Tag Archives: salad

Beet the Heat

16 Aug

Beets are the best.  Roasted.  Pickled.  Sautéed.  Cold.  Hot.  Beets are great as a side dish with balsamic vinegar and goat cheese.  They are delicious roasted along side other vegetables.  I’ve even eaten them right out of the can.  Being raised in the midwest, vegetables were always on our dinner table, but somehow beets got overlooked. So how did I get hooked?

My love affair with this herbaceous plant began in adulthood.  The first time I tried beets was a happy surprise.  I was tired of my usual repertoire of veggies and decided to try beets.  In the grocery store one day, I impulsively grabbed a fresh bunch of beets with the intention of simply roasting them.

I brought them home, put the beets on the counter, and stared them down.  Hhhmmmm.  This would be an adventure.  I washed them and laid them on paper towels.  Off came the green tops.  I peeled the fresh beets, placed them on a baking sheet, drizzled some olive oil over them, and into the oven they went.  The beets cooked up beautifully.  One taste and I was hooked.

But the thought of those greens going to waste was unthinkable.  Out of curiosity, I pinched off a green and popped it into my mouth expecting it to be tough and woody.  I was delighted to find the greens tender and flavorful.  Oh heck yes!  I would find a way to eat the greens too!  That was many seasons ago…

Now summer is on the horizon. I am beginning to think grilled, chilled and easy.   I do not want my oven on this time of year.  What is the best way to enjoy beets this season?  Piled on a garden fresh crisp salad!

But first, let’s chat for a second about the virtues of beets.  Some would say they are not a desirable or sexy vegetable, or even a popular one.  But since they are packed full of vitamins and minerals, and so versatile, beets cannot be overlooked.

The health benefits of including beets in the diet are numerous.  They are a good source of fiber, have lots of vitamin C, and are high in folate and potassium.  Beets are also a rich source of antioxidants, compounds that prevent disease and the damaging effects of oxidation of cells throughout your body.  They are very low in fat, and certainly don’t need a lot of added fat to make them taste good.

While they come in many varieties, we most often see the “blood turnip”, or red beet. They are a root vegetable, like a carrot or potato and they like to grow in cool weather.  They are available canned all year long, but we see them seasonally featured in the spring and the fall.

And remember how I said it was not considered a sexy vegetable?  Well think again.  Fruits and vegetables, like herbs, were used in ancient times as medicine.  One of the first known medicinal uses for the beet was as an aphrodisiac in ancient Greece.  There.  I said it.

Anywhoooo….beets are very easy to prepare.  If they are fresh, they can simply be peeled, drizzled with olive oil and roasted.  They are also wonderful diced and  sautéed.  Canned beets are fabulous hot or cold.  Simply open the can, rinse the beets, and toss them on a salad.  They can also be heated and enjoyed as a simple side dish.

Back to those green tops for a minute.  If you have fresh beets with the greens, do not throw those away!  The greens are also a nutrient dense food and adaptable to many dishes.  Like beets, the greens can be enjoyed raw, such as mixed with other greens in your summer salad.  They can also be sautéed much like spinach, in a little olive oil.  Season them a bit with salt and pepper, and you’ve got another phenomenal side dish.

If you’ve tried beets and didn’t like them, try them again.  If you’ve never tried them, its time to add some variety to your diet.  The health benefits  of beets are plentiful, they are budget friendly, and just plain delicious.  Let your own impulses go wild, pick up some beets up at the farmers marker or grocer, and begin your own adventure!

Delicious cold beets piled on a fresh summer salad! Yum!

Delicious cold beets piled on a fresh summer salad! Yum!

Naughty-again!

25 Apr

Naughty.  Last Friday night my home cooked meal was off the chain naughty.  Seriously.  The thing is…it started out innocently enough.  It took a turn to the dark side during a water cooler moment chatting with a coworker.

I wanted to make wild mushroom ravioli for dinner.  I like flavor with an earthy profile (some chefs call it a “dirt” flavor) like mushrooms, truffles, and beets.  And I was seriously craving some earth.  Wild mushrooms would be the food that was going to scratch that itch.  What could be the harm in that?  Enter stage left..my coworker Al.

Foodies get all excited when talking food and recipes.  Al is no exception.  He, like me, is a quirky foodie.  I am an amateur, he, as a certified chef, is a professional one.  I told him what I was making and wanted to pick his brain about a good sauce.  A creamy parmesan sauce? I wondered outloud.  Oh no!  Al had something else in mind.

“A brown butter sauce!” he loudly exclaimed.  Yes, that will be perfect for your ravioli, he said.  Brown butter, drizzled over the ravioli, along with fresh basil chopped, and a bit of fresh parmesan romano cheese.  Yes, he proclaimed.  That is the finish for your ravioli.  At this point my mouth was watering and I was mentally preparing for a much longer run on Saturday morning to counteract my naughty Friday night dinner.  That was that.  I couldn’t wait to try it.

Later in the afternoon, Al wandered into my office.  Clearly, as an eccentric foodie, my dinner was still on his mind.  “You need some acid on that dish, and a balsamic reduction glaze would be just the thing”.  Again, foodies are so quirky.  A “food moment” such as Al’s  hits like a flash, and you just gotta run with it.  And I did.

Here is the story, in pictures, of my naughty dinner.

Step 1...start the butter.  But remember to stir.  Burned butter is no fun!

Step 1…start the butter. But remember to stir. Burned butter is no fun!

The butter is getting brown and foamy.  The scent wafting from this dish is mmmmmmmm so creamy and luxurious!

