Not Your Average Stir fry

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I’ve been exploring plant-based proteins as an option for at least one, meatless options during the week. I decided to venture out with firm tofu which I’ve had in various dishes but have never prepared at home. From what I know, tofu takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it  with. I decided that strong flavors like garlic and ginger would be a great first try with an array of vegetables. The tofu did crisp up nicely on the ends and remained a soft, meaty  texture. I’ll definitely explore other flavor profiles and combos like perhaps shrimp with tofu as I really enjoyed how it came out! Please share your thoughts and tips on tofu preparation; I’m all ears! 🙂 Check of it the recipe below.

Garlic Ginger Tofu Stir Fry

Serves 4

Ingredients:

16oz firm tofu 

1 12oz-16oz bag of frozen broccoli defrosted

1 cup sliced sweet peppers chopped

2 cups of chopped zucchini (1 large)

1 cup chopped onion

1 1/2 tsp. sesame oil

1/2 tbsp. olive oil or avocado oil

1 tbsp. fresh grated ginger

1 tsp. sea salt

1 1/2 tsp. honey

1 tbsp. coarse black pepper 

1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce 

1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

2 cups cooked rice 

Directions:

  1. Mix soy sauce and honey in a medium bowl with a fork until honey dissolves. Add sesame oil, juice and seasoning and mix well.
  2. Cut tofu block in half, then strips to cube it. Add tofu to larger bowl and coat in sauce. Marinate for at least 30 minutes. (Can also marinade overnight or in the morning before work.)
  3. Cook rice following cooking instruction. *optional: add 1 tbsp of flaxseed to rice for added nutrients.
  4. Place a large skillet over medium high heat and add oil.
  5. Add tofu to hot skillet with a fork or straining spoon (save marinade juice for remaining vegetables) and sear well on each side until brown. While it sears, chop onion and zucchini into large chunks and cut peppers into strips.
  6. Remove tofu and add vegetables. Add a splash (1/8 cup) of water and let steam for 3-5 minutes. 
  7. Add back tofu and remaining sauce and stir until everything is evenly coated. Cook for 2 minutes.
  8. Serve over 1/2 cup cooked rice.

Summer Hash

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Every now and then, I get a craving for comfort food. One of my favorites is smothered potatoes. As a kid, I was always an early riser, and since the rest of the house slept long after I did, I taught myself to make potatoes my way. While I called them hash browns, my mom always would always tell me they were smothered potatoes. It’s a great dish any time of the day and a particular favorite of mine for breakfast or brunch.

For this morning’s food demo at the Red Stick Farmer’s Market, I decided to make a healthier version with some seasonal zucchini, peppers and kale. It is great to have access to such variety all in one place. Thank you Chenier Farm for a wonderful variety of produce, and Amato’s Winery for some tasty sausage! For some added nutrients, I topped the dish with some flavorful microgreens from the Westdome Nursery. My favorite way to eat this is with a scrambled or poached egg or two. J  Be sure to share your thoughts. Enjoy!

Green Onion Sausage and Veggie Hash

Serves 4:

Ingredients:

¾ lb. fresh green onion sausage

1 cup chopped sweet onion

1 cup chopped red potato

1 cup of chopped zucchini

½ cup chopped bell pepper

½ cup of chopped banana pepper

1 cup chopped kale

1 tbsp. minced basil

1 tbsp. minced parsley

½ tsp. coarse black pepper

½ tsp. salt free sunny herb blend (red stick spice)

½ tsp. Sel de Provence (red stick spice) (optional to regular sea salt)

Directions:

1. Peel and dice the sweet onion. Place in a large skillet over medium heat with a splash of water.

2. Remove fresh green onion sausage from the casing and brown evenly.

3. Wash vegetables well and cut zucchini in half, then into long strips before dicing. Repeat with potato. In a medium pot, add vegetables with ½ cup of water. Cut peppers in half, remove seeds, then cut into strips before dicing.

4. Rinse herbs, mince and add to the pot. Add sausage and onion mixture. Cook for 10 minutes.

5. Rinse and cut chop kale. Add to pot and cook until wilted. Add seasoning and stir well.

6. Serve and enjoy.

Tomato Basil Balsamic Chicken

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Chicken is a go to protein for the average family, but it doesn’t have to be boring. Working with new clients for cooking sessions keeps me inspired to blend interesting flavors and textures together. Since chicken dishes were requested, I decided to jazz up the traditional and add a twist of different. This tomato basil balsamic chicken dish, paired with mashed cauliflower and potato medley, was flavorful and easy to make while introducing new flavors for my client. As a way to transform leftovers, this would make a wonderful sandwich with lettuce, tomato and mozzarella. Check out the recipe below and be sure to share your thoughts!

Tomato Basil Balsamic Chicken

Ingredients:

5 large chicken breast

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

2 cups diced tomato (2 medium tomatoes)

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 

1 tbsp. sea salt

1 tbsp. coarse black pepper

1 tbsp. garlic powder 

1 cup water

Directions:

  1. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Rinse chicken and season lightly with half of the seasoning evenly.
  2. Once the skillet is hot, place the chicken seasoned side down. Season the other half. 
  3. Add a splash of water and lower the heat to medium. Flip the chicken after 2-3 minutes to continue to brown evenly. 
  4. Chop basil and tomatoes. Add to the skillet. Add a splash of water, the vinegar and flip the chicken again.
  5. Lower the heat to medium low and simmer for 4 minutes.
  6. Turn off heat. Plate and enjoy!

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?