Sweet Summer Salsa

16 Aug

Summer fruits are bursting with flavors and colors. This season gives us sweet treats with fresh aromatic melon, berries bursting with sweet juice, and gorgeous succulent ripe peaches. But we are rounding the corner to the summers end and need a new way to enjoy summer fruit. How about a yummy salsa?

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This fruit salsa is delicious with meat and seafood. Or try serving it along side a grilled pork tenderloin for a nice pop of flavor and color. Spoon it onto flavorful chicken thighs. Oh…you want it for an appetizer? You can do that too. This salsa is just as great with crisp yellow corn chips.  Or maybe try it alongside some brie cheese and crackers. The possibilities are endless!

As you will see there is so much flexibility with one simple recipe. It has bold flavor and is packed with nutrients.   It is a snap to make and easily customizable to suit your own personal preferences.  I make this fruit salsa with cilantro for a little kick, but I would use basil in place of cilantro it if my mom was going to eat it.  She doesn’t like cilantro.

That is the beauty of a recipe like this.  It is packed with flavor, has good nutrients, and is very colso easy to alter to please your crowd!  Here it is.  But remember…I consider recipes a “jumping off point” if you will.  Recipes that I develop, like this one, can be changed to suit changing taste, available ingredients,  or budgets as often as your like!

Fresh Summer Salsa:

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped cantaloupe
  • 1 cup chopped honey dew melon
  • 2 freestone peaches, chopped
  • 1/2 cup blackberries
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/2 bunch chopped cilantro
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped jalapeno pepper
  • 1 lime cut in half
  • 1-2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of salt and pepperIMG_3399

Mix everything except the lime together. Stir. Squeeze the fresh lime over the top and drizzle with olive oil.  Give the salsa another good stir and there you have it.  This is best if it sits for a few hours in the fridge before serving.  Go for it!  Grab up some fresh summer fruits and make a delicious salsa of your own!

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Grill Thrill

5 Aug

For years I have said to my dining partners “If you want lamb, make reservations.”  I am not a huge lamb fan.  I usually had it at wine dinners, restaurants, and even in Scotland. But it was not something that I ever cooked or prepared. Having lamb paired with the appropriate wine is, like most food, amazing. Other than that, it’s just not on my radar.

Then one afternoon  I was out wine shopping.  I just happened to get an outstanding bottle of wine at a bargain price.  Red wine.  And it was begging to be paired with lamb.  So the adventure began.

Never having cooked lamb before, I had some homework to do. Finding a good butcher for top of the line lamb chops was a must. I found a local mediterranean market, and lucky me…they had a butcher. Not only did they have fresh lamb, they cut the chops to order. Score!

I decided to cook the chops outside on the grill. Like steak, I learned that lamb is delicious grilled.I also discovered that rosemary was perfect to flavor the chops.  I have a friend that grows rosemary in her yard in abundance, so I zipped over there and nabbed a handful!  I wanted to keep it simple.  Rosemary, salt, pepper, and some flavorful high quality olive oil is what I used to prepare the chops.

I started by letting the chops sit for a couple of minutes to come to room temperature, then I rubbed them with olive oil and sprinkled on the rosemary. Salt and pepper too. I placed the chops on a hot grill at about 400 degrees.  A quick flip after 4 minutes, and in another 4 minutes they were done.

I pulled them off the grill, put a pat of butter on each chop, and tented them with tin foil. Meat is at its best after resting for a few minutes. After letting the wine breath a bit, it was poured and the lamb plated. Roasted asparagus accompanied the chops, as did wild rice.  The bold full bodied wine paired with the meal was a show stopper.  Yum!

The outcome was incredible!  The chops were savory, the wine delish! It was a meal to enjoy at a leisurely pace to fully enjoy the food, wine, and dinner companions. The outcome of my adventure into cooking lamb was a success.  The discovery of a new mediterranean market which I will now frequent was an added bonus.  And exploring the savory taste sensation of well paired food and wine is always a win in my book!

 

Lover of Leftovers

1 Aug

Time. There are 24 hours in every day, but sometimes it feels like less.  So when I cook, I have to make it count for more than one meal.  Cooking big is a time saver. If I have a little wiggle room during the weekend to cook, I try to fill the fridge for the upcoming week. But even quick week night meals can provide leftovers for another meal.

Okay, it’s no secret that I love leftovers.  You can enjoy them for a second meal as is, but they can also be used as inspiration for a new dish.  I use my leftovers both ways.  If I cook a couple of extra pieces of chicken, that goes to work with me for a quick lunch at the office.  Using that chicken as inspiration for another meal might mean a nice chicken casserole or chicken salad sandwich.  Need some ideas?  Let me outline my leftovers from the past few days.

