Archive | August, 2013

Cannelini and Greens

31 Aug

I am a self proclaimed foodie.   I think about food a lot.  I think about how to grow it, how to prepare it, and try to conjure up interesting twists of flavor with what I have on hand.  Although I love the European method of shopping daily to prepare the freshest food, I am not a person that likes to hop in the car and zip out to the store for a missing ingredient when I cook.  Nope…I like to put music on, surround myself with my the folks I love, and get in the kitchen and cook.

That is exactly what I was doing when I created my cannellini dish lately.  I looked at ingredients that I had on hand, craved something different, poured Denis and I a glass of red wine and got to work.  This is what I came up with, and I must say, it was brilliant.  Here is my recipe.

Amy’s Cannellini and Greens

  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • 2 cans cannellini beans-rinsed and drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups of fresh arugula and spinach
  • 4 slices of prosciutto, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive oil
  • 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1/2 Teaspoon parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon sage
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh parmesan cheese

Heat a large pan on medium, and put olive oil in pan.  When hot, add onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add garlic, and stir.   Let cook for 1 minute.   Add canned tomatoes with juice, thyme, parsley, and sage.  Stir to mix.  Shake in salt and pepper to taste.  Heat until hot and bubbling, about 4-5 minutes.  Add cannellini beans and give the mix a good but gentle stir.  During the last few minutes of cooking, add the prosciutto.  While that is heating through, take a large shallow bowl and line it with the fresh arugula spinach mixture.  Grate some fresh parmesan cheese over it.  Just a sprinkle will do.

Taste bean mixture.  Adjust seasonings as needed.  Pour hot beans over greens.  The greens will wilt a bit, and the scent coming off this dish is amazing!  Serve.

This dish is quick to put together and a great way to use some leftover greens when you are tired of regular cold salads.  It is a pretty dish, and packed with nutrition.  Cannellini beans are rich in antioxidants, loaded with beneficial fiber, and have plenty of heart healthy b9.   It is a beautiful dish to have on your dinner table, with the added benefit of being very nutritious!  Bon Appetite!

Oh yum!

Oh yum!

FRESH SALSA!

21 Aug

It’s time to really dig into the fresh tomatoes and corn of the season.  There are a million things to do with beautiful summer vegetables.  I just love the versatility of grabbing some tomatoes and thinking of so many ways to use them.

Speaking of the summer bounty…it’s time to make some fresh salsa.  Who doesn’t  love salsa, served with corn chips-I love the low sodium baked version-Now make some super fresh salsa from scratch.  Fresh salsa is also great on meat and fish.  It packed a punch of flavor, and you can make it as zippy as you want.

It’s time

And be creative. Start with:

  • 5 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion, finely chopped (sometimes I use green onions instead)
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1-2 finely chopped jalapeno peppers
  • 2 T. lime juice
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Throw all these ingredients in a bowl.  Give it a quick stir.  Refrigerate.  Yup, it’s that easy!

Then add, if you so choose:

  • Fresh corn, just cook it and cut it off the cob
  • Black beans, rinsed
  • A variety of other peppers chopped-they are bountiful in the summer!
  • Chill your salsa, and serve with baked corn chips

Grab the chips and a beer.  Enjoy!

bar food and leftovers

19 Aug

We are busy.  Kids, careers, appointments, and life in general keeps us busy.  As a nutrition professional, I get asked what I eat all the time, and how to eat healthy when time is tight.   Like I am some kind of benchmark for perfect eating habits.  Or always ready to dispense advice.   Um, I like to get away from my job too.  It’s true that I enjoy healthy food and an active life style.  But hey, even I get tired, cranky, and just want to cheat a little with my meals every once in a while.

It’s no secret that I think leftovers are fantastic to have around.  I like leftovers because they can either be a quick meal or a starter for something else great.  Leftover chicken can be eaten by itself or added to some other dish to create something else, like a chicken veggie pasta dish (healthy) or a quesadilla (bar food).  Either way, leftover chicken, or any leftover protein, is great to have in the fridge.  That is why I cook big and try to keep leftovers handy.

I usually try to have extra’s in the fridge or freezer to get a meal together in a snap.  Staples are a must, and by staples, I mean a well stocked pantry.  That leaves the option of then taking one or two fresh things along with leftovers and easily creating something great.  Sometimes leftovers stand alone, sometimes they becomes something else, like bar food.

