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Girls can Grill!

27 Aug

 

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Girls can grill. And very well I might add. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Many folks think that grilling is a guy thing. I beg to differ! Not only do I grill a lot, so does my sister.

As is true for most things, my sister and I have very different (read opposite) methodology and philosophy in life. It is something we marvel over. It truly delights us. Raised by the same parents in the same house going to the same schools and having the same brothers, we couldn’t be more different. And we love it. Predictably, same goes for our grilling.

My sister and I conflict (agreeably) with one another on grilling techniques even when making the same thing. For ease and timeliness (I live in a perpetual state of whirling dervish mode…) I use a gas grill. It’s quick to start, temperature management is a no brainer, and it is easy to clean.

So while I go to my gas grill for speed and control, my sister goes full on charcoal grill. I say that with envy. She has WAY more patience than I do when it comes to the finesse of grilling, and she can really rock the charcoal grill.

On to the brats!  They are a grilling favorite. Let’s compare and contrast, shall we? I start cooking my brats in beer and onions on the stovetop. A bit ordinary but the outcome is delish. My sister, on the other hand, starts hers on the grill. With beer. And onions. And buttuh!  Nothing ordinary about that!

 

When the brats are cooked through and have beer and onion deliciousness wrapped around them, they go onto the grill. A gas grill for me-charcoal for my sister. She usually tosses some good hot dogs on a s well. Hey-we are german, so why not load up on the sausages! Look at those grill marks!

 

On to finishing the grilled brats. Again my sister and I express core philosophical brat differences. We disagree on sauerkraut, but we also differ with our buns and mustard, My buns are lightly toasted, hers are not. And my mustard is yellow. Hers is dijon. And she loads those succulent tender onions on her brats as well.

 

My sweet Denis sides with my sister here (in homage to family peace). He is all about the dijon mustard with his brats. But not me. Out of sheer pride I won’t even entertain a dijon mustard option here.

So here you have it. A grilling story.  With very different techniques-but all with great outcomes. So gals, go get a grill and fire it up. Let me know what you are grilling and remember, girls can grill!

 

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Sweet Summer Tomatoes

22 Jul

Oh the bounty of a summer garden! Yummy fresh tomatoes are bursting off the vine this time of year. Don’t have garden? Ramble through the local farmers market and snap up some delicious cherry tomatoes. They are fresh, sweet, and oh so versatile! Not sure what to do? Well keep reading.

Friends just came by and an impromptu summer patio party is underway. Need a quick appetizer? Take those cherry tomatoes, put a small dish of vodka spiked with horseradish beside them, and place a shaker of celery salt there too. Get the toothpicks and Voila! A fun light Bloody Mary appetizer is ready in an instant. Put a cherry tomato on the toothpick, dip it into the vodka, shake a little celery salt on it, and pop it into your mouth. The bite begins with a delicious pop of tomato, then the other flavors flow over your tongue. Yummers!

Want something a little more succulent? Put some olive oil into a pan and heat it up. Add the tomatoes to the hot pan and give it a shake of salt, pepper, and stir.

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Let those cook for a bit, and they will begin to get creamy!

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Be patient and let those cook a bit longer, stirring every so often. Now you can add a clove of garlic that is diced. You will be rewarded-but what is next?  Is this a base on which to jump off, or is this IT? If this is IT, scoop in on a lovely piece of chicken and enjoy. Want to go a different direction with this? Okay-lets go!

You can add this to sautéed summer squash.

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Or you can toss it on some squash that has been through the vegetable twirler and enjoy a light vegetarian main “pasta” dish. Play with herbs a bit before adding to pasta, perhaps adding some fresh summer basil and parsley. Red pepper flakes would also be a well paired addition.

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Ready for another option? Start with colored tomatoes and cook the same way.

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After these beauties get good and velvety, add some spinach, arugula, or fresh green of your choice. Let that cook together.

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Oooohhhh! We are on the train to delicious town! Add some chicken or vegetable stock, stir, and add some pasta.

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This will cook down to an amazing one pot dish. Want to add some shrimp too? Go ahead! This is your time to have fun and personalize this luscious summer meal into something your family will love. Oh, you are cooking for one? Keep cooking! You will be the envy of the office with these leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Let me know what you are doing with your summer tomatoes. Follow me on twitter @amykgarman

 

Onion Jam

15 Jul

Love onions? Not sure what to do with sun-dried tomatoes? Crazy about dried fruit? Then this appetizer will be on your must try list. If you have a little time to fuss over making this jam, it is worth it. Don’t be shy-have a glass of your favorite Cab to go along side this dish and really make the flavors pop!

Grab a heavy saucepan, toss in 2 tablespoons of high quality butter, put the heat on low, and lets get started.

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First grab one or two Vidalia sweet onions and thinly slice. I like a mandolin to do this job. It is quick, easy, and you’ll get through cutting the onions without shedding a single tear.

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Now toss the onions into the sizzling butter. Add a bit of sugar, salt, red pepper and black pepper.

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Give that fragrant deliciousness a good stir. Now this is when a little patience comes in handy. Turn the heat to low, cover the pan, and let those onions get golden.

