Sunday, April 13, 2014

Discovering the Virtues of Squash: Spaghetti Squash Fritters with Sriracha Mayonnaise

"Simplify Velva!"  It is the story of my life.   It is my main challenge, it is what I strive for, and I remind myself everyday to slow down, I am moving too fast, take a breath.

I find that I am most successful at keeping things simple is in the kitchen.  This is the space that centers my world (Placing my hands in my garden soil that is a whole other experience) but my kitchen is where it all begins for me.

Lately I have developed an interest in spaghetti squash and I have tried my hand at using the squash as the focus of my meal.  This squash is versatile and buttery and when prepared properly can also be an excellent alternative to pasta.

I came across this spaghetti squash fritters recipe in Cooking Light magazine and it immediately caught my eye.  Served up with a Sriracha mayonnaise makes for a light meal that is delicious and healthy.

Spaghetti Squash Fritters with Sriracha Mayonnaise
Recipe from Cooking Light

1 (2 pound) spaghetti squash
1 (8-ounce) package baby spinach
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
5 teaspoons canola mayonnaise
2 teaspoons 2% reduced fat milk
1 teaspoon Sriracha (hot chile sauce)
1 teaspoon cider vinegar

1.  Cut squash in half lengthwise.  Scoop out seeds: discard.  Place squash halves, cut sides up, in a microwave-safe bowl.  Cover with a damp paper towel.  Microwave at HIGH 20 minutes or until tender.  Let stand 10 minutes.  Scrape inside of squash with a fork to remove spaghetti like strands to measure 4 cups.

2.  Heat large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add spinach to pan;cook 2 minutes or until spinach wilts. Place squash and spinach on clean dish towel: squeeze until barely moist.  Coarsely chop squash mixture, and place in a large bowl.  Add panko and next 4 ingredients (through baking powder), and toss well to combine.  Place egg whites in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form.  Gently fold egg whites into squash mixture.

3.  Fill a 1/4 cup dry measuring cup with squash mixture.  Invert onto work surface; gently pat into a 1/4-inch thick patty.  Repeat procedure with remaining squash mixture, forming 10 patties total.  Heat a large non stick skillet over medium heat.  Add 1-1/2 teaspoons oil to pan, and swirl to coat.  Add 5 patties to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned.  Remove patties from pan; keep warm.  Repeat the procedure with remaining 1-1/2 teaspoons oil and squash patties.

4.  Combine mayonnaise and remaining ingredients in a small bowl.  Serve with fritters.

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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Garlicky Shrimp with Olive Oil

Let's keep it simple…Life happens.

A cold beer or a glass of wine….And a  loaf of crusty bread to soak up the garlicky oil is all that you need to make this easy to prepare shrimp dish perfect.

Garlicky Shrimp with Olive Oil
Serves 8 (first course Servings)
Recipe from Food and Wine

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 whole dried chiles
1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
2 pounds shelled and deveined medium shrimp
Crusty bread for serving

In a very large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering.  Add the garlic, chiles and parsley and cook over moderately high heat for 10 seconds, stirring.  Add the shrimp and cook over high heat, stirring once, until they are pink and curled, 3 to 4 minutes.  Season with salt and transfer to small bowls.  Serve with crusty bread.

Note: Sprinkle the shrimp after they're cooked with a crunchy sea salt.
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Monday, March 31, 2014

Savoring the Season: Chilled Strawberry Soup

We often associate soup with cold weather comfort.  Soup provides warm weather comfort too.  A chilled berry soup is often refreshing and light with a hint of sweetness that can be very satisyfying during the warm months without being heavy and hot.

Strawberries are at their peak in Florida and there is no resisting using fresh ripe strawberries to create a light summer soup.

This chilled strawberry soup is a snap to prepare by combining the strawberries, yogurt, orange juice and vanilla extract in your blender.  With a dollop of whipped toping and mint sprigs, you can call this soup simple and elegant.

Chilled Strawberry Soup
Serves 4
Recipe from Food Network

2 cups hulled and sliced fresh strawberries or (thawed) frozen strawberries
1 cup orange juice
1 cup vanilla yogurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped topping, as needed
Fresh mint sprigs, optional

In a blender, combine all the ingredients but the whipped topping and mint and process until smooth.  Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a dollop of whipped topping.  Garnish with mint, if desired.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Eat Your Greens: Simple Kale Salad

This weekend I trimmed that last of my winter kale.

I dressed it with a simple vinagrette of olive oil, lemon juice, chili powder and salt.  Proof that all that was needed was a few ingredients to bring out the natural flavor of these beautiful leafy greens.

