Bountiful Berries

 

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It’s that time of year again for strawberry season! I cannot get enough of this local, flavorful fruit and the opportunities to make new inspired creations. This past Saturday, I shared one such dish with a shrimp avocado and strawberry salad. Traditionally for such salads, I’ve added other seafood like crab and fruit such as mango. I decided to make a version using fresh strawberries from the Frank Fekete Farm, seafood from Anna Marie Shrimp and local microgreens from Westdome Nursery. The trick is to balance the sweet with savory additions like fresh garlic and herbs in the dressing. This tasty dish was well received and one that I’ve already made again. Check out the recipe below.

 

Shrimp, Avocado and Strawberry Salad

Serves 4

 

Ingredients:

1-1.5 lb(s). peeled and deveined shrimp

2 cups of chopped strawberries

3 cups of microgreens (Can also mix in salad greens)

2 large avocadoes

2 tbsp. chopped green onion

3 cloves of garlic

1 tbsp. local honey

4 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. Red Stick Spice garlic and herb (no salt)

1 tbsp. Red Stick Spice Roasted Onion granules

Pinch of Red Stick spice aged balsamic vinegar sea salt (or reg sea salt)

 

Directions:

  1. Peel and devein shrimp and set aside. Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add 2 tsp of each seasoning (minus salt) to shrimp and add to a hot skillet. Add a splash of water and sear for 3 minutes on both sides before removing from heat.
  3. In a medium serving bowl add vinegar and honey and mix until well blended. Add in oil.  Peel and press garlic in. If you do not have a garlic press, mince finely, then add to the bowl. Add in remaining seasoning. Mix well.
  4. Rinse and chop 2 cups worth of strawberries. Add to the bowl. Cut the avocado in half then score each half into bite-sized pieces before scooping into the bowl.
  5. You can chop shrimp or leave whole and add to the bowl. Rinse and chop green onion then add to the bowl.
  6. Add in micro greens and optional salad greens. You can also add in fresh herbs like parsley for an added layer of flavor. Mix well, serve and enjoy.

 

Still Growing

 

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Mustard greens are next on the list for my growing greens mini series . As a wonderful winter crop, they thrive in cool temps and are cold hardy, meaning they will survive a light frost. I planted these in November as baby plants and they shot right on up in less than four weeks. I’ve harvested three rounds from the greens so far and it is continuing to grow, making bi-weekly and weekly harvests possible,depending on the number of servings I’m cooking. While I planted my mustards in a raised bed, they can easily be planted in a container outside.  If you’re thinking, “i’m not going out to buy a container,” you can always use household items like an empty storage bin, large food containers, etc. that you can poke holes into with a screwdriver or pair of scissors. 

As we are in winter, pick up a few transplants from your local nursery. You can usually get groups of 6 for a couple of bucks. It is worth the investment to let sunshine and nature grow a plant that keeps on giving all season long. The greens should keep producing into the spring. 

To get started:

  • Identify a sunny spot in your backyard (or front yard bed) to plant your greens. 
    • Dig holes to fit two transplants each if smaller or plan them individually 6-8 inches apart.
    • Cover with dirt and then add mulch to help the plant retain its moisture
  • If using a container, prep it by poking holes in the bottom for drainage
    • Fill it 2/3 of the way with a mixture of compost and soil. Add plants and the cover with dirt, then mulch.

You can harvest the leaves by clipping them off with kitchen scissors; I waited about 6 weeks until the leaves were large and mature, but you can also clip them when they are young (2-3 weeks) and about 3-4 inches long for a little added spice to your salads. 

Only cut what you plan to eat. The plant will continue to grow new leaves. Check out my stages of growth below. Happy growing!

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If it starts to warm and you start noticing holes in your greens, you can spray them with organic pest sprays. You can cut, chop, bag and freeze them. I’d recommend labeling the bag with its content and the date so that you stay on top of its freshness. They should be consumed within 12 months.

