Tag Archives: lunch

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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Resolutions. Really?

18 Jan

So it’s the beginning of the year, and the season of resolutions.  This is the time many folks decide to make healthy lifestyle changes.  People at work are buzzing about losing weight, eating better, detox potions, and avoiding fast food.  And, of course, I am no different.

I do not make new years resolutions.  I do, however, reflect on making  positive changes in the new year.  I too have been making an effort to eat a little healthier since ringing in the new year.  Getting kind of bored with my regular “go to” recipes, I have tried to energize my normal recipe repertoire by trying to put fresh new combinations together.  The other day I came up with a real winner.

I made a super healthy quinoa salad.  One day I took it for lunch at work.  Another day I had it in the morning after my workout for a healthy protein boost.  I do not limit my meals with traditional labels.    If I feel like chicken for breakfast, I eat that.  A bowl of cereal for dinner?  Sure. Why not.  So I enjoyed my quinoa all day.  And it was delicious.

Simple fresh healthy quinoa salad!  Yum!

Simple fresh healthy quinoa salad! Yum!

How did I make it?  I had about 2 cups of leftover quinoa, a handful of shredded carrots, a green onion, a half bag of spinach, and homemade vinaigrette in the fridge.  I tossed it together with a can of rinsed canned beets and Voila!  A healthful flexible meal packed with protein and veggies.  It had a nice crunch, great flavor, and a colorful appearance.

Vinaigrettes are easy to make and even easier to customize to certain tastes.  Want to try one?  Start with this.

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 2 T Dijon mustard
  • 1 t. of sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients and stir vigorously with a fork.  Use to dress vegetables or your favorite salad.  Yes, it’s that simple.  I customize this recipe by using different vinegars and different mustards.  Some times I use honey instead of sugar.  If I am in a crazy mood I will add some red pepper flakes to heat things up a bit.

So anyway, this is the vinaigrette that I added to my quinoa salad.  Simple dimple.  And so good.  So as 2015 rolls on, I hope to make some more fresh and healthful dishes.  No resolutions…just a positive change or two.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time for soup!

12 Oct

Ah yes.  The calendar says its October.  We may still be having some warm days, but make no mistake.  It is fall.  Soup is on!

Let’s have a brief history of soup.  Many historians believe that soup is as old as the history of cooking.  Soup is an ancient food.  It was the perfect food for rich and poor, all cultures, healthy people and invalids.  In other words, it was an ideal food for everybody.  Most everyone had access to a pot and fire  Not only that, anything can go into soup.  So it is easy to understand how it dates back hundreds of years.

The art of tossing things into a pot for a one dish meal started out as a rustic meal, and has come a long way.  Soup is nutritious, flexible with ingredients, warm and nourishing.  It can be as simple or as sophisticated as desired.   My number one reason for loving soup, though, is that it can be made on any budget.  Another bonus…soup can easily feed a crowd.

I am not the only one craving comfort food at the moment.   I went out to lunch with some folks from the office.  They invited me to “go out for soup”.  Sure, I thought.  When I inquired as to where we were going for soup, the answer confused me.  Donna, a coworker,  said “Oh, to a Mexican restaurant down the street”. Umm, what?  A mexican place?  But always one for a culinary adventure, off I went with the office crowd.  I need not have questioned the rationale.

The soup and quesadilla lunch special was about 6 bucks.  It was easy on the budget, but more than that, it was fantastic!  Who knew that you could get delicious soup at a place that I relate more closely with a cheesy, spicy, rice and tortilla meal.   This lunch outing really got me jazzed yet again for soup season.  Its time for some fun.   After all, it is fall!

The soup and quesadilla lunch special.  Delish!

The soup and quesadilla lunch special. Delish!

Just look at that chunky soup filled with veggies, avocado, and chicken.

Just look at that chunky soup filled with veggies, avocado (a favorite superfood of mine), and chicken.

When In Rome…

31 Jul

Coworkers in the office were talking one day about a local, and quite beloved  burger place that had been in the community for as long as they could remember.  They were lamenting about not having eaten there lately.  It was time to think about going there for lunch soon.  I had never heard of it.  So……. always one for a culinary adventure, I was drawn in (okay, I butted into) the conversation.  I am a fan of any cuisine and always willing to try something new, but the food was not what drew my attention.  It was the beverage of choice that piqued my interest.  It was the Witch Doctor.

What in the world?  Witch Doctor?  “Oh yes, it is delicious!”  Erica and Lisa, two coworkers, stated with emphasis.  “In fact, now my mouth is watering for a witch doctor” Erica said.  Okay, now I was hooked.  I had to score an invitation to have lunch at this local institution.  I am not one to hint, so I just flat out asked (and would have resorted to begging if necessary) if I could come a long the next time they went to “Whataburger number 10 in Midway”.  Midway, by the way, is a locale, not a town.  So much to learn!

