The summer of eating healthy continues. I'm trying to eat a lot more fruit and vegetables--and I am loving so many different kinds of foods. I love that I live in a place that produces so much good produce.

Recently, I bought a new cookbook with a gift card that someone gave me: Sara Forte's The Sprouted Kitchen: Bowl + Spoon. Check out the link and you'll find inspiration (and recipes) for some really good food. I decided to try a recipe tonight which I chose by assessing which recipe I could make using ingredients that I already had. I did have to go out and buy some basil, but other than that, I had everything in my pantry. I chose the recipe for "Double-Pesto Zucchini Noodles."

I loved this dish. It was so beautifully green and the pesto added enough richness that the dish seemed indulgent. I basically made a single serving of the zucchini, but made extra pesto to use in the next few days. I think I might have to buy another zucchini tomorrow so I can do a repeat! Here's the recipe, mostly following the instructions in the book (with a few notes on how I diverged from the recipe).

Double-Pesto Zucchini Noodles

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5 large zucchini (I only used one zucchini so I scaled everything back except the pesto since I know I can use it in so many ways)

Sea salt

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Pesto:

1 large clove garlic

1/4 c. toasted pine nuts

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 t. sea salt

1/4 t. black pepper

2 c. firmly packed basil (I think I only had about a cup, so I used a little less of the other ingredients)

1/2 c. olive oil

1/3 c. grated Parmesan

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1 pound vine-ripened tomatoes, stems attached (I detached mine since I was using the toaster oven to roast them)

2 T. olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 c. white beans, rinsed and drained

Freshly ground pepper

1/3 c. toasted pine nuts

1 c. basil julienned

3/4 c. shaved parmesan

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Slice the zucchini into thin strips (the recipe suggests using a julienne peeler, but I don't have one so I used a knife). Place the zucchini onto paper towels and sprinkle with sea salt--and let them sit for 20 minutes, then blot and get rid of as much of the water as you can (but do so gently!).

While the zucchini sweats, make the pesto. Place the ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend.

Rub the tomatoes with olive oil, add salt and pepper, and then roast in the pre-heated oven until they begin to get soft. For me, this took a little over 15 minutes since my tomatoes were large.

In a frying pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and saute for about a minute. Add white beans, salt and pepper, and saute until the beans are warm. Add the zucchini and saute for ONLY another 5-6 minutes. Toss the zucchini "noodles" with 1/3 c. of the pesto, pine nuts, julienned basil, and parmesan. Make sure to add a tomato on the side of the dish.

The recipe suggests adding red pepper flakes and lemon zest, but I totally missed this step and the dish was still delicious.

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Recently, I read a New York Times article about the composed salad, in French, the "salade composee." Something about this concept intrigued me, so Monday I bought a lot of beautiful, fresh, organic vegetables and made my first composed salad. It was the perfect summer meal: so fresh and delicious.

Yesterday, I was going to lunch at a friend's house and decided to bring my second composed salad. Another friend had just given me a lovely dish to put it in. Here's a photo:

Although one can put anything in this salad, here's what mine contained:

Grape tomatoes, sliced in half

Cucumbers, peeled, halved, and seeded

Shredded carrots

Breakfast radishes, sliced thinly

Arugula sprouts

Capers

Shallots (diced)

A mix of feta and various olives

I sprinkled it with an Oliviers and Company herb/salt mix, squeezed lemon on top and drizzled with good olive oil.

I can imagine so many other ingredients to put in it: tuna or smoked trout, red peppers, peas, fava beans, lentils. This is such a versatile salad, one that I'm sure I'll eat repeatedly throughout the summer!

For the last few days, I've done something totally out of character. [Insert your thoughts about what that might be here.]

[Pause.]

I've been to the gym twice--and today I took the plunge and enrolled as a member.

Over the last few months, I've been concerned about the 5 pounds I brought back with me from Norway. I've lost it a couple of times only to gain it back, in spite of all my good intentions. I've also realized that I need to start lifting weights and doing more cardiovascular exercise, that this is something I should have been doing for years. Although I've loved my morning walks, during the winter it's more difficult for me to stay regular in my exercise routine, and walking just doesn't give me all the exercise I need.

So Friday, I met Toni and Bo at the gym. Toni has been a long-time gym rat--and she's been trying to get me to join her gym for years. While I was in Norway, she talked Bo into joining--and they've been working out regularly. Both of them are tiny and muscled. And they seem to really enjoy working out together.

First, we walked on the treadmill for about a half hour. I set my treadmill on an incline and I actually broke a sweat, something that rarely happens when I walk outside. After the treadmill, Toni and Bo had me lift weights. Toni is an expert on this stuff--she knows which machines work which muscles, and she did a great job of estimating how much weight I could handle as a beginner. And Bo has learned a lot over the years and would fill in when Toni was doing her own exercise. In fact, Bo often told me I needed to lift higher or less or lean back or otherwise perfect my position in order to maximize the effects. It felt really good to be working my muscles--and I loved having experts nearby to tell me what to do, how many repetitions, etc.

This morning, we did the same thing, but worked different muscle groups. It was harder for me today, since I hadn't really eaten anything substantial before I went. But I still really enjoyed the experience--and the anticipation of becoming more toned and fit at the same time that I'm increasing my bone density. Right now, I feel pleasantly aware of my muscles.

I like the idea of combining exercise with hanging out with two friends who I don't see enough. And I also ran into Asao who is training for a competition and Tobey, who is the principal of the school where my friends Esther and Kristie work (Tobey's wife just became co-owner of the gym). And I met an English teacher from San Joaquin Memorial (a local Catholic school).

So . . . I guess I'm going to become a gym rat.