Tag Archives: fresh

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

 

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Soup-Rich warm comfort food! Yum!

21 Sep
Home made tomato basil soup.  Easy and delicious!  And the leftovers were fabulous.

Home made tomato basil soup. Easy and delicious! And the leftovers were fabulous.

 

As the weather continues to turn from steamy days to the cool crisp air of fall, I am on my comfort food fast track.  Last week, home made tomato basil soup filled the bill.  And if I may be so bold,  it was creamy, rich, and quite delicious. (Ouch!  It hurts to pat myself on the back!)

Tomato basil soup is a snap to make with just a few things on hand.  I used canned tomatoes, but had fresh basil still going crazy in it’s sunny patio pot.  I began by sautéing onions, celery, and garlic in olive oil.  Next, in went some canned tomatoes to simmer for a bit. I use a variety of tomatoes depending on what is in the pantry.  (Whole tomatoes are just fine to use if you have a stick or immersion mixer to smooth it out). Salt, pepper, and a dash of sugar is also necessary.  I use both black pepper and red pepper flakes because I like a little heat in my soup, but you can be light handed with the pepper if that suits your personal preference.

Even if using fresh basil, tossing in about a tablespoon of dried basil while the soup is simmering adds a nice flavor touch, and certainly adds to the succulent aroma.  When the soup starts simmering, the amazing scents of tomatoes and basil begin wafting through the air.  Pathetic true confession: sometimes when I am cooking and it starts to smell good in the house, I will go outside for a sec, then step back inside and let those incredible aromas hit me all over again.

Fresh basil.  The taste is amazing and the aromas are truly mouth watering!

Fresh basil. The taste is amazing and the aromas are truly mouth watering!

There are so many reasons to love soup.  The house warms up with delicious lingering scents, and you can really customize it for your own taste and occasion.  Add a little of this and a little of that.  And soup is super budget friendly.  Soup is also easily paired with a well toasted or grilled sandwich…the crisp texture  of the sandwich is wonderful with the warm smooth soup.  Very pleasing to the palate. Make it on the weekend and use the leftovers for a quick week night supper.

Amy’s Tomato Soup

  • 2 T. olive oil

    Simple soup ingredients.

    Simple soup ingredients

  • 1/4 cup each of chopped onion and celery
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 cups chicken stock (can use vegetable to make it vegetarian)
  • 2 32 oz. cans tomatoes
  • 1 cup milk (optional-and I use skim)
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 2 T. ketchup
  • 1/2 t. sugar
  • 1 T. dried basil
  • 2-3 T chopped fresh basil
  • Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

Put olive oil in large stock pot.  Heat briefly and add onion and celery. Sautee until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add garlic and stir for another minute.  Gently pour in stock and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring twice.  Add all tomatoes, tomato paste, ketchup, salt, pepper, sugar and dried basil.  Give this a good stir.  Turn heat to medium to low and let simmer for 20 minutes.  Use immersion or stick blender to smooth out the texture, being mindful of the hot liquid.  Taste for salt and pepper at this time and adjust for taste.  Add fresh basil  and let simmer on low for 15-20 minutes.  You can whisk in the milk at this time if you choose.  Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

This is a fun recipe to tinker with.  Feel free to make it more hispanic by adding cumin.  Make it a little more greek by adding oregano.  Go for it.  Have a blast!  Welcome fall into your family kitchen by adding this fabulous comfort food.  Try this soup, make it your own, and then shoot me a note to let me know what you did.  I can’t wait to hear about your foray into fall comfort food!

 

 

Grilled Salsa. Yum.

3 Sep

I stopped at a farm stand to take advantage of the (boohoo!) ending peach season.  Luckily they still had some yummy peaches left, but they had to be eaten quickly.  They were ripe and ready!  There were more peaches than we could eat, and I was not able to can the peaches and put them up.  I had to get creative. Time to dig thru the pantry and the fridge for more inspiration.

Ah yes, onions.  Sweet summer Vidalia onions were in a basket in my pantry.  And chicken was in the fridge ready to grill.  What could be better. Luckily, there was also leftover pesto pasta in the fridge too.  So here we go.

I fired up the grill.  But the chicken would go on second.  What to grill first?  Why, the peaches and the onions, of course!  I sliced the 2 onions about 1/4 inch thick.  I sliced the peaches in half and removed the pit.  Next, I laid them on a cutting board and sprayed them with a bit of vegetable oil.