A few days later, Erica announced that today was the day that we were going to Whataburger number 10 for lunch.  I could hardly wait!  A warning though…they only accept cash.  I immediately dashed off to my office, relieved to find $11.00 cash in my wallet (as the mom of 3 kids, readily available cash is a hot commodity!).  Whew.  That was enough money for the requisite burger, fries, and witch doctor.  I could go along.

At one o’clock, off we went to Whataburger number 10 in Midway.  I was so excited and could hardly stand it.  It did not disappoint.  Whataburger number 10 is an old fashioned drive in restaurant, but there is seating inside too.  We went in.  The large menu posted on the wall listed all food and beverage.  A quick scan of the menu, and I zeroed in on what I was looking for.  The witch doctor.

Local drive in, Whataburger number 10 in Midway, as it is fondly referred to by local folks.

Local drive in, Whataburger number 10 in Midway, as it is fondly referred to by local folks.

Here goes.  What is a witch doctor?  It is listed on the menu, which makes it totally legit.  It is a mixture of all of the different sodas from the soda fountain. But that’s not it.  It is topped off with a dose of dill pickle slices.  Yup.  Pickles.  So how was it?

And here it is.  The long anticipated Witch Doctor.

And here it is. The long anticipated Witch Doctor.

Here is the soda fountain.  Of course hailing from Chicago, I call it pop, but in North Carolina, this is soda.  When in Rome...

Here is the soda fountain. Of course hailing from Chicago, I call it pop, but in North Carolina, this is soda. When in Rome…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay...so here I go.  My first with doctor...the excitement is building...

Okay…so here I go. My first witch doctor…the excitement is building..

Slurp!  Delish!

Slurp! Delish!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was yummy. What went along with my witch doctor?  A cheeseburger and tater sticks.  Man oh man, it was good.   I do not usually eat a lunch like this as I typically brown bag it.  Whataburger was a fabulous splurge.

Tasting local food (even when it’s a newly discovered place close to home) is crucial to life experiences.  A true pleasure. Always a must when the opportunity presents itself.  It is also a fun to “photocdoc” the experience (thanks Miranda!).  As I always say…when in Rome do like the Romans.  And when in Kannapolis North Carolina, grab a witch doctor!

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Labels Please.

22 Jun

Labels. I loathe and reject them! They are so limiting. The smart one. The athletic one. The workaholic. The baby of the family. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. That’s right. I hate labeling everything including meals. Boring! And limiting!

Breakfast does not have to be oatmeal. eggs, toast, bagel, or cold cereal. These foods can be eaten any time of the day. And if it’s last night’s leftovers for breakfast who cares? There is nothing wrong with chicken, rice, and broccoli for breakfast. If that is what sounds good, go for it.  Dinner has to be a big hunk of meat and a couple of side dishes?  Nope.  Not in my book.  Sometimes a bowl of cereal is perfect for dinner. Sometimes eggs and toast work. My youngest son’s favorite dinner is breakfast! For many years his special birthday dinner request was breakfast, or what some would label as breakfast food.

I am going to tell a story through pictures. It is the story of a meal. But I will not label it. And I will not reveal what time of day I enjoyed this meal (which, by the way, features several servings. I only had one!). I will toss a caveat in saying that it is not a story for the faint of heart. It is of adult nature….it features…dare I say it….bacon and bacon fat. Totally obscene! Outrageous! But it is moderation in the use of the fat that allows my conscience to let this dirty little secret out.

Fresh!  Beautiful!

Fresh! Beautiful!

Lucky for me I have friends who have what I lack…namely a green thumb. This bowl is full of fresh peppers and tomatoes. I was the lucky recipient of this lovely fresh bounty, and I let it inspire me. It took me to a very unexpected place.

Bacon.  Decadent!

Bacon. Decadent!

I began my homage to these fresh ingredients by frying up some bacon in my beloved old cast iron skillet. While the bacon was crisping, I started cutting up the peppers and tomatoes.  When it was done, I scooped out the bacon to drain on  paper towels and disposed of most of the bacon fat in the skillet.  I  left a bit of the grease in my skillet though. The aromas in my kitchen started deepening, layering. Man, was I hungry now!

Pepper mania!  yes!!

Pepper mania! yes!!

I tossed those fresh peppers and tomatoes into that bacon fat. Yes, that’s what I said. Right into the fat. Well here is where I kind of compounded the naughty factor. While the peppers were frying up I went to the fridge and hung on the door. Hunting. Digging. Then I popped to the pantry. Nope…nothing there…went back to the fridge. Here comes more of the naughty…I was seriously misbehaving with that bacon grease!

Peppers to the side...eggs in front!

Peppers to the side…eggs in front!

I pushed the veggies aside and tossed in eggs. Frying eggs in bacon fat. Yup…I warned you! Totally obscene! And completely delish! But my conscience would not allow this dish to be totally devoid of some sort of nutrition. So I made some whole grain toast. No butter.  Next I just  tossed eggs, peppers and tomatoes on the toast. The bacon was on the side.  Fabulous!

YUM!

YUM!

