Charcuterie Nights

Adult Lunchables

Sometimes a grown up lunchable in the form of a charcuterie board makes a quick dinner and is fun to entertain with. I like to add an assortment of salami, garlic stuffed olives, caper berries, fresh fruit (blueberries, cherries, strawberries ) and of course cheese. For small groups my go to options are an herbed goat cheese that I top with a drizzle of honey, some smoked Gouda and a smoked or peppered cheddar.


But if its an individual party, adding some greens or salad is an easy addition to balance out the richness. It’s as simple as finding a mix of meats and cheeses that appeal to your tastes. I personally like the Columbus brand variety of salami and the Brooklyn Cured brands, but I’m always on the hunt for new tasty additions. Additionally, I like to add surprises to the board such as coffee dark chocolate or chocolate covered almonds. What’s your favorite mix? Please leave a post to reply.

Sip and Breathe

Simple Syrup

With Labor Day fast approaching, it’s a great time to start planning the drink menu. This is the perfect time to kick back with a small group of family and friends and take a moment to relax. Why not do it in style? I’ve been experimenting with homemade simple syrups after my friend Carolyn showed me just how easy it is. Check out this recipe for my lavender mint simple syrup to make a simply superb French 75. During my time in Rochester NY, I fell in love with a local lilac gin by Black Button Distillery, but this cocktail can be made with any favored infused gin or vodka. I recommend making the simple syrup ahead of time over the weekend or the day before, just to save yourself some time. Any left over syrup can be used for cold or hot tea!


Simple Syrup Ingredients:

1 /2 cup dried organic lavender

2 sprigs of fresh or dried mint

2 cups of distilled water

1.5 cups of raw sugar

3 clean food pouches or a glass jar.

Directions:

  1. Bring water to a boil. Add measured lavender and mint to a bowl.
  2. When water boils, cover lavender and mint and cover bowl with a plate or lid.
  3. Let lavender water steep for at least a hour but no more than 2 hours.
  4. Strain water into a measuring cup and add water and sugar into a medium pan and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce to medium low heat and cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and let cool for 30 minutes.
  7. Add to food pouches or glass jar with an airtight lid. Store in a cool, dry place or refrigerate.

The drink below serves 1. Just multiply each ingredient for the number of drinks prepared. 🙂 If you are making more than two drinks, I’d recommend buying cold pressed lemon juice or your preferred product to save on the manual labor.


French 75 Ingredients:

1.5 oz infused gin

1 oz cold pressed or fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/2 oz of simple syrup (double if you like sweeter drinks)

3 oz of champagne

Directions:

  1. Add gin to a glass, add simple sugar and mix with a spoon
  2. Add lemon juice and top with champagne
  3. Optional: zest a lemon for garnish 
  4. Enjoy

Planning for Meal Prep

Meal prep made easy

Its that time a year where meal prep is critical, or as the kids say, clutch! I am a big fan of giving myself variety through meal prep and dinner bowls are not only cost effective, but offer variety. At a lofty $3.50 per serving, these beans, greens and grains bowls are tasty and cost effective. I made enough for the week, to share and to freeze. The trick is to break it into the basics.


Grains: I like to explore new seeds and grains and for these bowls I used a quinoa, bulgur wheat mixture for some varied nutrients. This served as the base for the bowls and a side for a couple of other meals.


Greens: As a Southerner, I love a good pot of greens. I made huge pot mixing kale, turnips, collards and mustards with a bunch of garlic and onion. It should be cooked until tender which is usually 20-30 minutes with the pre-chopped bags I used.


Proteins: Stewed black beans with fire roasted tomatoes are a great addition for vegetarian bowls or chicken fajita bowls (adding optional avocado). I also baked fish and sautéed two chicken breast for varied bowl options. 


Tip: Cut onion ahead of time and freeze it. I dice, slice and finely chop onion and store it in small freezer bags to have on hand. I do the same with bell pepper! This made it easy to caramelize onions and peppers for the chicken fajita bowl option.


