Tag Archives: melon

CSA

5 Oct

The first fall CSA box was ready this week.  What a wonderful fall bounty to kick off the fall farm season! It is time to continue making comfort food, switching from summer light and airy salads to more chowders and hearty pasta sauces.  And my fall CSA is feeding directly into that.  What is a CSA you say?  Well only the best thing since sliced bread!  If you aren’t involved with a CSA, now is time to get involved.

A CSA is a way to support a local farm that participates in Consumer Supported Agriculture.  Participating in a CSA is a fantastic way to become engaged with local farms. Supporting local organizations through attending and purchasing from local farmers markets is a wonderful connect to the community, and participating in a CSA is an extension of that support.

The farm that I support with the CSA program offers either a half or whole share per season, and there is a financial commitment.  You pay for your seasonal share ahead of time.  The amount of produce in the share is the difference in size.  Fall is very busy for my family, so this fall I opted for a half share.  What does that mean?

A share is a portion of local produce that the farm is seasonally harvesting.  With a CSA, the member goes to the farm or designated community location once a week to pick up their share of fresh produce.  The produce is fresh, local, and intended to be used within a few days.  By the time the produce is used, its time to go back to the farm for another share.

This week, my share included cucumbers, turnips, potatoes, an acorn squash, corn on the cob, and the bonus of a late season watermelon.   Last night, I used the potatoes and turnips to make a potato turnip gratin.  My children had not ever had turnips before, and making a warm hearty potato dish with turnips added was a great way to introduce the vegetable to them (for the record, the boys loved it, my daughter not so much…).

I used the cucumbers to make some refreshing cucumber water to keep in the fridge.  With the acorn squash, I simply cut it in half, scooped out the seeds and baked it in a 400 degree oven.  I put a little butter, brown sugar and maple syrup in the center before baking.  Easy and delicious.  I served it along side a baked chicken.  It is fun to be creative with the ingredients.

I can’t wait to see what is in my CSA share this week.  I pick my share up on the actual farm that grows and harvests the produce.  Leaving my office during a busy day, driving 10-15 minutes down the road to the farm, and having a chance to talk to the farmers while getting my share is something I look forward to all week.  My family is excited to see what I bring home, and we have a blast with the ingredients.  Best of all, I get a chance to support local farmers and have fresh, healthy seasonal produce.

If I am delayed and don’t make it to the farm one week to retrieve my share, it is donated to the local community food pantry or food bank.  Look for a CSA in your community and let me know what you come up with!

My CSA share this week.  I am having a blast experimenting.

My CSA share this week. I am having a blast experimenting.

Sweet fragrant and decadent  late season watermelon was a bonus this week with my CSA share.

Sweet fragrant and decadent late season watermelon was a bonus this week with my CSA share.

Dangerous Dehydration

15 May

The weather is warming up.  Spring is here and we are on the march toward summer and hot weather.  Water. H2O. Hydration. We have all heard that we need to drink water. 8 glasses a day in fact. But where is “glass”  or portion really defined? And what else counts as water? Does the water in our morning coffee factor into our “8 a day”, or the water in the bunch of grapes that we ate for an afternoon snack? There are many answers here, but lets ponder water for a moment.

The body uses water for cell function and is essential for every thing that the body does. It is well known that for optimal health benefits, the body needs to stay hydrated throughout the day.   Our body needs water, uses water, has water in its systems and cells for function. But it does not have any way to efficiently store water for long term usage. That is why we must pace our intake, and make sure that our intake is continuous. That can be complicated for some people though.  Some people just don’t like water.

I am a big water drinker, but my mom does not like the taste of water.  So she mixes water with other beverages, such as juice, to keep herself hydrated and healthy.  Listening to your body is crucial when focusing on good health. And so is common sense. Drink water throughout the day. If you are feeling thirsty or your mouth feels dry, chances are you are already heading toward dehydration.

To those folks that really don’t enjoy drinking water, eat some foods that are high in water content. Most fruit has a high water content, so munch on melon, grapes, or citrus fruit to help stay refreshed throughout the day. Watch the junky, sugary, and carbonated drinks.  Yes, your morning coffee or tea count.  So does your food.  Your body accepts and uses all kinds of fluids in drinks and natural foods, so as we march toward summer, march toward better health by sipping away all day!

Salt

12 Jan

I was thrilled to get something new to cook with for Christmas.  I love to try new cooking techniques, new recipes, and new ingredients (remember last fall when I declared pumpkin was the new bacon?  I used it in everything for weeks!).  Things like this really get my creative juices flowing.  I was jazzed!

These were not the kind of salt blocks I was accustomed to growing up in the midwest.  We used to get big white blocks of salt at the grocery store to add to the water softener in a (dark and scary, if my childhood memories serve me right!) corner of the basement.  Chicago and its suburbs had hard water, which made using water a bit less efficient in some cases.  Large salt blocks and a water softener are de rigueur with hard water.  No…the salt blocks I received are different from the salt blocks of my childhood. But I digress.