Kale Salad
Serves 6
Recipe from Whole Foods

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 bunches of kale, stems and tough ribs removed, leaves very finely chopped

In a large bowl whisk together the oloive oil, lemon juice, chili powder and salt.  Add kale toss to combine and serve.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Clean Eating: Roasted Apple with Ricotta, Hazelnuts and Dark Chocolate

Sharing my food from my kitchen and garden are important to me, followed by the simplicity of preparation. With these thoughts as my foundation I am also reminded that to be healthy, I have to eat healthy.  Don't get me wrong I eat my share of crap food, on the run, and through the drive through window, but, every time I do, I am reminded that eatng like that does not make me feel my best.

This week I turned some time to reading my Stack it High Let it Fly food magazine pile and I managed to dog ear pages of recipes that caught my attention-this was one of them.  I even made a special trip to Trader Joe's to pick up the ingredients.

The granny smith apples with the core carved out stuffed with a mixture of ricotta cheese, orange zest, crushed hazelnuts (I used pistachios) chopped dark chocolate and raw honey tastes as good as it looks. What is better it is a fairly light dessert that packs real nutrition with no sugar hangover.

Roasted Apple with Ricotta, Hazelnuts and Dark Chocolate
Serves 6
Recipe from Clean Eating Magazine

Organic unsalted butter, as needed
6 firm baking apples (such as Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Crispin or Pippin)
1-1/2 cups reduced-fat or regular ricotta cheese
3/4 cup unsalted hazelnuts, ground or crushed (note: I used pistachios)
1/2 cup 70% or greater dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup raw honey, divided
1 tbsp orange zest

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Brush the bottom of a medium baking pan with butter.  Slice a small piece off the bottom of each apple so they stand flat without falling over.  Cut off the tops of apples and using, a spoon or small knife, carve out the core, leaving a thickness of about 1-inch of apple all around.  Transfer apples to baking dish.

2.  In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, hazelnuts, chocolate, 3 tbsp honey and orange zest.  Divide mixture among apples, filling inside cavity of each mounting on top.

3.  Dizzle remaining 1 tbsp honey over apples and bake until ricotta-chocolate mixture starts to melt and skin of apples has browned slightly, about 15 minutes.  Serve warm.

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Dirt to Table Experience: Carrot-Orange Soup

People are often surprised that we grow carrots-not sure why.  Folks may envision carrots being difficult to grow or just not on the sphere of their garden reality. The fact is we grow a lot of carrots. This past season we sowed close to 2000 seeds, that does not necessarily equate to 2000 carrots, but it does mean our garden has an abundance of carrots.

Fresh carrots are very crisp with a youthful taste which means it is going to take very little to make it taste fabulous in a simply prepared carrot soup.  These vibrant orange vegetables also provide  a maximum amount of nutrition-high in fiber, loaded with Vitamin A (beta-carotene), and almost zero calories.  Note:  I do recommend purchasing organic carrots, common store bought carrots are loaded with pesticides and chemicals.

This soup is easy to prepare and is beautiful as a starter soup, to a good meal or a bowl for lunch with a tossed green salad.  Proof that simple is often best.

Carrot-Orange Soup
Serves 6-8

2-lbs or approximately 5 cups sliced,  clean carrots
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons sweet cream butter
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 teaspoons grated ginger (optional)
3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup whipping cream
salt and pepper
Sour cream

1.  In a 6-quart pan, over medium high heat, add the butter, and onions, stirring often, until onions are soft.  Add carrots, ginger, broth and orange juice.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are tender.

2.  Remove from the heat and transfer to a blender only filling half-way, do it in batches if necessary.  Cover the blender, and hold a kitchen towel over the top, puree until smooth.  Return to the pan and add cream, stir over high heat until hot.  For a smoother flavor bring soup to a bowl and add salt and pepper, to taste.

3.  Ladle into bowls, and garnish with a dollop of sour cream.


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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Scenes from my Pantry: Split Pea Soup with Ham

It is almost spring!  We have one last cool weather soup hurrah before winter is officially over.  In honor of hearty and comforting soups I bring to you.....Split Pea with Ham.

Split Pea Soup with Ham
Serves 6-8

1-lb dried split peas, rinsed and drained
2- quarts vegetable or chicken broth
1 ham bone 
1 bay leaf
2 onions, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
A good pinch of dried thyme 
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons vegetable or olive oil

1.  Heat oil in a 4-quart pot.  Add chopped carrots, celery and onions. Sauté until softened (about 5 minutes).

2.  Add broth, split peas, ham bone, dried thyme, bay leaf, salt and black pepper.

3.  Bring to a boil, then simmer covered for approximately 1-1/12 hours.  Remove bone, cut-off meat, and return the ham to the soup.   Cook another 30 minutes or until tender.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Discard bay leaf.  Ready to serve.


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