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Pesto Quinoa

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Pesto brings lots of flavor to any dish and quinoa is no exception. Making pesto at home is easy and allows control over how much of what goes into it. I used fresh basil, orange mint, green onion, garlic and walnuts that I had on hand with a small amount of oil.  Paired with sautéed shrimp, baked chicken and roasted vegetables done two ways, it was easy to have different meals daily. Having the right cooking strategy for your week is important to being successful in eating more home cooked meals. For this week, I did the baked chicken, roasted vegetables and quinoa on the same day. The next day, I defrosted a couple of single serving bags of shrimp while I ate breakfast and cooked them afterward (5 mins). I also keep things on-hand like individual packs of tuna (ranch, herb and garlic flavored) and salad greens or canned chicken for and easy chicken salad if I need a little more variety in the week. The important thing is to stock up on healthful, easy options regularly (monthly, weekly) to supplement what you will be cooking.

Check out the recipe below. Serves 5-6.

Pesto Ingredients:

1/2 cup basil

1/4 cup mint

1/4 cup green onion tops

1 clove of garlic 

1 tbsp. chopped walnuts

1 tsp. avocado or olive oil

Roasted Veggie Ingredients:

2 cups chopped zucchini with skin

2 cups chopped carrots 

2 cups chopped broccoli 

2 cups chopped bell pepper

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp. sherry vinegar 

1 tbsp. lemon olive oil (or regular and 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice)

1 tbsp. garlic olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste 

Other ingredients:

1 cup quinoa dry

2 cups of water

6-8 chicken legs

  • 5-10 shrimp (optional)

1/2 tbsp. garlic powder

1/2 tbsp. onion powder

1/2 tbsp. oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Line a baking sheet with foil and preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Line a second baking sheet with foil and add chicken with an even coating of the seasoning and oil and mix with a gloved hand. Place in oven for 45 minutes.
  3. Rinse all vegetables. Cut ends off zucchini then cut in half. Cut each half  in half longwise. Cut into strips and then cube. Repeat with carrots.  Cut bell pepper in half and remove seeds and stem. Cut into strips and then dice. Add all to the baking sheet and roughly break broccoli florets by hand and add them. 
  4. Split vegetables in half and season half with the balsamic vinegar and garlic olive oil and the other with the sherry vinegar and lemon olive oil or juice and regular olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste and mix each well with a gloved hand. Bake in oven next to chicken for 30 minutes. Set timer.
  5. Add quinoa and water in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Once it boils, reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes.
  6. In a small blender or bullet device, add pesto ingredients. Blend for 30 seconds until smooth.
  7. Once quinoa is done, add to a bowl and and pesto. Mix well and salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Once roasted veggies and chicken is done, remove from the oven. Turn it off.
  9. Enjoy!

*For optional shrimp, cook in 1 tsp of oil with a pinch of salt and pepper and garlic powder for 2 minutes. Juice a half a lemon over shrimp and flip them. Add a little more juice and cook for 2 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for 1 minute as it will continue cooking.

Fall Flavor Fix

IMG_8141.JPGIf you’re as excited as I am for the cooling weather, it’s both a great time to get outdoors and to step into soup recipes. The Fall is abundant with a variety of vegetables that are easy to make into soups. I am a fan of roasting vegetables to bring out and transform their flavors. For my first soup of the season, I decided on roasting eggplant, butternut squash and garlic for a buttery and nutty flavored soup. Not only is it rich and creamy, but nice and flavorful. If you’re missing the meat, crumble a slice or two of bacon on top with a little fresh green onion for an added punch of bold. Check out the recipe below and share your thoughts!

Soup ingredients:
1 medium purple eggplant
1 medium butternut squash
3 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup of water
1 cup of milk (2% or whole recommended)
1 tbsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. coarse black pepper
1 tbsp. fresh minced rosemary
1 tbsp. onion powder

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with foil.
2. Cut squash in half longwise and scoop out seeds and pulp with a spoon. Add to baking sheet.
3. Rinse eggplant and cut off each end then cut in half. Cut 1-inch thick chunks and slice longer slices in half. Add to baking sheet.
4. Peel garlic and cut in half. Add to eggplant and coat it in olive oil on the baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes.
5. Remove eggplant and garlic and place into a bowl to cool. Check squash with a fork and if it is tender (fork sinks in) remove sheet from oven and let cool. If not, let cook for another 10 minutes. Turn off oven.
6. Once cooled (10 minutes) remove skin from eggplant and squash. Add to a food processor or blender with water and blend until smooth.
7. Add to a medium pot and add seasoning and milk and stir until well blended. Simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes.
8. Serve and enjoy.