 

Sliced onions and peaches getting ready to grill.

Sliced onions and peaches getting ready to grill.

Onto the grill they went.  The heat was good and high to get a quick char and that desired carmelization that only the grill can provide.  I wanted those sugars in the peaches to get to work!  And they did not disappoint!

The onion slices and peaches went onto that hot grill.

The onion slices and peaches went onto that hot grill.  The beginning of some great grill marks!

The scent that wafted from the grill was absolutely mouth watering!  It certainly produced one of those culinary “moanable moments”.  When that happens, your eyes close, your head falls back a bit, and a deep breath in is amazingly delightful.  Those sizzled on the grill for about 3 minutes per side, then they came off the heat.

The peaches and onions grilled up beautifully!

The peaches and onions grilled up beautifully!

Next, I let the onions and peaches sit.  While the peaches and onions were cooling, I grilled the chicken.  I went light on the seasoning because I wanted the flavor of the salsa to stand out.

When they were cool to the touch, I coarsely chopped the onions.  They were soft and sweetly  fragrant.  On to the peaches.  The fuzzy outside jacket of the peaches slipped right off.  I chopped up that sweet peachy flesh and mixed the two together in a bowl.  I added about a 1/2 of a chopped jalapeño (I should have grilled that too…Rats!).  I also stirred in a little bit of cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, and just a dash of vinegar.  A little salt and pepper completed the fresh salsa.  The resulting salsa was fantastic! It was not my “prettiest” salsa ever, but it was really tasty!

This was fantastic piled on top of grilled chicken.  It was a healthy low fat option packed with nutrients and flavor!

This was fantastic piled on top of grilled chicken. It was a healthy low fat option packed with nutrients and flavor!

Dinner consisted of a crisp salad, leftover pesto pasta, and flavor packed grilled chicken slathered in peach onion salsa.  It was a hit.  So delicious and a fun way to use fresh ripe reaches.  Cleanup was a breeze because I grilled most of dinner.  Gotta love that!

I am certainly going to try some more grilled salsa recipes.  Tomatoes are at the end of the season, but there is surely enough time to get creative  and grill those up next!  Grilled tomatoes with perhaps some creamy diced avocados.  Maybe roasted garlic too.  Oh yeah, can’t wait for that one!

 

Superfoods – another one!

11 Aug

The last super food that we covered was cabbage.  If you missed it, read it here.  https://busymomswellness.com/2014/05/26/blast-into-super-foods/

Since that post, I am confident that you have embraced this superfood, and are ready to add another one into your diet.  Ready for another super food to try?  Here we go!  Bonus…the next superfood is not a cruciferous vegetable, so no worries about the, ahem, gas issue.  It is avocado.  This is a fun one.

Avocados are, like cabbage, a flexible food.  It is also super easy to prepare.  An avocado has about 4 grams of protein per fruit and is low in sugar.  Plus, they are rich n vitamin K, B vitamins, and have more potassium than a banana.   Still need convincing?  Consider that an avocado also contains half of the daily recommended amount of fiber, about 11 grams.  (Okay, so maybe the fiber may be a bit gas producing, but you gotta consider the benefits and not just the…uumm…possible farts). Anything with avocado is terrific in my book.

Some folks shy away from this powerhouse fruit because it contains fat.  True, it does, so adding it in the diet needs to be in moderation.  But the fat in an avocado is monounsaturated, the “good” kind of fat.  This fat can actually lower cholesterol, some studies suggest.  So indulge.

When shopping for avocados, do not be deterred by ugly fruit.  I actually prefer ugly fruit because I feel like it is less “processed” or “treated” than pretty perfect fruit.  The avocado is ripe when is gives slightly to pressure.  It should be a bit soft.  Haas avocados are smaller than other avocados, but I like them all.  This is a Florida avocado.

A recent avocado that graced my kitchen.  Ugly but delicious!

A recent avocado that graced my kitchen. Ugly but delicious!

What to do with an avocado you ask?  The easiest thing to do is slice it up and eat it.  Or layer it on a sandwich.  Dice it up and toss it in a salad.  I had it for breakfast one morning for a powerhouse post workout meal.  How?  I turned the oven to 375 degrees.  I sliced an avocado in half and took the pit out.  Then I added an egg to one half where the pit was removed.  Yup.  Sure did.  And I put it on a baking sheet into a hot oven while I showered.  After about 20 minutes the egg was cooked in the avocado to perfection.  I pulled it out of the oven added some low fat cheese, then popped it back in the oven for a few minutes.  Voila!  A breakfast packed with nutrients, protein, and flavor.  I treat avocados like a baked potato sometimes.  Load ’em up!