Cooking:

  1. Start with the greens. With 1 1/2 diced onion and a head or two of minced garlic, add it to a large pot with a cup of water. Rinse a large bag of greens and add to the pot. Preheat the oven for the fish.
  2. While that cooks, start the grains, following the cooking instructions on the bag or your usual method if using a favorite. I used half stock, half water for some extra flavor and a few cloves of minced garlic.
  3. Stir greens and season well with salt, pepper, onion and garlic powders and cayenne. Start stewed tomatoes on stove top and cook down for a few minutes before adding a cup of water and a can of beans. Season well. 
  4. Bake fish of choice with some fresh thyme and lemon and a drizzle of avocado or olive oil. While that bakes, season a sear the chicken breasts (or thighs).
  5. Optional: use pan from chicken to caramelize onions and peppers for the chicken fajita bowls.
  6. Remove fish from oven and turn off stove tops. Let food begin to cool before adding to storage containers.
  7. Freeze or share additional portions.

Steak Stir Fry with Homegrown Mushrooms

It has been a while since I’ve posted; I promise I am still cooking! I am also still growing things. In addition to my kombucha developments (I’m partial to lavender mint), I decided to try my hand at growing mushrooms indoors with a Back  To Roots organic mushroom growing kit. I was thrilled at my proficiency and decided to use it in a quick stir fry. 

Why mushrooms? Oyster mushrooms are a great immune boost, loaded with antioxidants and other nutrients. Additionally it has anti bacterial properties in the body. 

Check out this quick dish below and as always, let me know your thoughts. 

1 medium onion 

1 small bok choy or 2 cups of raw spinach

2 cups of sweet peppers

1 cup of mushrooms of choice

1 inch (1tbsp) fresh grated ginger

1 lb steak tips

1/2 tbsp cumin

1/2 tbsp coriander

1 tbsp red pepper flakes

1 cup of cooked rice

 1 tbsp avocado oil

1/4 cup of water

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Cook rice using preferred method.
  2. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Open and rinse steak; season with salt and pepper lightly. 
  3. Add steak and cook for 5 minutes. Rinse and slice peppers, rinse and quarter bok choy and slice mushrooms while steak cooks. 
  4. Remove steak and put on a plate. Add veggies, seasoning and water and grate in ginger. Cook for 5 minutes. 
  5. Add in steak and stir before turning off heat.
  6. Add to rice and enjoy!

Still Inspired…

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As part of my unplugging and unwinding, I still love to be inspired to create a flavorful, comforting meal. I will say I’ve been enjoying this new wave of home cooking and family gatherings. It’s refreshing to see what more home time produces in the kitchen! I had a craving for some seafood and wanted to use some of the fresh herbs that I’ve been growing which resulted in this dish. This is definitely one I will make again. Now I will say, brown rice seems to take forever and 5 years to make so you can always opt for a low-sodium microwavable option. I’ve actually seen some cool varieties that include quinoa or wild and brown rice mixes. If you go that route this becomes a 10-12 minute dish. Happy cooking and as always, let me know your thoughts!

 

Spicy Seared Scallops and Shrimp w/ Herbed Butter Brown Rice

Seafood Ingredients:

½ lb fresh scallops

½ lb white shrimp

½ tbsp onion powder

½ tbsp garlic powder

½ tbsp red pepper flakes

Juice of half a lemon

1 tbsp avocado oil

½ tbsp butter (optional)

 

Rice Ingredients:

½ cup brown rice

¼ cup chopped herbs (basil, parsley, thyme, mint)

1 cup chicken stock

½ cup water

½ tbsp turmeric

1 tbsp shaved or minced garlic

1 tbsp of butter

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Green beans:

1 bag of frozen green beans

1 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

  1. Add rice and minced garlic to a small pot and toast it for 1 to 2 minutes over medium high heat. Add liquid and turmeric and bring to a boil before reducing to simmer. Top and cook for 45 minutes.
  2. With 20 minutes left on the rice, bring a medium pot of water with green beans to boil. When it starts to boil, strain it immediately then add to a bowl with salt, pepper and oil and set it aside. The residual heat will continue to cook the green beans.
  3. In a medium pan, add oil and butter. While it heats, season scallops and shrimp, then add to the skillet. Cook on each side for 2-3 minutes then remove from the heat. Squeeze half of lemon, seeded side up over seafood to deglaze the pan.
  4. Rinse and chop fresh herbs. Once rice is done, add it to a bowl, add fresh herbs, butter and salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Plate and top with microgreens (optional). Enjoy!