I will not label this meal, nor will I reveal the time of day that this meal was consumed. Let me just say that it was amazing! I cook with bacon grease maybe once or twice a year. I love great food cooked in different ways. And in moderation, I think that everything can be enjoyed. As I said, I only cook with bacon fat occasionally. This dish was certainly worth the wait..and totally label free.

 

Healthy Choices

9 Jun

I love cooking at home.  In my opinion, home food preparation with the freshest ingredients that the budget will allow is key to good health.  But for me, it is also a way to express my creativity as well as my commitment to wellness.  Most days, I find pleasure in going to my kitchen and creating a lovely healthy meal for my family, even after a long day at work.  But lets face it.  As a single mother of 3 kids, it just isn’t always feasible.  So what do I do then?

Sometimes when I don’t have time to cook or grab leftovers,  I go out and make some poor choices with food.  Lack of time means fast food wins at times.  And that’s okay.  Occasionally.  That’s the life of a busy american family nowadays.  We often get the kids off to school, zip to work, run from work to a school meeting, a sport practice, or to run errands.  Time, for most of us, is our most precious commodity.

Recently though, I made a decision to eat healthy even when I ate out.  Actually, I wanted to see if it was possible, especially on my tight family budget.  I am happy to report that it was challenging, but doable.   Not only that, it was enjoyable, flavorful, and satisfying.  What in the world do I mean?  Let me explain.

Have a breakfast meeting?  No time to make a lunch to take to work?  Is the family schedule and soccer practice making cooking at home impossible today?  Well I have good news.  A family can eat healthily at a restaurant.  Last Friday night I met friends out for dinner.  I ordered a hamburger and opted for sautéed veggies instead of french fries.  And this was at a “sports bar” type of restaurant.  I ate my hamburger without the bun with the veggies and it was delicious.  True confessions…Yes, I had a beer too.  But that is a good natural beverage, right?  I mean, hops are all natural flowering plants after all.  I am just saying…..

Back to the food!  A few days ago I went to out breakfast with my daughter.  I was able to have a fresh fruit cup with an egg white sandwich on whole grain bread.  It was a well rounded breakfast that held my tummy till lunch.  (Nothing bothers me more than my stomach “growling in the late morning!”).  Upon seeing my order and how delicious it looked, she also ordered a low cal fresh fruit cup and a nutrient dense sandwich to go with her fruit.  It is entirely possible to have healthy meals out and continue with a commitment to wellness!  When you can’t make a good home made meal, what change can you make today to eat a little better when you go to a restaurant?  Let me know!

A fresh fruit cup from a restaurant.  Eating out in a healthy manner!

A fresh fruit cup from a restaurant. Eating out in a healthy manner!

Refrigerator cook

7 Dec

I was recently called a “refrigerator cook”.  Everyone who knows me knows how much I love to cook.  I have taken oodles of cooking classes.  I have attended  all sorts of classes, from Le Cordon Bleu to local celebrity chef classes.  I have been cooking my whole life.  I love food, I love the socializing that happens around meals, I love healthy cooking, and I love bringing family together with celebrations of food.  But a refrigerator cook?  Whats that?

I am told that I have a talent for opening up the refrigerator and pantry and coming up with something fantastic.  Whether it is an appetizer or a whole meal, I seem to be able to pull something yummy together.  And I have a blast doing it.  What let to my label of being a newly crowned refrigerator cook?  Recently, it was my Saturday afternoon football watching bar food.  Here’s what happened.

After a morning of running errands, we came home hungry.  We turned on college football, and unloaded from the errands.  I looked in the fridge to see what I could throw together.  What is better than bar food for a Saturday afternoon?  I pulled out leftover chicken taco meat, cheese, flour tortillas, a can of black beans, some fresh cilantro, salsa, and sour cream.

Next, I pulled my big skillet and put it on the stove.  I warmed up the taco meat in the microwave.  While that was heating, I sliced some delicious cheese and chopped up a bit of cilantro.  I turned the burner on under the pan and sprayed it with non stick cooking spray.  Then I started layering up my quesadillas.  Meat, beans, salsa (not too much or it gets soggy), and cheese.   Into the pan it went with a medium fire under it.  I like to cook my quesadillas slowly so the cheese can really melt!

After a few moments, I took the quesadillas out of the pan and put them onto a cutting board.  They cooled for a moment, then I sliced ’em up.  I put it onto a plate, garnished it with some fresh cilantro, and added a small bit of sour cream.  Yum!  Grab a beer, and a napkin too.  Enjoy that good game with a simple and easy food!  This can also be a great after school snack, or you can add some fruit and make it a nice meal.

I like to keep staples on hand so I can always pull something out to cook quickly.  This takes planning and experience, but anyone can do it.  Now is a great time to start gaining experience!   And the only way to get experience is to get busy.  Get some extra items at the grocery store for the fridge and pantry, and you too can become a refrigerator cook!  How to stock a pantry?  Tune in next time.  I will guide you!

Saturday afternoon home made bar food!  Perfect for watching college football!

Saturday afternoon home made bar food! Perfect for watching college football!