My baked avocado breakfast.  So flavorful and nutritious.  A fantastic post workout breakfast.

My baked avocado breakfast. So flavorful and nutritious. A fantastic post workout breakfast.

Whats next?  Predictable but never to be overlooked, the avocado is the star of guacamole.  If you have the fixings, making guacamole is a must with any avocado.  And it is so simple.  Lime, tomatoes, cilantro, and maybe some hot peppers if you are adventurous are all you need for great guacamole.  One of the best things about making this is that it is totally customizable.  You can make it as spicy, as creamy, or as chunky as you prefer.  The moanable moment is in the “add ins”, such as hot peppers, onions, or sour cream.Let me show you my guacamole.  Start with mashing up an avocado and add just a few things.  Then load up your chip, your taco, or spread it on your sandwich.

When making anything with avocado, keeping the pit in it, such as in the guacamole, keeps it from turning brown.  So does adding a bit of lemon or lime juice to it.  Either way, enjoy this fantastic nutrient packed superfood in many ways.  Let me know what you do with your new superfood!

Fresh guacamole!  Fabulous and flexible!

Fresh guacamole! Fabulous and flexible!

 

Stir in lime, cilantro, and tomatoes to avocado.  Nothing short of delicious!

Stir in lime, cilantro, and tomatoes to mashed up avocado. Nothing short of delicious!

Figs. Naughty or Nice?

20 Apr

Figs. Hhhhmmm. What do we know about figs? Well, they are a biblical food, so they have quite a history. A long history. And for as wonderful as they are, they still a little mysterious in this country. I mean, they are grown in California, so they are a native food. We tend to associate them with mediterranean cuisine, which may seem a bit exotic. It’s time to demystify them. Lets learn about figs!

First, we can enjoy figs either dried or fresh. To enjoy them fresh, get them in season generally from May to January. Choose fresh figs that are soft and have a sweet aroma. Dried figs can be enjoyed all year. They can be found in the produce section of your grocer. Start looking for them. They are there…really, they are!

Time to dig into the nutritional value of figs. Figs are high in dietary fiber. (Um…not sure if that falls under “naughty” or “nice”…) With the busy lifestyle of today promoting eating on the run, getting enough fiber can be a challenge. Figs can help meet the recommended adult intake of 25-35 grams of fiber a day. As far as vitamins and minerals go, figs are a good source of b complex vitamins. Great for the immune system. Minerals like copper and iron are also found in figs. Surprised? Wait! That’s not all!

Figs are also a very good source of calcium. It is a fantastic option for folks that can’t get their calcium from dairy. Calcium is an important component of a healthy diet. Figs also have Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Figs are also high in potassium, a mineral important for assisting the body with controlling blood pressure.  This is important for good heart health, so eat up!

Interestingly enough, some folks believe that figs have some medicinal properties. Some say that when applied to pimples, acne or boils, it can improve or even cure them. Also, figs can be used as a skin cleanser. Not sure if these are old wives tales or not, but it is believed that figs soaked in water may cure hemorrhoids. Fig leaves have also been used to reduce the need for insulin in some diabetics. Good stuff, right?

So much for the nice. Let’s move to the naughty side of figs. Figs can be a sensual finger food. Sexy. Fun! Pick up these simple ingredients. Grab your significant other because this will be fun and is meant for two! Here is the recipe to get the naughty started.

6-8 figs (this is a recipe for 2)
Blue cheese
4 slices prosciutto cut in half
olive oil
Split the fig open but don’t cut through. Stuff with blue cheese and push it back together. Wrap 1/2 piece of prosciutto around the fig. Place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Put under the broiler for 2 minutes. Pull them out, remove the figs from the baking sheet, and place on a plate.

Now grab your honey and find a cozy spot. Light some candles and turn the lights low. Sit close to your honey. Pour a glass of your favorite wine (I recommend a bold red with this dish). Toast each other. Flirt. Giggle. Loosen up and let your naughty come out! Pick up a fig with your fingers and feed your sweetie. Lick your fingers. Enjoy the succulence of this dish and the moment. Figs are nutritious, but can also be sexy. So remember the nice of figs, but also let the naughty out!

 

Dressings just aren’t that hard!