 

 

New Reality, New Options

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Hi all! Hope you and your families are well during these difficult times. I know it’s been a while since my last post. So I must say, in this new age amid the Corona virus, I’ve been exploring vegan and vegetarian meal options with the random food shortages. The first week I saw no meat in the multiple stores, I found this vegan gem in Trader Joe’s that made my taste buds rejoice. As a southerner through and through, I love crab cakes. So let me say I was highly skeptical of anything described as a “crab-less crab cake”. Color me surprised that Trader Joe delivered a truly tasty meatless alternative that I quickly went and purchased more of.

In this new age, I will be keeping to my tradition of cooking most of my weekly meals with one “take out option”. Given the pandemic that translates to my girl Sandra’s “semi-homemade” concept.  These frozen “crab cakes” I’ve eaten both with a mixed greens salad and a warmed avocado, cabbage and leek salad. As a part of my path to maintaining healthy, I’m consuming as many prebiotic and probiotic foods as possible. So please note that avocado and leeks, both used in this dish, are probiotic foods which contain the fibers needed to feed the probiotics in your gut which promote good gut health. More than likely, the next few recipes will be focused on this. So amid my home productions of kimchi, kombucha and banana walnut breads (more probiotics :)), I will be sharing other recipes focused on probiotics and probiotics to help keep your body and your gut healthy amid these uncertain times. Stay safe and well and as always let me know your thoughts!

P.S. I’d like to give a shout out to Trader Joe’s and their social distancing practices and the added bonus of the bouquet of flowers they gave each guest in my store!

“Crab cake” salad

Ingredients:

2 jackfruit cakes (trader joes)

Pinch onion powder

Pinch garlic powder

2 cups of mixed greens

1/2 avocado sliced

1/2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup sliced cucumber

1/4 cup sliced cherry tomato

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tbsp. coconut, avocado or olive oil

Directions:

  1. Defrost “crab cakes” for 1 hour prior to cooking.
  2. Heat oil in a medium skillet. While heating rinse cucumber, greens and tomato.
  3. Add cakes to the oil.
  4. Add washed greens to a bowl. Peel and slice cucumber before seasoning cakes with onion and garlic powder, then flip.
  5. Slice tomatoes in half and add tomato and cucumber to greens.
  6. Slice avocado and season to taste before adding to salad. Top with vinegar then cakes.


“Crab Cake” and Cabbage

Crab cake ingredients:

2 jackfruit cakes (trader joes)

Pinch onion powder

Pinch garlic powder

1 1/2 tsp. coconut, avocado or olive oil

cabbage ingredients:

2 cups of chopped Napa cabbage

1 cup chopped leeks

1 1/2 tsp. coconut, avocado or olive oil

1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tbsp. onion powder

1/2 tbsp. garlic powder

1/4 cup of water

Directions:

  1. defrost cakes 1 hr before beginning to cook.
  2. Rinse small Napa cabbage, cut in half and then into fourths. Cut a fourth into strips to “shred”
  3. Rinse leeks, cut off tops and save for stock, then cut thick stem into thin ribbons. In a medium pan, add oil and then leeks. Cook for 2 minutes to soften before adding cabbage. Add seasoning, vinegar and water and stir well before reducing heat.
  4. In a small pan heat oil and brown cakes on both sides. Cut a half of avocado and season with a pinch of salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder.
  5. Plate cabbage mix, top with avocado and then crab cakes.

Easy spicy citrus shrimp

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As a gal on the go, easy meals are a huge win for me. I prepped a nice batch of spicy citrus shrimp to go with roasted rosemary sweet potatoes and greens and also on top of my beloved avocado toast. Check out the recipe below.

Spicy Citrus Shrimp

Ingredients:

2 lbs shrimp

1 1/2 tbsp red pepper flake

1 juiced lemon

2 tbsp avocado or olive oil

4 tbsp minced garlic salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Peel and devein shrimp (it defrost if using frozen).
  2. Peel and mince roughly a head of garlic.
  3. Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Once hot, add garlic and red pepper flake. Sauté for 1 minute.
  4. Add shrimp and sear for 2 minutes on one side. Juice half a lemon season side up.
  5. Flip them gently and juice the other half of lemon. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  6. Cook for an addition 2 minutes and remove from heat.
  7. Enjoy with avocado toast or beside a carb and vegetable of your choice.
  8. Enjoy.

Seared Tuna Steak Salad

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I know it’s been a while since my last post! I am hopeful I will be able to apply some of the principles I’m learning in my operations class to make more time for posting. 🙂 Check out this quick tuna steak recipe. I added this chilled on top of a mixed green salad with avocado, toasted sunflower seeds, cucumber and tomatoes with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Tasty and simple! As always, please share your thoughts.

