Little black dress optional ;) .

x

I don’t know about you, but I think strawberries make a pretty sexy addition to any dessert. They’re just sweet enough without being too saccharine, plus, they look  GREAT in red–and every girl already knows if you want to get noticed… you put on some red! Kind of sounds like a dating profile, huh?

x

But seriously, what’s NOT to love about a food that pairs so well with champagne? After all, nothing’s better than a date night that includes strawberries and a little bubbly. I mean, there’s GOT to be a reason Victoria’s Secret created a body spray named after this very combination…am I right?

x

Now, technically strawberry season doesn’t officially start until June, but when I walked into the grocery store yesterday and was greeted by a sign advertising  a “buy one get one free” special for containers of strawberries, I just couldn’t resist. They looked like shiny little boxes of rubies and to top it off they smelled incredible. Plus, who doesn’t love  a good deal?? Now what’s a girl to do with ALL THESE STRAWBERRIES?

x

Immediately my mind began racing with ideas for strawberry-inspired recipes (don’t worry, I came up with a whole bunch of them to share with you in some of my future posts!). But finally, after much back and forth, I settled on one that would be pleasing to the eye, yet simple enough to make on a weeknight (It serves just 2!).

x

And I was so due for a much-needed date night ;)

x

But before we get to the recipe…I wanted to share some of the amazing health benefits of strawberries. Don’t be fooled by their dainty appearance–these pretty little berries pack a whole lot of punch!

x

Health Benefits of Strawberries:

  • Boost immunity: Strawberries are high in vitamin C, which is a fast-acting antioxidant known to boost immunity. Just 1-cup of strawberries will give you 100% of your daily vitamin C requirement! It is important to obtain your daily vitamin C requirement from food, since humans are one of the only mammals who cannot produce it naturally.
  • Fight cancer: Given its high immunity properties, vitamin C can also help to fight cancer (first and foremost, a healthy body is always the best line of defense against any disease). In addition, strawberries also contain a phytochemical known as ellagic acid, which has the ability to suppress cancer cell growth. Strawberries also contain two powerful antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, which work to neutralize free radicals that have a negative effect on cells.

**I’m sure you’ve heard the terms “free radicals” thrown around by the news and various health sources a lot lately, but you may not know exactly what they are. Free radicals are actually damaged, degenerated cells that, in an effort to repair and regenerate themselves, end up damaging and weakening the healthy cells around them. This can lead to cancer. This is why it’s important to fight those free radicals with proper nutrition!**

  • Fight aging: Along with its many health benefits already listed above, vitamin C is also crucial in the production of collagen, a known wrinkle preventer. Ellagic acid (also mentioned above) has also been known to prevent inflammation and collagen destruction after skin has been damaged by UV-B rays.
  • Protect your eyes: The antioxidants in strawberries may help prevent harmful cataracts, which can lead to blindness later in life. Our eyes need vitamin C to protect against free radicals from the sun’s harmful UV rays, otherwise the sun can damage our lens. Vitamin C also plays a vital role in strengthening the retina and cornea.
  • Fight cholesterol: You already know ellagic acid and flavonoids/phytochemicals work as anti-inflammatories, but they can also help counteract the effect of LDL (bad cholesterol). Studies have concluded that by incorporating strawberries into your diet, you can reduce harmful blood lipids and oxidative damage—two markers for heart disease and diabetes.
  • Regulate blood pressure: Strawberries are a great source of potassium, a heart-healthy nutrient that can help to regulate, and potentially lower, blood pressure by negating the effects of harmful sodium.
  • Reduce inflammation: Antioxidants and phytochemicals/flavonoids in strawberries may aid in reducing joint inflammation and arthritis. In a study, those who ate at least 16 strawberries a week have lower levels of C-reactive protein(CRP), which is a key indicator that inflammation is present in the body. Inflammation is a precursor to cancer.
  • Aid digestion- Strawberries are a good source of fiber, which is important for healthy digestion. Fiber can also help to fight type-2 diabetes due to its ability to slow the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream. This is why strawberries are healthy snack choice for diabetics.
  • Promote pre-natal health:  Strawberries are a good source of folate, the beneficial B-Vitaminrecommended for women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. Folate is important in the early stages of pregnancy as it aids in proper development of the baby’s spinal cord, brain, and skull. Folic acid, also found in strawberries, may help to prevent serious birth defects like spina bifida.
  • They keep your middle little!: Strawberries are  low-calorie, low-sugar, low-sodium, and fat-free! One and a half cups charts in at less than 100 calories. They are a perfect addition to any breakfast and serve as a great alternative to an unhealthy, sugar-filled 3:00 pm snack. What better excuse do you need to eat these tasty little guys?

 x

Oh yea…they also make a HECK of a dessert.

 

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of flour (spelt, whole-wheat, all-purpose, choose whatever “whole grain” kind you’d like)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 packets of stevia (or 2 heaping tablespoons of another dry sweetener– feel free to adjust the sugar to your sweet tooth’s preference)

 

Wet Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons almond milk
  • 3 tablespoons apple sauce
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla (The next time I make this I want to try adding a smidge under one teaspoon of almond extract instead of vanilla…the boyfriend isn’t crazy about desserts with a strong, almond-y taste, but I bet it will pair fabulously with the strawberries! Feel free to try it and let me know how it goes :) )
  • 1 teaspoon maple extract (you can replace this with vanilla extract or omit if using the almond extract)
  • 1 teaspoon Earth Balance buttery spread (you can add a couple extract teaspoons if you or your date prefer a buttery, more decadent taste– it will still be lower in fat. Just be sure to decrease the almond milk by a couple teaspoons).

 x

Directions:

  • Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  • Mix all the wet ingredients in another bowl (make sure you melt the butter first).
  • Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix JUST until blended (try not to over-mix or your cake may not rise as well).
  • Lightly spray an individual casserole dish with all-natural cooking spray (I use this one, but you could always divide the batter into two tiny ramekins if you don’t have a mini casserole dish. You could probably even make them in a muffin tin! Just be sure to adjust the cooking time)
  •  Pour the batter into the casserole dish (be sure to spread the batter evenly–give the casserole dish a good tap on the counter to fill any empty spots)
  • Cook for 25 minutes (or until the top is light brown and begins to crack. The sides should also turn light brown and will begin to separate from the edges of the dish– every oven is a little different, and I find vegan cakes to be very sensitive to baking time/temperature, so you may need to keep checking on this one).
  • Let the cake cool. One cool enough to handle, slice it in half (across) so your cake resembles two slices of bread.
x

 NOW for the fun part!

x

  • Add a thick layer of strawberries, strawberry icing (see below), and Soyatoo vegan whipped cream in between the two shortcake slices, then do the same thing on top!
  • To make the strawberry icing: mix together 4 heaping tablespoons of organic, all-natural powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons of almond milk, and a couple teaspoons of all-natural strawberry jam. Then, drizzle it all over your cake! (Add more powder sugar if you want the icing thicker)
x

And voila! Instant date night. 

Now, go pour some champagne.

I’ll cheers to that!

 x

Fabulously yours,

Ashley Michelle

 x

Sources:

Health Benefits of Strawberries

Wikipedia: Strawberries

Best Health Magazine

Why Cancer and Inflammation?