14 Jul

Its time to step up here.  Beautiful summer vegetables are bursting out of gardens and farmers markets.  They can be fixed a million ways.  Vegetables can be steamed, sautéed, roasted, grilled, blanched.  The list goes on, but as the summer steamy weather is also upon us let’s go for something cool and refreshing.  Many veggies can be prepared then chilled, or eaten raw.  When we prepare vegetables that way we can also add a nice dressing.  And they just aren’t that difficult to create.  So let’s get busy!

I have passed along to you my bleu cheese dressing recipe.  Now let’s just focus on a simple vinaigrette.  Vinaigrettes are fabulous on a salad, but also on cold vegetables.  Like cooked fresh green beans?  Try cooking them, cooling them and serving them chilled with a lovely home made vinaigrette.  Once you get the hang of this super easy dressing, develop your own relationship with it, and let it reflect your own personal taste, I promise you will quickly become an enthusiast!  Soon you will be dousing your cucumbers and cold carrots with a light vinaigrette to reflect the season!

First, a word about vinaigrette.  Generally, the base is one part vinegar to 3 parts good olive oil.  You can use a bold vinegar like balsamic, a mild vinegar such as apple cider, or get a little crazy with grapefruit infused vinegar!  But best to start slowly and let your flavors grow and develop as you get the hang of making this.  Also, you can add a little lemon juice to your vinegar. Here we go.

  • 2 T. vinegar
  • 1 t. lemon juice (optional)
  • 6 T. olive oil
  • 1 t. Dijon mustard or dried mustard (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • a pinch of fresh herbs in season, or dried, such as  parsley, chives, or tarragon.

Put vinegar in a bowl.  Whisk the vinegar with a pinch of salt.  This is the time to add your mustard if you prefer it in your vinaigrette.  Whisk until salt is dissolved.  Add other ingredients and whisk until well incorporated.  Sometimes I make my vinaigrette in a jar with a lid and shake it.  That is all there is to it.  Budget friendly, delicious, simple and easy.  Start making yours today.  Dress your salad or cold vegetables and celebrate the season with this chilled refreshing twist!

Quick and Easy!

3 Jun

I realize that some people feel about cooking the way that I feel about balancing a checkbook.  I would rather do anything but that!  Bring on the shortcuts!  Here is the good news for people who don’t like cooking.  There are shortcuts to making a good healthy meal!

Grilling is a snap, and clean up is a breeze.  A good meal can be prepared quickly if you throw most of it on the grill.  Don’t have outdoor grilling space?  Those table top/counter top models work great too.  Start looking for one on sale and snap it up!

Now comes the easy part.  Here is a quick, easy, and nutritious meal.  Simply salt, pepper, and season some fresh chicken breasts with your favorite spices.  Rub it in, drizzle a bit of olive oil on it, and let it sit for a moment.  Take some fresh vegetables, a yellow squash for example, and cut it in half down the middle.  Salt and pepper it.  Set that aside.

Grab some minute rice and vegetable stock (always keep some yummy chicken and vegetable stock in your pantry).  Toss equal parts of stock and rice, preferably brown, into a sauce pan and fire up your stove top.  Get that cooking.  Light your grill.  Toss your chicken on when your grill is good and hot.

There are a couple of easy ways to cook vegetables on the grill.  Making a dense vegetable, like beets or onions may take a bit more time than other vegetables, and a foil pouch helps it steam quickly on the grill.  Making a foil pouch is just like it sounds.  Take some tin foil, put your vegetables on it, add some olive oil or a tiny bit of butter.  Sprinkle your favorite seasonings lightly over it.  Now crimp a piece of foil on the top.  Make sure the pouch is good and sealed.  Now toss it on the grill.

Making a juicier vegetable, such as summer squash, is also super easy.  When your chicken is about done, simply toss it on the grill.  Let it grill and get some good grill lines on it.  That only takes a couple of minutes if your grill is at around 400 degrees.  Turn it once.  Now its done.  Yup…it is that easy!

Pull all of your food off the grill.  Stir your rice.  Plate up.  A quick fresh dinner is now ready for 1, 2, or 10!  It

grilled chicken!

is that easy!  I use a gas grill for ease of starting, and I love cooking with gas.  But any grill will do.  As I said, even an electric table top model is a snap to use for quick meals!  So if you do not like cooking but want a simple fresh meal, toss your food on the grill and you will have a nutritious meal in no time!