Ingredients:

5 oz tuna steaks (2)

1 tsp cayenne

1 tbsp soy sauce

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

2 tsp fresh grated ginger

1/2 tbsp honey

1 tsp sea salt

1 tbsp coarse black pepper

1 tbsp olive or avocado oil

 

Directions:

 

  1. In a small bowl or ramekin add soy sauce and honey and mix well until honey is dissolved.
  2. Juice the orange, grate the ginger and and add to the bowl. Add salt and cayenne and mix well.
  3. In a gallon ziploc bag, add tuna steak and marinade. Refrigerate overnight.
  4. Add oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Once oil is hot, add steaks and add coarse black pepper to the top side up. (This will make a crust once flipped.)
  5. Cook for 2-3 minutes then flip and repeat.
  6. Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
  7. Add on top of you favorite salad mix.

Seafood Pasta

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As it is growing colder in my new neck of the woods, my desire for comfort food increases. This seafood pasta is an easy win and is good for four servings. Since pasta can often  be heavy, I lightened the load with some fresh herbs and bright citrus. I also am a fan of heat and added some red pepper flake to spice things up. I went with a frozen bag of seafood from Trader Joe’s for my dish but of course fresh is always preferred. Check out the recipe below.

Seafood Pasta

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked pasta

1 lb mixed seafood (shrimp, scallops, calamari)

1/2 of a lemon

1/4 cup of white wine

2 tbsp butter

1/2 tbsp avocado or olive oil

1/2 tbsp red pepper flakes (a whole if spicy preferred)

1 cup diced onion

1 tbsp minced garlic

1/8 cup chopped parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Defrost seafood and boil pasta ahead of time.
  2. Add oil to a medium-sized pan over medium heat.
  3. Slice onion in half and cut off one end. Peel off skin leaving on one end for stability then slice into strips before dicing.
  4. Peel and mince garlic and add both onion and garlic to the pan.
  5. Add seafood to pan and sir well for 2 minutes. Add wine and juice lemon seeded side up to deglaze pan and reduce heat.
  6. Add pasta and butter and seasoning and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes. Mix well then turn off heat.
  7. Rinse and chop parsley.
  8. Plate and top with parsley.
  9. Enjoy!

Hello Sheppard’s Pie

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I know it’s been a while since my last post. I made a life change and decided to go back to school full time. Who would have thought I’d be more busy in school than working full time?! But school or not, a girl has got to eat. While I have been cooking, I haven’t been posting so my goal is to get to a new normal schedule.

I’m starting with my take on Sheppard’s pie. Spoiler alert, this is not your mom’s Sheppard’s pie. It has elements of healthy with an infusion of vegetables and loads of flavor. My philosophy is the vegetables balance the butter that is absolutely required for the potatoes. This pan makes enough for 8 to 10 servings depending on if your into generous portions. Check out the recipe below. 🙂

Sheppards Pie

Ingredients:

2 lbs ground turkey

2 cups diced carrot

2 cups diced zucchini

1 cup of diced bell pepper

1 cup peas

3 cups diced onion

1/4 cup minced garlic

6 oz tomato sauce

2 tbsp tomato paste with Italian seasoning

1 tbsp red pepper flake

1 tbsp Italian seasoning

2 tbsp of garlic and onion powder

Salt and pepper to taste

4 cups of mashed potatoes

1/2 tbsp. avocado oil

2 tbsp. butter

1/2 cup of parsley (optional garnish)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Peel and dice 2-3 large potatoes and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil until potatoes can be pierced smoothly with a fork.
  3. Peel and dice onion. Add one cup to potatoes. Peel and mince garlic and add both to a medium pot over medium heat with oil.
  4. Peel and chop carrots and add to the pot with a splash of water to soften.
  5. Add ground turkey and brown with garlic and onion and carrots.
  6. While browning turkey, rinse zucchini, slice in half, then cut into strips before dicing. Rinse and dice bell pepper.
  7. Add diced zucchini and bell pepper to the pot. Open cans and stir in tomato paste, then add sauce and seasoning.
  8. Add peas then remove the pan from heat.
  9. Drain potatoes and onion and mash with butter. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Add meat mixture to a oven-safe baking dish then add potatoes on top in an even layer. Bake for 20 minutes uncovered to firm up the mixture.