The butter is getting brown and foamy. The scent wafting from this dish is mmmmmmmm so creamy and luxurious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The butter is getting nutty, browning slowly and oh so rich!  I removed the milk fat  (the foam) making it clarified butter.

The butter is getting nutty, browning slowly and oh so rich! I removed the milk fat (the foam) making it clarified butter.

 

Here it is.  My dinner is all of its naughty gloriousness!   Wild mushroom ravioli with brown butter sauce and balsamic reduction, salad, and, of course, bread. Was it worth it?  Oh heck yes!

Here it is. My dinner is all of its naughty gloriousness! Wild mushroom ravioli with brown butter sauce and balsamic reduction, salad, and, of course, bread. Was it worth it? Oh heck yes!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next…

25 Aug

I am a single mother that is short on time.  When I cook, I have to make it count for more than one meal.  Time is my most precious commodity at the moment, so cooking bigger sure helps in a time crunch.  If I have a little wiggle room during the weekend to cook, I try to fill the fridge for the upcoming week.

Okay, it’s no secret that I love leftovers.  They can be easy to eat as is for a second meal, or 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 either in school lunches or to work with me for a second meal.  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.  Quinoa powered up morning oatmeal following an 8 mile bike ride.  It was a solid “recovery” breakfast.

Leftover quinoa added a nice nutritionally punch to morning oatmeal.

Leftover quinoa added a nice nutritionally punch to morning oatmeal.

Night #2.  Leftover:  Goat cheese.  It was leftover from a beet salad.  My high schooler used it to spread on his “gourmet” sandwich, adding delicious creamy flavor to a weekday 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 drizzled over roasted veggies going into the oven.  Homemade vinaigrette is super easy to customize ingredients and flavors to make even picky eaters happy.

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 sandwich to take to work.  I wish I also had some of that leftover goat cheese too, but it was quite tasty as is.

Roasted veggies made an awesome sandwich, panini style!

Roasted veggies made an awesome sandwich, panini style!

Night #5.  Leftover:  Pesto, shredded chicken. (Nonleftover freezer item: frozen cauliflower). I actually pulled this from the freezer to make 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 was microwaved.  Everything was tossed together 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 you make with your leftovers!

This ‘n That

16 Jul

The weather is hot.  Summer is in full swing.  It is hot outside, and the air conditioning is blasting inside.  That adds up to one thing…time to take the cooking outside.  Fire up that grill!  Marinate and toss some tuna, chicken or tofu on the grill.  Cook a meal without heating up the house.  Oh, but wait.  There has to be a side dish to go with the delicious grilled food.  Hhhmm.  What is an easy cold refreshing summer side dish?  I have the answer and I just made it!  Try it!

Amy’s Summer Side Quinoa Salad

  • 2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced free onions including green tops
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped arugula
  • 1 cucumber peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 4 ounces feta cheese

Vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1 t. fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix vinaigrette and set aside.   In large bowl, combine quinoa through cheese.  Stir.  Add vinaigrette and stir to combine thoroughly.  Cover and refrigerate.  Next step..enjoy!

This is an easy recipe to quickly toss together as a side dish. I had the leftover salad for breakfast the following morning after my morning workout.  It is a nutrient packed salad, and the ingredients can be easily substituted with any veggies on hand. Toss in some of this, a little of that.  Make a this ‘n that salad!  So go ahead!  Keep the energy bills low and take the cooking outside.  Toss this fabulous cold salad together and enjoy!

 

Fresh summer side dish.  Yum!

Fresh summer side dish. Yum!

Cannelini and Greens

31 Aug

I am a self proclaimed foodie.   I think about food a lot.  I think about how to grow it, how to prepare it, and try to conjure up interesting twists of flavor with what I have on hand.  Although I love the European method of shopping daily to prepare the freshest food, I am not a person that likes to hop in the car and zip out to the store for a missing ingredient when I cook.  Nope…I like to put music on, surround myself with my the folks I love, and get in the kitchen and cook.

That is exactly what I was doing when I created my cannellini dish lately.  I looked at ingredients that I had on hand, craved something different, poured Denis and I a glass of red wine and got to work.  This is what I came up with, and I must say, it was brilliant.  Here is my recipe.

Amy’s Cannellini and Greens

  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • 2 cans cannellini beans-rinsed and drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups of fresh arugula and spinach
  • 4 slices of prosciutto, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive oil
  • 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1/2 Teaspoon parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon sage
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh parmesan cheese

Heat a large pan on medium, and put olive oil in pan.  When hot, add onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add garlic, and stir.   Let cook for 1 minute.   Add canned tomatoes with juice, thyme, parsley, and sage.  Stir to mix.  Shake in salt and pepper to taste.  Heat until hot and bubbling, about 4-5 minutes.  Add cannellini beans and give the mix a good but gentle stir.  During the last few minutes of cooking, add the prosciutto.  While that is heating through, take a large shallow bowl and line it with the fresh arugula spinach mixture.  Grate some fresh parmesan cheese over it.  Just a sprinkle will do.

Taste bean mixture.  Adjust seasonings as needed.  Pour hot beans over greens.  The greens will wilt a bit, and the scent coming off this dish is amazing!  Serve.

This dish is quick to put together and a great way to use some leftover greens when you are tired of regular cold salads.  It is a pretty dish, and packed with nutrition.  Cannellini beans are rich in antioxidants, loaded with beneficial fiber, and have plenty of heart healthy b9.   It is a beautiful dish to have on your dinner table, with the added benefit of being very nutritious!  Bon Appetite!

Oh yum!

Oh yum!

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!