Thursday, May 26, 2016

How Does My Garden Grow: Summer Vegetable Salad

The summer garden is in full swing. The beans are abundant, squashes are arriving, tomatoes are ripening, spring onions are ready, and we have harvested the last of the remaining spring carrots and beets.

Mother Nature produces phenomenal flavors and textures, and she intends for you to enjoy it as close to nature as possible.  This salad stays close to its roots and is made with only a handful of fresh ingredients.  If you have ever played in the dirt (a/k/a gardening) and harvested fresh vegetables then I don't have to describe the phenomenal flavors, colors and textures.

If you enjoy summer vegetables salads don't limit yourself to only the ingredients listed here in my recipe.  Mix and match, and use what is seasonally available. 

An important ingredient in dressing salads is olive oil and all olive oils are not created equal.  Think of olive oil like wine and find the right match.  In this salad I created a light vinaigrette using a Tuscan style citrus blend (lemon, lime and tangerine) olive oil which adds brightness and paired perfectly with this fresh summer salad.  If you are interested in high quality olive oils then check out  Pasolivo Olive Oils hand crafted olive oils from California.


Salads like this one remind me at the end of the day simple is indeed best.



Summer Vegetable Salad
Serves 6


Ingredients:
1-lb. Use any combination mixed fresh beans,  cut into thirds 
1-2 zucchini sliced and cut into 1' quarters
1-2 large carrots, peeled and cut into thick slices
2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
Medium onion, chopped
1 cup good quality feta cheese

For the Vinaigrette 
1/4 cup Pasolivo olive oil or other high quality olive oil
2 Tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch of Kosher salt
Pinch of Fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil  (if using fresh double the amount)
1 teaspoon dried Oregano (if using fresh double the amount)

Directions:
Prep all the vegetables. Bring a large pot with a pinch of salt to a boil.  Add vegetables and cook 2-3 minutes.  Immediately drain and then add to an ice water bath to stop cooking (Tip: Keeps vegetables bright). Drain well.  Add vegetables to a large bowl.

For the Vinaigrette:
In a small bowl whisk together vinegar,  salt, black pepper, mustard, basil and oregano.  Slowly whisk  in olive oil to emulsify.

Note: You can add all the salad dressing ingredients in a small jar and shake until the dressing is emulsified.

Enjoy!


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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Keeping it Simple: Potato and Kale Soup


Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated~Confucius

There is nothing complicated here.  Only a few fresh ingredients needed.  Take a moment and savor the simplicity.


Potato and Kale Soup
Serves 6


Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 strips applewood bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 large carrots, diced
6 medium yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
A half-bunch fresh kale leaves (8-10) with the stem removed, chopped
8 cups chicken stock
1 can cannelloni beans drained
A good pinch of kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper

Directions:
In a 6-quart Dutch oven over medium heat, heat olive oil.  Add bacon, onion. and carrot.  Sauté until the onion is translucent and the bacon is slightly crisp (3-5 minutes).  Add garlic, pinch of salt and ground black pepper.  Cook another minute.  Add kale.  Cook another 3-5 minutes until kale has wilted.  Add chicken stock, beans and potatoes.

Simmer for approximately 25-30 minutes.  Soup is done when potatoes are easily pierced with a fork and kale is tender.

Enjoy!



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Monday, March 28, 2016

Shout out to all my Peeps



I am late to the party!  






Happy Easter!  



Pink Bunny Martini
Serves 3

Ingredients:
1-12 ounce frozen Raspberry Lemonade concentrate
8-ounces gin  (adjust the amount of gin to your own taste)
12-ounces tonic water


Directions:
In a tall pitcher, mix raspberry lemonade concentrate, gin and tonic water. Blend well. Serve ice cold.

Note: To make the sugar rim. Use white sugar with a few drops of neon color pink food dye or use a very small amount of red food dye and blend well.


Enjoy!



