Try and Try Again!

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I’m glad that I can still surprise myself with making something definitely put in the category of “I don’t Like”, and find that all it need was some inspired concocting. While I’ve been told “you loved beets as a kid!”, I’m convinced it’s because I didn’t know any better. As an adult, I have only eaten them hidden in a salad or other dish. Since beets lower blood pressure, promote liver detoxification, improve heart health and boost endurance among a host of other things, I decided to take my own advice of trying them again in a new way. I decided to make a roasted beet and garlic soup with rosemary and was surprised by how great it came out. Paired with some prime salad fixings from the farmers market, I was certainly a happy camper! The best surprise at the market were the mulberries from the Chenier Farm which were sweet and tasty amid the other great toppings. Check out the recipe below and certainly share your thoughts.

Soup ingredients (serves 2-3):
1 lb fresh beets
1-2 small purple potatoes (optional)
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. sea salt and pepper
2 cups water
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock

Salad ingredients (serves 1):
1 cup of arugula
1 cup baby kale
1/2 lemon juiced
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tbsp. fig balsamic vinegar (or flavor of choice)
1 tbsp. goat cheese
1 tbsp. chopped walnuts
1/4 cup fresh mulberries or chopped strawberries
1/8 cup shaved radishes (a couple)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.
2. Rinse and peel beets. Cut off ends, cut in half and then quarters. If using potatoes, rinse and cut into same size. Peel garlic and add to baking sheet.
3. Add olive oil and vinegar and mix well by hand or with tongs. Sprinkle salt and pepper on top. Bake for 40 minutes.
4. Once baked, add mixture with a splash of water and rosemary to a food processor or blender and blend well. Add to a pot with remaining liquid and bring to a simmer.
5. While heating soup, rinse greens and chop into bite-sized pieces. Squeeze on lemon juice, seeded side up and add olive oil. Mix gently by hand for a minute which will help break down greens.
6. Using a mandolin or potato peeler, shave in radishes thinly.
7. Rinse and add mulberries. Chop and add walnuts. Drizzle on vinegar.
8. Bowl soup and garnish with dried rosemary. Plate salad.
9. Enjoy!

Shrimp Strawberry and Avocado Salad

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After going to the strawberry festival this weekend in Pontchatula Louisiana, I am all about incorporating the berries this week in as many ways as possible. Salads are easy when coming off of a weekend of indulgence as I am. In addition to this salad, I will also do a strawberry and spinach salad with chicken salad and pecans (also super easy). Also in my world, strawberry season would not be complete without a pitcher of fresh strawberry lemonade. The lemonade is great as a side to the salads, transformed into frozen pipe or an adult cocktail with the addition of vodka and basil or rum and mint!

Quick tips when picking strawberries:
-Look for berries that are still attached to a little stem. They last longer in the fridge!
-Don’t cut them up until you are going to eat them. They will start to break down immediately.
-To get the most of your berry, remove the green top by inserting a straw in the narrow end and pushing it through to remove the top without cutting off good berry!

Check out the salad recipe below.

Ingredients:
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
1/3 lb. shrimp
1 cup baby kale greens
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/2 small avocado
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tbsp. oil (avocado or olive oil)
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. coarse black pepper

 

Directions:
1. Peel and devein (or use frozen)
2. Heat oil per medium heat. Lightly season one side of shrimp and add to hot skillet seasoned-side down.
3. Season other side of shrimp and flip after 2 minutes and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat. (Shrimp will continue to cook in residual heat.
4. Rinse spinach and kale and rip or chop if large leaves. Add to a bowl and mix well with vinegar. Add to a plate.
5. Slice strawberries and avocado and add on top of greens. Top with shrimp and enjoy.

Simple Shrimp Soup

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With the latest cold front in Louisiana, I was inspired to make a simple shrimp soup with an Asian flair. A friend of mine introduced me to the Chinese hot pot and I thought some of those flavors would work great in a soup with a few leafy green vegetables and mushrooms. Though this soup would work with any mushroom, I found enoki mushrooms which I had not previously cooked when before and picked up a pack from a nearby Asian food store. They have a very mild flavor and their long stems with the rounded bulb tops look more like a noodle when separated. It’s incredible how well the flavors of simple ingredients gel together for a quick and easy meal on a cool evening. This soup took 20 minutes to make and it was helpful to use one of my frozen bags of shrimp where I peel and devein them in bulk ahead of time and put them into 1 lb, single and double serving portions for later use. Check out the recipe below and share your thoughts.