By bar food, I mean eating something that is not quite a complete meal.  It’s a nibbler, but more filling, and is great for when you are just too exhausted to put a whole meal together.  Sprinkled into a healthy diet, it isn’t all that bad.  Moderation is key.

It happens to be Sunday evening.  This weekend was not particularly, well, rejuvenating.  My busy week carried over to a very busy weekend.  So tonight it is bar food and leftovers.  We have leftover chunky horse radish spread.  Slap it  on bread, add some cheese, pop into a pan and it’s a little grilled cheese.

Next comes a few bites of leftover melon.  Using fingers.  No utensils to wash.  Then a handful of salt free almonds along with a big glass of refreshing ice cold water.  Yum.  Next, a small portion of leftover spaghetti with a tomato vegetable sauce goes in to the microwave for a quick heating.

That’s it.  A little of this, a little of that.   Not ideal, but for a tired mom, this works every now and again.  True confessions…it’s okay to piece together a meal every now and again.

Let the pesto pop!

17 Aug

Ok..again my Leo comes out…even in my cooking.  Summer sunshine means amazing herbs spring to life in my garden.  My favorite of the summer herbs has got to be basil.  I wash my hands before I pick the delicate leaves so I can allow the delicious scent to linger on my fingers for a few extra minutes. Then I close my eyes, bring my fingers close to my face and breathe deep. Yum!!  It is an herb I simply cannot live without. It plays a starring role in many of my recipes.

Everyone has basil around in the summer.  It is easy to grow, but if that’s not your thing, its super easy to find in the grocery store and farmers markets.  There are a million ways to use it, from simple Bruschetta to complicated sauces.  Summer bruschetta with fresh tomatoes and basil is as refreshing as a popsicle!  But one of my all time favorite ways to use basil is fresh pesto.

Pesto takes moments to prepare and can be used in many different ways. Pesto can be liberally poured over pasta making a delicious side dish. It can be brushed onto fish, adding beautiful color and flavor to either delicate or hearty fish. I have doused chicken with pesto, adding flair to an otherwise bland weeknight dinner. Pesto can also be spread onto a sandwich as a savory condiment.

I love the freedom to use my flavor packed pesto on most everything! It is simple and makes me look like a rock star in the kitchen at times. Who wouldn’t love that? Pesto is very forgiving too. I have adjusted or substituted ingredients without having to sacrifice flavor. I will pass along my pesto recipe and let you have some fun with it too! It is a crowd pleaser, so make plenty and keep it handy in the fridge or freezer.  Bon appetite!

Basic Pesto:

2 cups fresh basil leaves (or 1 cup dried)

1/2 cup parsley leaves

1 1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil (adjust to taste)

1-2 cloves fresh garlic

1/4 cup pine nuts

1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

FYI- I have tried using toasted pine nuts as well as roasted garlic and it did not make a notable difference in taste. I have also substituted walnuts for pine nuts, and the flavor was great. I have used both “el cheapo” parmesan cheese in the can as well as fresh parmesan cheese, and fresh makes a difference. Use it if you can, but if you only have the can on hand, go for it! I usually add a little more olive oil if I am putting this on pasta. If you are using dried herbs in a pinch, you also may want to increase the olive oil. Go ahead! Play with this recipe! Have fun and enjoy the amazing flavors!

The 2013 diet

10 Aug

My journey through 2013 continues.  So do the twists and turns.  Doors have closed, and I am searching for that open window.  I have been overjoyed, disappointed, forgiven, loved, challenged, silenced, respected, and confused.  My experiences this year have run the full gamut and have spanned the spectrum from unconditional love to crushing setbacks, but it is producing an amazing recipe in the process.

My attitude continues to be one of gratitude.  For in gratitude is wellness.  Happiness.  Change.  The diet I am creating this year is the gratitude diet.  I am focusing on positive intake.   Start with yummy compliments.  Fill your mouth with positive words.  Add delicious accomplishments.  Throw in abundant affirmations added in heavy doses.  And handfuls of love.  So I must say thank you to folks in helping me develop my recipe.

The Gratitude Diet Recipe.

Thank you to those who told me I couldn’t. From you I learned that I can.

Thank you to those who gossiped. From you I learned how to hold my friends dear, and how important it is to keep my mouth shut.

Thank you to those with no faith.  From you I learned that God is central in my life, and that my faith runs deep.

Thank you to those who tried to intimidate me.  From you I learned how to stand up for myself.