These Tibetan salt blocks have a lovely patina, are about 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick, and can serve a couple of purposes (foodie snobs like myself expect kitchen stuff to do many jobs).   The Tibetan salt blocks can be used for cooking as well as for a lovely presentation of food.  Since the winter weather is chilly here, I am starting with cooking on my salt.  More to come on serving with them…

I started heating my salt slowly to about 500 degrees over 30 minutes.

I started heating my salt slowly to about 500 degrees over 30 minutes.

I hit the internet.  How, exactly, do you cook with these blocks I wondered.  Well it turned out to be pretty simple.  The blocks can go right onto a stove or grill burner to heat and cook.  So that is what I did.  The salt needs to heat slowly, and get to a temperature of about 500 degrees over the course of about 30 minutes.  Easy enough.

Recipes to cook on salt were surprisingly plentiful.  Everything from steak to scallops can be cooked on them.  But being health minded, I was concerned about the salt content of food cooked on salt.  Turns out I didn’t need to be.  The salt blocks impart little salt during cooking.  Considering the amount of salt in prepared foods, cooking something fresh and salt free on salt is certainly an option!  I discovered that using them occasionally for those of us watching our sodium but not on sodium restricted diets is just fine.

Armed with this information, off I went!  When trying something new, I am cautious with ingredients.  I was not going to start this experiment with an expensive cut of meat or piece of fish.  I began with a small piece of flank steak.  I ordered it freshly cut from my butcher.  When preparing to cook it, I began heating the salt blocks and  sliced the steak into thin strips.  I did not season the meat at all because I wanted the full experience of the salt flavors on the steak.  When the blocks were hot onto the salt it went.

The steak hit the salt and immediately began sizzling.  Family gathered around to witness the fantastic scents that

On to the salt the steak went.  It began sizzling the second it hit the salt!

On to the salt the steak went. It began sizzling the second it hit the salt!

began wafting through the house.  Oooohs and aaahhhhs followed.  It was my Oscar moment (so few and far between for me are these moments that when it happens I preen like a peacock…ridiculous I know!  Damn pride!).  The steak began noticeably browning, and with a preference for medium rare

The meat sizzled and cooked beautifully!

The meat sizzled and cooked beautifully!cooked steak, I flipped the pieces over after only about 30 seconds.  The sizzling continued.

steak, I flipped the pieces over after only about 30 seconds.  The sizzling continued.

I had a large dinner heading to the table, with the steak being simply an accoutrement to the meal.  It was an all inclusive experiment, as everyone at the table got one or two pieces of steak to taste.  The excitement built as the steak was tender to cut.  And to our delight the flavor was outstanding!  It was a two thumbs up night!  The steak was a hit.  Now my question is what to cook next on my salt blocks.  I think it will be sea scallops but I will let you know!

A quick word about serving on these salt blocks.  I found suggestions to serve produce that folks like to salt, such as melon and tomatoes, on the blocks.  You simply slice up a melon, for example, and lay the pieces on the salt block.  The melon will absorb a bit of salt producing a juicy salty sweet hot weather treat.  I can’t wait to try that, but it will have to wait until summer rolls around for that one.  Until then, I am going to continue to experiment cooking with my blocks.  I will keep you posted on my progress!  Bon appetite!

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.

Salsa. Its not just for vegetables anymore!

21 Jul

That’s right.  I said it.  Hey, I love salsa and chips as much as the next guy, but with the bounty of beautiful summer fresh fruits, I just have to take my salsa recipe and change the ingredients from veggies to fruit.  I do this every summer.  My fresh fruit salsa is now a requested summer staple.  A salsa of any kind is usually raw cut or chopped vegetables or fruits.  Typically a salsa is used as a condiment.  It can also be used with corn chips as an appetizer or snack.

This fruit salsa is delicious with meats, but it is just great with corn chips too!  It has bold flavor, so a little goes a long way.  A flavorful salsa is easy to make, and extremely versatile.  It is easily customizable to suit your own personal flavors.  I make this fruit salsa with cilantro for a little kick, but I would substitute it if my mom was going to eat it.  She doesn’t like cilantro.  But that is the beauty of a recipe like this.  It is packed with flavor, has good nutrients, and is very colorful.  And so 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 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
  • pinch of salt

Mix everything except the lime together. Stir. Squeeze the fresh lime over the top.  Give the salsa another good stir  This is best if it sits for a few hours in the fridge before serving.  I have used this as a topping for grilled pork tenderloin and with low fat corn chips as a starter.  Go for it!  Grab up some fresh summer fruits and make a delicious salsa of your own!

Chop up some melons.  About a cup of each should do!

Chop up some melons. About a cup of each should do!

Next, chop up 2 peaches, mix with the melons and add the black berries.

Next, chop up 2 peaches, mix with the melons and add the black berries.

Toss in some diced red onion and some cilantro.

Toss in some diced red onion and some cilantro.

Give everything a good mix.  Then squeeze the fresh lime over it.  Give it another good stir and into the fridge it goes!

Give everything a good mix. Then squeeze the fresh lime over it. Give it another good stir and into the fridge it goes!