Night #1.  Leftover: Quinoa.  Used the next morning as an addition to breakfast oatmeal to power it up. Quinoa is a plant based protein loaded with beneficial amino acids. It was a satisfying protein and grain breakfast following an early morning workout at the gym.

Leftover quinoa added a nice nutritionally punch to morning oatmeal.

Leftover quinoa added plant protein to morning oatmeal.

Night #2.  Leftover:  Goat cheese.  It was leftover from a beet salad.  The next day goat cheese was a wonderful addition to a “gourmet” sandwich, adding delicious creamy flavor to a weekday brown bag lunch.

Leftover goat cheese not used for this salad added flavor to a sandwich.

Leftover goat cheese not used for this salad added flavor to a sandwich.

Night #3.  Leftover:  Home made vinaigrette.  I used this to drizzle over veggies going into the oven to roast.  Homemade vinaigrette is super flexible and great to have around. It is a delicious way to add a wonderful layer of flavor to most anything.

Leftover vinaigrette.  This isn't just salad dressing.  It has a zillion uses.

Leftover vinaigrette. This isn’t just salad dressing. It has a zillion uses.

Night #4.  Leftover: Roasted veggies.  These leftover roasted veggies made the most amazing salad. I also threw in some of that leftover quinoa so it was a complete meal.

Roasted veggies made an awesome sandwich, panini style!

Roasted veggies made an awesome salad! The added quinoa was the perfect protein for this dish.

Night #5.  Leftover:  Pesto, with a bonus of shredded chicken. (Nonleftover: frozen cauliflower). This made a quick pasta dinner.  Dinner was ready in the time it took for a pot of water to boil and pasta to cook.  The cauliflower cooked up quick in the microwave. It was tossed together with the chicken and pesto for a quick and easy one dish dinner for a busy night.

By now I am sure you get the picture.  Be creative.  When cooking, cook a larger portion than you need.  Toss leftovers in both the fridge and the freezer.  And start embracing the ease of the next meal using leftovers.  Let me know what ends up on your dinner table!

Saute the Squash

30 Jul

I am always looking for something new with my side dishes. At meals, I like to feature more protein, veggies, and fruits than starches. Oh sure, starches are super yummy,  but I tend to opt for fresher options. Since i enjoy cooking, I also like to keep up with food trends and techniques.

That said, I work full-time, am a mom, and have a pretty packed lifestyle. Time is my most valuable commodity. I usually save my big new cooking adventures for weekends when I have more time to tinker in the kitchen. Sometimes I luck out and trying something new can be added into my weeknight “quick cooking” repertoire. Which is exactly what happened recently.

I had a gift card for a cookware store from my sweet sister in law Kathy. What fun! Going into a kitchen store, for me, is delightful and indulgant. But even with a gift card I look for the biggest bang for my buck. In a kitchen store, that means that I would not invest in a “single use” kitchen gadget. What I mean by that is if a kitchen tool only has one use, it has no place in my kitchen. Unitl now…..

I had seen the new trend with sprializing zucchini and squash. “Zucchetti” was the clever moniker, and this new technique for zucchini resembled pasta like spaghetti and lasagna noodles.  So naturally I was drawn to this cool new kitchen tool, and sought it out gift card in hand. Bingo! I found one and couldnt wait to get home and try it.

This gadget was a snap to work from the get go. I spiralized large and small width “Zucchetti”. I sauteed tomatoes to pair with it, and it turned out so well it is now on the dinner table (and lunch leftovers at the office!) quite often. Let me show you what I did.

 

I placed some freshly washed grape tomatoes into a small saucepan with a bit of olive oil, and let that simmer over a low heat for about 20 minutes. The tomatoes got saucy, fragrant, and creamy. After that,  I simply sautéed the spiraled squash with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. I then combined the two, and voila! I finished it off with some fresh parsley and basil from my summer garden. With a bit of freshly grated parmesan cheese it was a complete, and completely delicious, side dish.

 

 

Zuchetti has become so much more than a simple side dish this summer. I have used this with marinara sauce, a bright lemony shrimp sauce, and other pasta sauces using zuchetti instead of pasta noodles. Whether using this as a side dish or a feature in the center of the plate item, this is a tasty replacement for starchy rice or pasta.

So even though I purchased a kitchen gadget that had basically one function, the flexibility of what can be done with the spriralized zucchini is endless.  Now my zuchetti is a mainstay for light and tasty meals. What can you do with it?

 

Breakfast Blunder

18 Feb

We have all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But what does that mean in terms of good health? Well, it means that having a healthy breakfast is critical to establishing a positive eating pattern for the rest of the day. So bring on the Frosted Flakes. Huh?

If you are watching the sugar intake, and we all need to, then try to choose something low in sugar for breakfast. A poor breakfast choice would be sugar coated cereal like Frosted Flakes, and a good choice to start our day would include yogurt. Right?