Ingredients:
3 cups water
32oz organic chicken stock
1 lb raw shrimp
3 cups bok Choy
1 cup spinach
1/8 cup shallots
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
3 tbsp Lee Kum lee soup base for satay hot pot (or any flavor preferred)
1 cup enoki mushroom
2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp chili garlic sauce (Huy Fong)
1 tsp fresh chives (optional garnish)

Directions:
1. Defrost frozen shrimp in cool water in its plastic bag 15 minutes before starting to cook or overnight unless using fresh.
2. Bring liquids to a boil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add 3 tablespoons of soup base and stir until well blended. Peel and dice shallot and add to the pot of liquid. Grate in 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger.
3. While waiting for it to boil, rinse and break off leaves of the bok choy and cut white ends into 1 inch chunks and leafy green tops into large ribbons. (Not too small if you want to keep some texture!)
4. Rinse spinach leaves and slice into ribbons. Rinse enoki and cut off roots. Remove any wilted or slimy mushrooms.
5. Add greens, mushrooms, chili sauce and soy sauce to the pot.
6. Rinse and add shrimp. Reduce to medium low heat and let simmer for 10 minutes.
7. Bowl and serve with optional garnish.

 

5 Must Haves This Allergy Season

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Are you protected this Spring? With flowers and weeds in bloom and the green and yellow pollen coating everything outdoors, it’s important to give your body the boost it needs to fight allergy symptoms such running nose, itchy throat, watery eyes, etc. that can easily turn into weeks of suffering. Since staying indoors the entire season is not possible, there are 5 key things I keep on hand to give my system a fighting chance is addition to over-the-counter Rx help. I can’t say enough how effective prevention is with immune boosters. I make enough for 3 to 4 days at a time with numbers 2 through 4, ginger and oil of oregano. When allergies do hit, brewing tea is also another great option to give you relief.

1. Garlic. Whether pickled or fresh, garlic is the number one must have during allergy season. Pickled garlic cloves are easy to find in the store or restaurants like Crackle Barrel and are easier on the system than the raw cloves. Raw garlic minced is ideal when you are showing symptoms. If you just can’t swallow a teaspoon minced, try garlic tea with fresh or ground ginger, orange or lemon and a pinch of cayenne to relieve symptoms.
2. Citrus (orange and lemon). Vitamin C which is found in high quantities in citrus, is a key boost to support immune health and helping to relieve allergy symptoms by lowering histamine levels in the blood. Breathe easier.
3. Local honey. Sweeten the deal with the right honey. Locally sourced honey is critical during allergy season because it helps your immune system build a tolerance to the local pollen around you. During pollination, bees hop from plant to plant and some pollen naturally transfers to the honey they produce. Most produce stands and farmer markets offer local selections.
4. Cayenne. Capsaicin, a key component of cayenne pepper, is helpful for more than just Louisiana cooking. It helps to clear the sinuses and relieve allergy symptoms by making the mucous membranes in your nose less sensitive to airborne particles. Let’s face it, constant sneezing is no fun.
5. Lemongrass essential oil. Essential oils like lemongrass can be diffused in your room or home. With its anti fungal, antimicrobial and immune boosting properties, it is a highly effective at removing allergens and helping your body heal from them. It is also great to use topically with a location or base oil to ward off bugs and mosquitoes. It’s important to choose a quality essential oil, so certainly research the difference between those used for diffusing, topically and those that can be ingested.

What are your top 5 must haves?

Wonderful Repeats

 

C987E3FE-DC64-46D5-B0B3-A03271EA1B5F.jpegLet me just say, I don’t typically make the same dish back to back but I truly enjoyed the green onion sweet potato hash and decided to make a version with the beef bacon from the farmer’s market. Beef bacon was not something I was familiar with and is more like a thick cut salami than bacon in my book. But the flavor with the potato, rosemary and the sweet and tangy balsamic pepper jelly sauce is a wonderfully flavorful combination. Weird yes, but incredible! You have to give it a try with your favorite protein. I also blanched some green beans as a side and have mixed kale greens for an easy salad side dish for an easy lunch. Check out the recipe below.

Sweet and sour beef bacon with Sweet Potato Hash
Serves 4-6

Main Ingredients:
1/2 lb. diced beef bacon
1 1/2 medium sweet potato cubed (2 cups)
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. coarse black pepper
1 cup water
1/2 cup chopped green onion bottoms
1 pinch of salt

Sweet and sour sauce ingredients:
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. pineapple ghost pepper jelly

 

Directions:
1. Peel and rinse sweet potato. Cut sweet potato in half by slicing the knife in longwise and lightly banging the potato down. Slice each half into thirds before dicing into small cubes.
2. Clean green onion stems and bulb bottoms well under running water and then cut off rooted ends (cash aAlso use frozen green onion). Thinly cut ends up to where the stem turns green.
3. Add a splash of water and onion to a large skillet over medium heat. Cook for 2 minutes then add sweet potato. Add 1/2 cup of water . Add paprika, pepper and rosemary and mix well. Let cook for 8 minutes, shaking the skillet or stirring occasionally.
4. Slice bacon into strips then dice it.
5. Add potatoes and onion to a small bowl and place bacon in same skillet with 1/4 cup of water and let it cook for 3-5 minutes until water evaporates. Add potatoes back in and if potatoes are undercooked (still hard) add a splash of water.
6. In the bowl from the potatoes, add balsamic vinegar and jelly and mix well with a fork until blended. Add to bacon and potato mix and stir well. Cook for 3 minutes until liquid evaporates and remove from heat. Add a pinch of salt it desired.
7. Enjoy.