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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Spicy Ramen Stir Fry with Broccoli, Tofu, and Mandarin Oranges

My post-parenting years begin soon.  We are moving from a child focused life, back to our own lives.  As parents of two amazing sons, who are fiercely independent, intelligent, humorous, kind and inspiring, this would be the time in our lives we pat ourselves on the back for a job well-done.  If only it were that easy.

I remember like it was yesterday when our older son came by the house the night before he moved to Texas.  We thought it would be less difficult because he had been on his own for awhile, but when he left that evening there was a swell of emotions.  It was the moment when you realize your son is grown-up, he is ready.  Your job was to let him go and it was hard.

Our youngest son will be heading off to college this summer.   He is excited.   We are excited for him. He is ready to fly.  Our job once again is to let him go, and again, it is going to be hard.

We have spent half of our lives raising children and getting them ready for their future.  As our last child steps out, we have to step out too.   I think we are ready.  

What does a meal have to do with a empty nest?  A lot.  How we cook for our children is different than how we would choose to cook for ourselves. Proof is this simple stir fry using plain ramen noodles, broccoli, mandarin oranges and baked tofu make for a quick weeknight meal.



Spicy Ramen Stir-Fry with Broccoli, Tofu, and Mandarin Oranges
Serves 4
Recipe from Vegetarian Times



Ingredients:
1 7-oz package baked tofu, cubed
3 cups small broccoli florets
4 mandarin oranges, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons hot-chile sesame oil
1 3-oz package plain ramen noodles

Directions:
Combine tofu, broccoli, orange segments, and hot-chile sesame oil in medium bowl, stirring to coat evenly.  Marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Cook noodles according to package directions; drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water.  Set aside.

Heat wok or large skillet over medium-high heat, and coat with cooking spray,  Add broccoli mixture, and stir-fry 7 to 8 minutes, or until tofu is browned and broccoli is tender.

Add noodles to skillet, and toss to combine with vegetables, adding cooking water to moisten.  Season with salt and more hot-chile sesame oil, if desired.

Enjoy!











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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Stove to Table within 30 minutes: Moroccan Lentil Stew with Raisins

This lentil stew with raisins is considered a traditional Moroccan comfort soup much like our beloved chicken soup.   Chick peas, lentils, and golden raisins stew in a savory tomato broth with cinnamon, cumin and red pepper.   Dried fruits are a staple in a Moroccan kitchen and the raisins here are a perfect addition to adding just a hint of sweetness, while reducing the acidity of the tomatoes in this comforting and hearty stew. 

No one will ever guess that this stew is prepared with store bought quality convenience foods which makes eating healthy more easy.  What's even better?  You can have this entree from stove to table in about 30 minutes.  Want to serve a crowd?  Serve the stew over couscous or potatoes family style.


Note: If you live locally and are interested in learning about Moroccan cuisine I will be hosting a cooking demonstration at Brown's Kitchen on Saturday, March 12.   You can call (850) 385-5665 to reserve your seat.  We will be exploring the fragrant spices of Morocco and indulging in the vibrant flavors of North Africa.

Menu: 
Star Anise Cinnamon Cocktail
Lemon and Coriander Marinated Olives
Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Olives served with couscous
Moroccan Tomato Salad
and finish with a sweet mint tea



Moroccan Lentil Stew with Raisins
Serves 6
Recipe from Vegetarian Times



Ingredients:
1 cup chopped onions
3 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbs.)
1-28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2-18 ounce cartons prepared lentil soup
1- 15 ounce can chick peas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup raisins or dried currants
2 tsp. ground cinnamon, or to taste
1-1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste
6 Tbs. plain non-fat Greek yogurt or soy yogurt optional

Directions:
1.  Heat oil in a medium saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add onion, and sauté 3 minutes, or until softened and translucent.  Add garlic, and cook 1 minute, or until garlic is softened, but not browned, stirring constantly.

2.  Stir in tomatoes, soup, chick peas, raisins, cinnamon, cumin, and red pepper flakes.  Season with salt and pepper, if desired.  Bring stew to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.