Thank you to those who turned a deaf ear to me.  From you I learned how to not merely hear, but to listen.

Thank you to those who told me that I am weak.  From you I learned inner strength and confidence. For you allowed me to dig down to discover that I am stronger than I ever imagined.

Thank you to those that told me I was ugly. From you I found my inner beauty.

Thank you to those that put up barriers in my life.  From you, I learned how to tear down walls and fight for what I want.

Thank you to those who told me that I am not a good mother.  From you I learned that my commitment to motherhood is beautifully imperfect, and perfectly loving.

Thank you to those that put me second (or more accurately third, fourth or fifth) . From you I learn to put myself first.

Thank you to those who are loud and demand attention. From you I learned to be quiet.

Thank you to those who created drama in my life. From you I am learning to truly appreciate peace.

Thank you to those who have that overpowering sense of entitlement. From you I am learning to appreciate everything, big and small.

Thank you to those who told me to quit. From you I am learning perseverance.

Thank you to those who brag. From you I learn humility.

Thank you to those not recognizing my accomplishments.  From you I learned that they are not yours to diminish, but mine to propel me.

Thank you to those that lied to me. From you I am learning the importance of the truth.

Thank you to those who are false and phony. From you I am learning the importance of being truthful and genuine.

Thank you to those who stole from me-such as time, money, energy.  From you I learned to live more with less.

Thank you to the people who showed me kindness not because I am needy but because you are good.

Thank you to those who extended generosity, for you have enabled me to give more openly to others.

Thank you for those of you that protected me not because I am weak but because you are loyal.

Thank you to those that shared their strength with me during times when I wavered. For you give me the power to be a pillar of strength to someone else.   After all, it is in giving that we receive.

Thank you to those who helped me-help extended in silence out of love.  From you I learned to quietly lend a hand to others.

I try to appreciate everyone that comes into my life…the good, the bad and the ugly. Not only do I have something to learn from them, maybe they have something to learn from me.  So for this recipe, I say thank you.

What’s for dinner? (the next night!)

6 Aug

Think you don’t have time to cook?  Think again.  I truly believe that a well planned nutritious meal can be on the table in less time than going to the drive thru.  Sure it takes some planning, but running a good meeting, a good press conference, a well run home takes planning.  If I can do it, anyone can!

As most of you know, meals made from my fridge are among my most creative, flavorful, and easy.  I am a busy working mother, so time is my most precious commodity these days.  I need to use every moment to my best advantage to get things done.  Spending 5 minutes digging things out of the pantry, fridge and freezer, and another couple of minutes cooking is a great way to bring a budget friendly meal to the table.

This morning as I was getting ready for work, I took a minute and grabbed a pork tenderloin out of the freezer.  I put it on a plate, popped it into the microwave, and started defrosting it.  When I left for work, I took it out of the microwave and put it in the fridge to finish defrosting.  It was going to sit in there all day, so it had plenty of time to finish defrosting.  It was ready to use when I got home.

Fast forward to 6:00.  I came in from work and started to oven, setting the temperature to 400.  While chatting with my children, I grabbed an oven safe  skillet, sprayed a little non stick spray in it, and turned the burner onto medium high.  I took the tenderloin, drizzled it with olive oil, salt and pepper, then quickly browned it up in the skillet.  I sprinkled it with a little herb de Provence as it browned.  Then I popped it into the hot oven.  It would only need about 20-25 minutes to cook.  Next,  I poured a glass of wine and changed into comfortable clothes.

Now relaxing, it was back to the kitchen to start some wild rice.  I added 2 cups of vegetable broth, 1 cup of wild rice, and a little pepper to a sauce pan.  I put it on  a high heat until it started boiling.  Down to a low simmer, lid on, that would be ready in about 15 minutes.  Now for the vegetable.

I like to keep frozen and canned vegetables handy to use when time is short.  This was such an occasion.  I got a family size bag of frozen broccoli/cauliflower out of the freezer and put it in the microwave to begin cooking.  The tenderloin came out of the oven.  I put in on a plate and tented it with foil.  It is critical to tent meat and let it rest for a few minutes before serving.  The juices flow back into the meat, assuring it will be juicy.

The rice was ready, the tenderloin had rested, and the veggies were good and hot.   The children had set the table while dinner was cooking, so onto the table it went.  We were having a wonderful family dinner in no time!  Simple, fun, and delicious!