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While that is cooking away, its time to get ready for the next step. We will be adding dried fruit, sun dried tomatoes, 1/2 cup of white wine and some rich balsamic vinegar to the onion mixture.

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I used figs this time because I had them on hand, but I have also used dried cherries (my favorite!) and dried cranberries. Chop the dried fruit and tomatoes. I used about 5-6 of each.

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After about a half hour its time to take the lid off the sauce pan and let the wonderful sweet fragrance of the onions pleasure your senses. Mmmmmm. After you take that deep breath in, add the tomatoes, fruit, balsamic vinegar and wine. Stir that all together.

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Leave the lid off and let that simmer down. All of the wine will cook off and the onion jam will thicken. When that happens, remove it from the heat and let it cool a bit. Get some crackers and some lovely bread ready to nosh. There is one last ingredient to add-bleu cheese. Pour some wine, grab your honey, turn some great jazz on, and enjoy!

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Hydrate Plus

18 Jun

It is not officially summer, but it is hot outside! Staying hydrated is really important any time of year, but dehydration can happen more quickly in the heat. Drinking plain water can be BOOOOOORRRING, and we are oh so stylish! Simple water just won’t do. How do we transition from boring old water to something exciting?

For starters, I invested in a pretty beverage dispenser. Seriously, this thing was less than twenty bucks, and I use it more than I thought I would. It’s glass, and so pretty whether it’s filled with Sangria for a Spanish dinner party or Spa Water (my cool version) for a summer evening cookout.

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Today I made a my delicious and irresistible Spa Water. I got creative with water and added some other goodies like cucumbers, lemons, melon, and strawberries to really please the palate. My Spa Water is more than refreshing,  it can help detoxify the body. And who doesn’t need that every now and again?

This is what i started with-

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I peeled the cucumber before slicing it. The skin can be bitter so I prefer to remove it for my Spa Water. Cucumbers aid in brain health and reduce inflammation, so what the heck-why not help out our gray matter! I always wash and dry the cucumber before slicing it. I save extra slices for later to have with hummus as a snack.

Next I cut up fresh cantaloupe to add to the water. The health benefits of cantaloupe include being rich in beta carotene which your body can convert to Vitamin A. This is important to eye health (and as an “over 40” woman that sort of uses readers I need that!). Vitamin A also contributes to a healthy immune system and healthy red blood cells. Cantaloupe is also rich in potassium and Vitamin C. Since I have some leftover cantaloupe, I will toss it with a bit of rich bleu cheese for a decadent side dish or snack. Yum!

I didn’t bother to do much to the lemons other than slice them. Lemons are a great source of vitamin C. The lovely oil in the lemon rind aids in digestion, is detoxifying in nature, and nourishes the skin so I left it on and added it to the water.

I didn’t have fresh strawberries, but had some in the freezer. I keep frozen berries on hand for my smoothies, but today frozen strawberries were getting thrown into the Spa Water. Strawberries have high levels of heart-healthy antioxidants so load up on ’em. They add just the right touch of sweetness to the water, and add a lovely rose’ color as well.

Put all that goodness together and this is what you get-elegant, healthy, and packed with flavor.

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Serve it in a wine glass, pour it in a glass over ice, or carry it with you to the gym. Any way you decide to use this water, it is a winner! This is THE way to stay hydrated this summer!

 

Breakfast Bliss

28 May

Breakfast does not have to be boring. It is time for your breakfast to explode! Are you an oatmeal fan? Well get ready-here we go! How about Chocolate Steel Cut Oats? YUM!

Here is what you need to create some breakfast greatness.

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Start by melting your butter is a heavy bottomed saucepan.

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Then sprinkle in pure delicious unsweetened Cocoa

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Give that mixture a whisk to incorporate

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Let that get all bubbly while amazing scents start wafting through the kitchen. Next, add your steel cut oats.

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Keep stirring until your grains are all coated with the succulent cocoa and butter mixture.

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Next, add your water or milk-I use some of each. I also add a teaspoon of vanilla.

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Let the mixture slowly come to a boil, then turn down to simmer.

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This is when you need to unpack your patience. Steel cut oats are loaded with excellent nutrition, but this grain takes a while to cook. Best to give this about a half hour to simmer. I make enough for leftovers, so this can also be a quick breakfast later in the week.

You’ll know its ready when it is really creamy.

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I usually have leftover quinoa in my fridge so any recipe can be quickly pumped up with protein and fiber. This is no exception. I mixed in some quinoa while the oats were hot

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And this is my finished breakfast. I drizzled a bit of agave over it to sweeten it a tiny bit

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Don’t be fooled by the addition of the cocoa, as it is loaded with beneficial nutrients. A few words about the health benefits of cocoa. It can offer include relief from high blood pressure, can help control cholesterol levels and stabilize insulin levels. Cocoa also contains elements that can improve mood, making it a great way to start your day. It has potassium, magnesium, and iron as well. Add cocoa to your diet and leave the guilt behind.

This recipe is great as is or you can customize it. Add in some maple syrup, shake on some cinnamon, stir in other cooked grains, or sprinkle in some toasted almonds. Its up to you-but anyway you make it, you will have winning breakfast every time!