3.  Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes, or until mixture is reduced and sauce has thickened, stirring often from bottom to prevent sticking.  Garnish each serving with 1 Tbs. yogurt, if using.

Enjoy!

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Monday, January 18, 2016

How Does My Garden Grow: Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Hazelnut, Orange, and Saffron


Winter has finally arrived in North Florida and my garden remains utterly confused.  The garden pests feasted on young fresh winter greens with wild abandon, and procreated endlessly in the warmth of the sun.  War was waged in the garden and we emerged in victory when Old Man winter made an official appearance, and got the garden show on the road.

My main victory this garden season was my cauliflower.  Now, before you shake your head too much from left to right, hear me out. CAULIFLOWER ROCKS!  It needs a little extra attention but its blank canvas explodes in flavor with minimal effort.

I am a big fan of roasting vegetables.  All vegetables have natural sugars that when roasted come alive.  Cauliflower is no exception and it is dressed to impress, when the roasting flavors are orange, hazelnut and saffron.  The roasted cauliflower is returned to the oven, and steamed in coconut milk.

Next time you're at the farmers market or your local grocery store toss a cauliflower head into your basket and get your Veg feast on!



Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Hazelnut, Orange, and Saffron
Serves 4
Recipe from Vegetarian Times yummybeet.com

Ingredients:
1 large head cauliflower, green leaves removed
1 Tbs. roasted hazelnut oil or olive oil
1 orange, juiced ( 1/4 cup) and zest grated (2 Tbs.)
1 pinch saffron
1/4 cup light coconut milk
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1/3 cup roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Place cauliflower in large Dutch oven or other high-sided ovenproof dish.

Stir together oil, orange juice, orange zest, and saffron in small bowl.  Pour mixture over cauliflower, rubbing with hands to distribute evenly.  Season with salt and pepper, if desired.  Put dish in oven, and bake uncovered, 40 to 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together coconut milk and 1/4 cup water in small bowl.

Remove cauliflower from oven, and pour coconut-milk mixture over top.  Bake 10 to 15 minutes more, or until cauliflower is tender.  Slice cauliflowers into quarters, and sprinkle with parsley and hazelnuts.

Enjoy!

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Saturday, January 2, 2016

Meyer Lemon Gimlet Cocktail with Rosemary


"There is more to life than increasing its speed" -Ghandi

We rang in the New Year quietly at home.  Exhausted from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, and spending the year moving in a million different directions has produced a lot of noise in my life, and has left me feeling hurried and stressed.

The New Year Resolution is old and tired and "resolutions" have been replaced with a new buzz word "themes" (honestly, I prefer themes to resolutions).  People will argue and say "everyday is a new day and you can start on any of the other 364 days."  Yes, but a new year symbolically provides us with a blank canvas to attempt once again to get it right.

So at least for now, I got it right. I slowed down this week to a crawl.  Counted my blessings, and my steps, and practiced quieting my mind by getting comfortable with sitting and doing nothing.

On New Year's Eve I soaked in the quiet abundance of my backyard Meyer lemon tree and the sprawling rosemary bush to create a twist of flavors on a classic gimlet cocktail.

Happy New Year to you and your families. May 2016 bring you everything you hope for and more.



Meyer Lemon Gimlet with Rosemary 
Serves 1


Ingredients:
2 ounces good quality gin
3/4 ounce fresh Meyer lemon juice (or other variety)
3/4 ounce rosemary infused simple syrup
Lemon slice and a sprig of rosemary for garnish

Rosemary Simple Syrup:
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
Handful of fresh rosemary sprigs 
2 lemon slices (optional)

Directions:

Simple Syrup
In a small saucepan, on medium heat, add water and sugar. Bring to a boil.  Stir until sugar dissolves .  Add rosemary and lemon wedges.   Let steep for 2 hours or overnight. Place in a jar and refrigerate up to a week.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and pour in the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup. Shake hard until very cold.

Strain into a cold coupe or martini glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge and rosemary sprig.  Serve immediately.

Enjoy!


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