A Bit Of Preparation

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A lot of my friends know I often bring my lunch to work; it’s cost effective and I know exactly what’s in it. I often use part of my weekend to prep meals for the week, both lunch and dinner. I made a simple chicken salad that was great for lunch today. One can makes enough for 3 to 4 servings. You can also sear fish or chicken to go with a salad or sides of your choice. Yesterday evening I made a brining solution for the two beautiful whole, fresh flounder I picked up at Saturday’s Farmers Market. I let the flounder soak overnight and seared them in olive oil and finished the fish in the oven with fresh lemon, capers, butter and parsley. I wilted some beet greens and Swiss chard with garlic, topped them with pickled onions and carrots and topped the fish with microgreens from the farmers market which packs the nutrients  of broccoli, kale and assortment of other veggies without requiring me to eat them all tonight. And while this dish is absent of a carb or starch, I should mention I roasted potatoes with onions for my leftover fish; tonight I am saving myself for the ice cream I also made this weekend. Should I add chocolate? I think so. 🙂

Check out the recipes below. The chicken salad took all of 5 minutes and the fish dish took 35 minutes. Now I could be faster with my knife and potato peeler but if you have a partner or kids, they can make easy work of the pickling job or chopping the greens.

Chicken Salad Ingredients:
1 can chicken or 1 cup of leftover baked or roasted chicken
1/2 cup of minced celery
1/4 cup minced yellow onion
1 1/2 tbsp mayo
1 tbsp creole mustard
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp sea salt
1tsp coarse black pepper

Directions:
1. Chop celery and onion.
2. Open and strain can of chicken by pressing lid down to release liquid and place in a small bowl.
3. Add celery, onion mayo, mustard and seasoning. Mix well.
4. Top with foil and place in fridge until ready to serve.

Day 1:
Flounder Brine Ingredients:
Ziploc gallon bag
Measuring cup
3 cups of water
1 1/2 tbsp sea or kosher salt
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
3-6 bay leaf depending on size
2-4 pieces of lemon peel

Directions:
1. Place fish in Ziploc bag after rinsing.
2. In a measuring cup, add water sugar and salt and stir until dissolved. Pour into Ziploc bag.
3. Add bay leaf.
4. Cut the ends off of a lemon and the  zest from each side. Avoid cutting into the fruit. Add to the Ziploc bag.
5. Seal and squeeze excess aid from the bag, being mindful of the water solution.
6. Store on a plate in the fridge overnight.

Day 2:
Seared Flounder Ingredients:
Flounder in brine
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 lemon or 2 tbsp juiced
1 tbsp capers (optional)
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp coarse black pepper
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup of chopped beet greens
1 cup of chopped Swiss chard

Pickled Veggie Ingredients:
1 carrot shredded with potato peeler
1/2 onion sliced thin
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp coarse black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne

Directions:
1. If cooking potatoes, slice 3 in half and then  into 1/2 inch thick pieces and add to a cooking sheet covered in parchment paper with thin slices onion. Drizzle olive oil, salt pepper and garlic powder and add to a preheated 375 degree oven. If no potatoes still heat oven for the fish. (Optional)
2. In a medium-sized bowl, add vinegar and sugar and mix until dissolved.
3. Peel carrot then shred, using a potato peeler, into the bowl.
4. Thinly slice onion and add to the bowl. Add seasoning and mix with a fork before topping with foil and setting it aside.
5. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
6. Rinse fish in cool water to remove excess salt and place on a plate. Season each fish with a fourth of the seasoning on one side. Once pan is hot place seasoned-side down. Season other side.
7. Let it cook for 3 minutes. Then flip to other side and reduce heat to medium for 2 minutes. Squeeze in lemon juice to deglaze the pan, then add parsley, butter, capers and a splash of water and place in oven for 5 minutes or so depending on size of fish.
8. While fish cooks, add greens to a non-stick pan and cook for 3 minutes with garlic, 1/2 tsp of salt and pepper and a pinch of water.
9. Turn off heat and remove everything from the oven carefully.
10. Plate greens first, then picked veggies. Place the fish on top. Add micro greens or a little chopped parsley to the top and enjoy.