Food For Frost

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With these unexpected cold fronts, it’s a great time to bring out the crock pot for something warm to bump out the cold. I was in the mood for a new round of curry and blended the remaining red curry I had and some yellow and used chicken as the protein this go round. As I often say, it’s helpful to prep ahead of time by separating large packs of meat into 6, 8 and 10 count bags for your freezer, since we don’t always have time for a store run. Since I already had the chicken, purple green beans and curry powder, I grabbed basil, low fat coconut milk and carrots from the store to finish the dish. This can be eaten as a soup or served with rice depending on your preference. Check out the recipe below.

Chicken Curry
Serves 8

8 chicken legs
2 cups purple or green beans
1 14-16 oz bag of baby carrots
6 small red potatoes
1 tbsp. yellow curry powder
2 tbsp. red curry powder paste (optional)
1 13.5 oz can low fat coconut milk
1 package of basil
1 cup diced onion
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. cayenne
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. garlic powder
3 cups of water

Directions:
1. Remove skin and any excess fat from chicken and rinse before putting in crock pot.
2. Season chicken with seasoning (not curry).
3. Dice onion and halve potatoes add to crock pot. Add frozen green beans and carrots. Add water and curry and mix well.
4. Set crockpot on low heat for 8 hours.
5. Add coconut and basil in last 30 minutes of cook time.
6. Enjoy!

Inspired Brunch

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I thoroughly enjoyed cooking this Saturday at the Red Stick Farmer’s Market this weekend. I decided to expand a pickled onion and strawberry salad I created last strawberry season and and a sweet potato and sausage hash done in an “Inspired” way. 🙂 I decided to make a sweet and sour pork sausage with a savory sweet potato hash to go with the salad for a seasonal and flavorful weekend brunch.

Check out the recipes below. You can also catch me in action with the short video by Lena Farms on Facebook with some quick tips on uses for apple cider vinegar. As always, share your thoughts!

 

Pickled Onion and Strawberry Salad
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
1 cup of chopped strawberries
1 cup of sliced onion (1 small)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. strawberry ghost pepper jam
1 cup shredded arugula
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. coarse black pepper

 

Sweet and sour pork sausage with Sweet Potato Hash
Serves 4-6

Main Ingredients:
1/2 lb. cubed smoked sausage
1 1/2 medium sweet potato cubed (2 cups)
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. coarse black pepper
1 cup water
1 tbsp. olive or canola oil
1/2 cup chopped green onion bottoms
1 pinch of salt

Sweet and sour sauce ingredients:
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. pineapple ghost pepper jelly

Directions:
1. Add apple cider vinegar and jam to a medium-sized bowl and mix well with a fork until well blended.
2. Cut an onion in half then peel each half. Slice each half thinly and add to the vinegar mixture. Let sit for 15 minutes.
3. Peel and rinse sweet potato. Using aggression and a sharp knife (haha), cut sweet potato in half, then into thirds before dicing into small cubes.
4. Clean green onion stems and bulb bottoms well under running water and then cut off rooted ends (can be replanted). Thinly cut ends up to where the stem turns green.
5. Add oil and onion to a large skillet over medium heat. Cook for 2 minutes then add sweet potato. Add 1/2 cup of water . Add paprika, pepper and rosemary and mix well. Let cook for 6 minutes, shaking the skillet or stirring occasionally.
6. Cut sausage in half longwise, then in half again to make cubing the sausage easier.
7. Add potatoes and onion to a small bowl and place sausage in same skillet with 1/4 cup of water and let sausage cook for 3-5 minutes until water evaporates. Add potatoes back in and if potatoes are undercooked (still hard) add a splash of water.
8. In the bowl from the potatoes, add balsamic vinegar and jelly and mix well with a fork until blended. Add to sausage and potato mix and stir well. Cook for 3 minutes until liquid evaporates and remove from heat. Add a pinch of salt it desired.
9. Rinse and slice strawberries and add to the bowl of pickled onion.
10. Rinse and chop parsley and arugula and add it and seasoning to the bowl. Mix well.
11. Plate both and enjoy.