Well, not necessarily. Some breakfast cereal has long been considered nothing more than a sugar delivery system by professional nutritionists like myself. So recommending yogurt over Frosted Flakes makes sense. But surprise! Not if you are concerned about sugar.

Let’s start to deconstruct sugar in the diet. Sugar is one of three kinds of carbohydrate: starch, fiber and sugar. It can occur naturally or can be added to foods during processing. Naturally occurring sugars include lactose in milk and fructose in fruit.

Added sugars originate from many plants, including corn, beets, and sugar cane. Those sugars are processed before being added to foods. The body does not always know the difference between naturally occurring sugar and added sugar. But it adds up.

Okay…enough with the chemistry lesson. Back to the cereal and yogurt. We can compare one 8 ounce serving of yogurt and one  3/4 cup serving of Frosted Flakes. These are the serving sizes listed on the label. Which breakfast has less sugar? Lets take a look.

But first,  I am going to let you in on some nutritional math. When looking at grams of sugar on a nutritional panel, keep in mind that 4 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon of sugar. Now let’s do some math.

This yogurt has 37 grams of sugar per 8 ounce serving. Soooooo…this “low fat” yogurt, a food generally thought to be a good choice, has a whopping 9.25 teaspoons of sugar. Whoa! Pretty surprising, right?

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The sugar coated breakfast cereal has less sugar than the yogurt. How much less? Back to that serving size of 3/4 cup. The breakfast cereal has 10 grams of sugar. Using our math, this equates to 2 1/2 teaspoons of sugar. Quite a bit less than the yogurt. Milk has sugar in it too, so its fair to say that the cereal would increase in sugar if milk is added. Even with milk, though, the cereal is still lower in sugar than the yogurt.

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 It’s time to make smarter choices in the morning so we can set our day up for good nutrition from the start. How can you do that? Start reading labels. Take this math to the pantry and to the grocery store. By increasing your awareness of sugar in your food your decision about the most important meal of the day just may change.

Raising a Foodie

11 Feb

Home cooked meals have long been on my family dinner table.  My children take their lunch to school. Buying it there is not an option.  And our family supper table is typically graced by my children and their friends.  Why?

Well, for one thing, I am a good cook.  Good food, home cooking, and healthy choices are really a passion of mine.  That means that my homemade meals are typically nutritious, plentiful, and quite delicious.  I’ve been to many cooking classes in pursuit of my passion, read cookbooks, and am always nosey around a talented chef.  It is just my thing.

I just love the fellowship of cooking.  Being in the kitchen cooking up something brings friends and family close.  It is my connection, my homage to the importance of family.  Cooking, in my home, just brings us together.  This is a pretty big component the happiness of my family.

My children have an interest in food, probably because of the way I am raising them.  They also feel the joy and fellowship of creating food. My middle child, my daughter, has begun to show interest in cooking on her own. She asks questions, watches me cook, and is starting to look at recipes. She is beginning to experience the health benefits, flavors, and creativity of cooking from scratch.

And now, my youngest son is clearly a budding foodie.  He is very self sufficient, as youngest kids typically are, but he knows his palate.  He can cook.  And he is beginning to really enjoy it.

Yup. I am raising a foodie! And loving every second of it.

 

My son Quinn is proud of his everything bagel meatball sandwich. It smelled fantastic!

My son Quinn is proud of his everything bagel meatball sandwich. It smelled fantastic!

 

Fruit

1 Jan

On the eve of 2016, I won’t go to a glamorous party.  I am not heading out to a swanky dinner.  No, New Years Eve, for me, is about quiet gratitude, thoughtful prayer, and personal peace.  This post is a couple of years old, but I am posting it again.  It still feels relevant to life.  Thanks for reading it.  Happy New Year!

It is now 2013. I don’t really make New Years Resolutions, but I do make some goals. I also reflect on the past, and think about how to improve my future. My journey to love, loyalty, forgiveness, and appreciation continues, as does the journey to discover myself. A goal for my journey is to make it a joyful one. So as I do that this year, I want to say thank you.

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 told me that I am weak. From you I learned fierce inner strength and confidence. For you allowed me to dig down and 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 an overpowering sense of entitlement. From you I am learning to appreciate everything that I have.

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 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 genuine.

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 more openly give 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.

I am no different from anyone else. I have been hurt. I have felt pain of deceit, the heart break of divorce, cruel disloyalty, and the sting of failure. From that I rise up. Push forward. Continue on. I give thanks to those by my side, and for those that, it seems, turned against me. From everyone whose life has touched mine, I learn. It is easy to be thankful for the great people in your life and to love them. The challenge lies in loving and learning from every body else.

This blog addresses mostly food. Today it is about fruits. The fruits of the spirit.  So I enter this year with gratitude, an open spirit, and prepared to learn more lessons!  I am grateful to everyone that has touched my life and continues to shape the person I am, and the person I am becoming.  So to you I say thank you!