RECIPE:

  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 T. pure unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups water or milk
  • Agave or sweetener of choice

Melt the butter in a sauce pan. When it is hot and bubbly, sprinkle the cocoa in and whisk. Let that get good and hot, and add the oats. Stir until your grains are covered in the butter cocoa mixture. Add the liquid, the vanilla, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down so the mixture is simmering. Watch this carefully-it can boil over quickly so it is important to get it down to a simmer and hold it there for the duration of the cook time. Stir every 5-10 minutes. Cook for 25-30 minutes, finish with your sweetener, and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey Breakfast Skippers…

28 Apr

I am up and at the gym by 5:30 most mornings. After a good workout, I dash back home for a quick shower and then zip off to work. Nope-no time for breakfast.

But that is a huge mistake. We all know that. A healthy breakfast sets a successful eating pattern for the day, so we’d better make it a good one. That is a challenge on a tight schedule though. What is the solution? The Grab and Go breakfast.

No-not the drive through kind, the refrigerator leftover kind. Here is how to do it. First, grab a couple of eggs because they offer excellent protein. Why does that matter? Protein can help stabilize blood sugar and keeps the hunger pangs at bay. You feel full longer. Eggs pack a quality nutritional punch, so feel free to grab 3 or 4 of them. Next grab the leftover quinoa with spinach and pimento that you made last night for dinner.

Once you are at work, get situated. Check your emails, review your calendar, and fill your water bottle with refreshing ice water. Next, take your eggs and quinoa and find a microwave.

Crack your eggs into a glass microwave safe dish. Include one or two whole eggs and one or two of the whites only. Most of the protein in an egg resides in the white so use all of the whites. Don’t be afraid of those egg yolks though-they contain beneficial vitamins and minerals like choline, selenium, and B vitamins like folate.

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Next, take a fork and whip up your eggs. If you are a milk drinker, add a few tablespoons to make your eggs fluffy. Add some pepper for a little kick. Pop it in the microwave.

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Try cooking your eggs in 30 second increments until almost done, stirring your eggs every 30 seconds.

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Next, add in your grains. This adds fiber, texture, flavor and a bit more muscle building protein.

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Finish cooking your eggs with the grains.

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So there you have it. You are having a delicious healthy breakfast at the office in a snap. This is how to do a healthy Grab and Go breakfast. And the best part is that this is very budget friendly because you used leftovers. Love that! What are you doing with your leftovers?

Inspiration and the Waffle Iron

26 Mar

Inspiration. It comes from many places. A sweet smile from your child. The scents wafting out of a bakery. An impassioned speech from a respected figure. A plate with artfully arranged food.  Walking through a museum. Beautifully arranged flowers brightening a room. Inspiration, when it comes, affects us all differently.

Admittedly, I am a bit quirky, so when I get inspired it usually sends me into the kitchen. My kitchen represents an ideal arena for self expression, and allows creativity to be channeled in wonderful ways. Take, for example, a recent weekend morning. Inspiration came in the form of wonderful weather, the promise of a great bike ride, and a powerful hunger.

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The morning was a lovely temperature and getting outside to enjoy the budding day was in order. So Denis and I decided to take a long trail ride on our bikes. But first we needed to power up with a breakfast that would provide much needed energy for our ride. Eggs, Canadian bacon, and hash browns sounded delicious.

The thing is, I am not a big potato fan-unless it is breakfast. I just adore hash browns. They are crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and just plain yummy. But they can be a pain to make, and take a bit of talent to make well.

I’ve tried pulling out my cast iron skillet, oiling it up, shredding potatoes, seasoning them, they frying the heck out of ’em. That was my best attempt at delicious home made hash browns. And they were just so so. Then inspiration hit in the form of my trusty old waffle iron. And I made the Best.Hash.Browns. Ever.

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This is how I started-my waffle iron, potatoes, and some cooking spray. I also had salt and pepper on hand as well. I plugged my waffle iron in and set it to preheat at a medium temperature. While that was heating up I pulled the preshredded potatoes out of the freezer and quickly defrosted them. I squeezed out the excess water.

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When the waffle iron was good and hot I sprayed it with a generous amount of cooking spray. I then placed roughly 2 handfuls of shredded potatoes on the bottom plate of the waffle iron. I sprinkled salt and pepper on top, then placed the top plate over the potatoes.

The potatoes started sizzling away. Denis was busy working on the eggs and Canadian bacon while I fussed over the hash browns. Since this was an experiment with no recipe, I was not sure how long to let the potatoes cook. I watched them closely. After about 6 minutes I gently lifted the top of the waffle iron to take a peek at breakfast project. What did I find?

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Perfection. Absolute deliciousness. I used a spatula to remove the “potato waffle” from the iron. It slid off the iron and onto a plate with ease. The waffle iron made amazing breakfast potatoes. This paired with our eggs and bacon very well. The trail ride, with inspiration from the breakfast, was a rousing success.

Will I try this again? You bet! But next time I will mix in some diced bell peppers and maybe even some cheese. I can’t wait for my next inspiration!