Cucumber melon coolers

Warm sun means my CSA box has been overloaded with cucumbers and melons. Here's a refreshing way to use up the best summer flavors in one tasty drink.

Cucumber melon coolers (4-6 servings)
1 medium cucumber, roughly chopped (about 2 c.)
1 small melon, roughly chopped (about 3 c. - I used a sharlyn melon)
3 c. water
1/4 - 1/2 c. unrefined cane sugar
1 handful of mint leaves
zest and juice of 1 lime

Combine everything in a blender and puree until smooth. If you're not using organic cucumbers, peel it first, since most conventional cukes are coated in wax. Start with 1/4 c. sugar and adjust the amount depending on how sweet your melon was and how sweet you want your juice to be. Pour through a sieve (optional, if you don't have a high-powered blender), then chill for at least 1 hour. Serve over ice.

Perfect for sipping by the pool, on a porch, or if you live somewhere awesome like the East Bay, at the beach!

In more East Bay rocks news, Souley Vegan's new storefront near Jack London Square is finally open for business. You can't beat their Southern Fried Tofu! They also have great BBQ tofu and all the fixings like mac & cheese, potato salad, collard greens, black eyed peas, yams, and lots more. The strawberry ginger juice is also delicious and super refreshing. Plus, the family that runs Souley are some of the friendliest folks around. Please support them!

Souley Vegan
301 Broadway (@ 3rd)
Oakland, CA 94607

Buckwheat pancakes for 1

I spent most of my life not really understanding pancakes. Who would choose flat blobs of dough over french toast or waffles? I also grew up on decidedly unamerican, paper thin crepes, dressed with syrups my mom would make from orange juice or jams (more on that later). It wasn't until very recently, that I discovered what pancakes really meant: fluffy, warm vehicles for fat and sugar, a carb-lover's dream. They are pan-fried cakes afterall, and that doesn't sound too shabby.

While my partner does love pancakes, he often has more discipline than me and my cravings for breakfast at any hour of the day, and so I put together this recipe which cooks up 6 delicious mini-cakes for one. It's easy to remember and a few of the ingredients are ok to eyeball, which means it come together really quickly. I like minis because, well, mini things are always cuter, and they cook much faster, too.

Buckwheat pancakes (6 - 3" pancakes)
1/4 c. buckwheat flour
1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
~ 1 tsp. sugar
pinch of salt
fresh grated nutmeg (one or two passes on the microplane)
1/2 c. dairy-free milk
~ 1 tsp. oil or melted margarine
splash of vanilla extract (or use vanilla milk above)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients to distribute everything evenly. In a measuring cup, measure out your milk first, then splash in the oil and vanilla and whisk together in the cup to combine.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry and whisk slowly, just until everything is moistened.

Now, an important step, not to be skipped: set the bowl in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes to rest.

When you batter is almost done resting, lightly oil and heat up your favorite pancake skillet (I like cast iron). For perfectly portioned pancakes (and cookies and cupcakes...) I highly recommend investing in a disher or several of various sizes. I use a size 30 (1 1/4 oz.) for this recipe for 6 pancakes, which is also about 2 heaping tablespoons. The batter will be fairly thick, so the disher makes for easy scooping, but you can just use a large spoon.

Cook your pancakes over medium to medium-high heat for a couple minutes each side, until golden.

In addition to growing up in a pancake-free home, we also rarely had maple syrup. Not always wanting my breakfast goods to taste like the fruit choice of the day, I got in the habit of just sprinkling sugar over my buttered crepes or french toast. I think this application is ideal for these little pancakes, as it allows the nutty flavor of the buckwheat to stand on its own (with a little help from the warm nutmeg). The crunchy crystals are also a nice contrast to the soft, fluffy cakes.


Summer doesn't quite have the significance it did when I was in school and it meant something entirely different than just being able to still see the sun on the commute home from work. It's still my favorite season though, with clear skies, being able to wear tank tops at night, frosty limeade, BBQs, and this tomboy's recently discovered affinity for the summer dress.

Being in California, our hot days come early, and I was lucky enough to spend my May birthday with great friends in one of my favorite places, Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, in West Oakland.

In the shadows of the port cranes and the Bay Bridge, we feasted of tofu pups and Boca burgers, potato and green bean salad, chips, sodas, and a strawberry vanilla cake from Shaudi. All the makings of a great barbecue!

Special thanks to Lisa for bringing out some white chocolate chips from New York on her recent visit to the Bay Area. I was able to make some classic white chocolate macadamia nut cookies for the party. One of my all time favorite cookie combinations and it's been years since I've been able to eat them.

Soon after, I took off with my family for China for a couple weeks of sightseeing.

Things got off to a bad start, when the airline didn't pack a vegan meal for the 12 hour flight.

I managed to find a few vegetarian restaurants thanks to the Vegetarian China website. However, I spent most of the trip downing massive amounts of white rice, bok choy, and watermelon.

In Xi'an, we had some beautiful dumplings, though the fillings weren't impressive and the skins were tough.

In Yangshuo, I finally got what I had really wanted for most of the trip: tofu and vegetables, and happily stuffed myself. I never thought it would be so difficult to get tofu in restaurants in China.

Upon my return, I threw a bun party for some friends.

I used my recipe for caramelized lemongrass tofu and whipped up some tofu, carrot, jicama, and shiitake stuffed cha gio. This is the perfect menu for summer parties, as it doesn't heat up your kitchen with too much cooking, and the dish is refreshing and light. Setting up the food buffet style also means less work for the host. I placed bunches of mint and cilantro in glasses of water to keep them fresh, and let people help themselves to all of the fixings: noodles, lettuce, peanuts, cucumbers, and nuoc cham sauce. Few things say summer quite as well as mint and cucumbers.

We ended the meal with something uniquely summer: smores!

I can't say that I've ever actually roasted marshmallows over a real summertime campfire (a gas grill perhaps, or a garbage can fire pit, and this time I made do with our broiler), but these sticky, sweet treats still allude to those quintessential scout camp memories that few people actually have. Thanks to the fine folks over at Chicago Soydairy, I had a big bag full of air-puffed marshmallows to share. The fluffy 'mallows roast up just like you'll remember conventional ones doing: toasty and crisp on the outside and soft and gooey in the middle. I'm also hoarding some for a cold night when I can top off a hot cocoa. Order some for yourself today and do summer right.