Posts tagged ‘mint’

April 3, 2018

Spring is for Renewal – Even in the Kitchen!

Spring is for renewal – even in the kitchen! The winter season is hanging on here and there, but the spring growing season will soon arrive with wild contributions of poke salat, dandelion greens, and lamb’s quarters.
lettuce
Of course you’re not required to eat from your yard. Farmers markets, food co-ops and select grocery stores will fill vegetable bins with leaf lettuce, spinach, chard and kale. Fresh vegetables deserve a fresh presentation now and then and spring feels like the proper time for renewed inventiveness in the kitchen.

When I was growing up, I couldn’t wait to pick leaf lettuce from the garden my grandmother planted at our farm. It was so tender and flavorful, nothing like an iceberg lettuce wedge which I only really appreciate when drenched in bleu cheese dressing topped with bacon pieces. For years, it was the only lettuce I knew. (How lucky was I?)

The vegetables we grew were what we ate. My mom wasn’t going to drive into town to buy different vegetables from the store when we had perfectly good ones peeking through the dirt across the driveway. Of course, we didn’t want to eat the same thing every day, so necessity became the mother of invention. New combinations or cooking methods developed on the fly.

A few years ago when I first purchased a share in an organic farm, I noticed that a similar thing happened in my kitchen. Rather than plan meals and make a shopping list, I was suddenly planning dishes based on the surprise ingredients I received each Friday when I picked up my share from the farm. Not knowing in advance what I would get made the experience feel like a cooking adventure. It renewed my sense of creativity in the kitchen.

Now, when the weather warms, I can’t help but feel an excited anticipation for the arrival of fresh tender greens, small green onions, beets, peas, asparagus, and broccoli. I love the bright colors! I love the flavors! And I love having a chance to think of new combinations!

I was thinking about giving you some recipes next, but that might keep you from the fun of creating your own. I would never want to rob you of fun! Instead, here are the top 8 ingredients I like to have available to pair with fresh veggies:

Avocados
While they’re great for soooo many things, it’s not always practical to keep an avocado in the kitchen. I can’t tell you how many I’ve thrown away because I wasn’t paying enough attention to the changing level of ripeness.

Now I keep Wholly Guacamole avocado minis on hand. I can use them in anything requiring mashed avocado without worrying whether they’ve gone bad.

Goat Cheese
The light creaminess of goat cheese won’t overpower even delicate garden flavors.

Boiled Eggs
Keeping a few boiled eggs in the refrigerator comes in handy for salads and casseroles as well as pasta dishes.

Fresh Ginger
Grated fresh ginger is delicious with beets or green beans and can give salad dressing a kick.

Mint
Any fresh herb could make this list on a given day, but today I like mint. Tomorrow, who knows, I may like cilantro.

Mirin or Rice Vinegar
Mirin is a rice wine with a light sweet flavor. Both mirin and rice vinegar add light acidity to a dish or dressing.

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
I buy hulled pumpkin seeds and toast them in the oven with a little olive oil spray and salt. They bring a satisfying crunch and earthy flavor to salads. They’re great by the handful too.

quinoaQuinoa
I like the texture of quinoa. It works great as a base for a Buddha bowl or a salad and it has a higher protein-to-carb ratio than rice.

With these ingredients, or your own favorites, you’ll be well equipped for a variety of spring culinary creations. Inspiration for combinations can come from anywhere — accidentally tasting two things together on your plate, a dish you’re served in a restaurant, something you remember from childhood, a recipe you want to vary, a cooking show, a painting — literally anything!

This is the kind of post that makes my sister crazy! She would be much happier with an actual recipe. I want her to learn to play with flavors. Mostly, I want her to have the pleasure of discovering something new, delicious, and totally unexpected that she created. I want that experience for all of us! It feels so great on so many levels!
I feel so grateful that spring offers the bounty for such opportunities over and over and over again! It truly is a time of renewal.

https://www.eatwholly.com/products/chunky-avocado/wholly-chunky-avocado-minis/

May 23, 2017

Salad Days

Could these be your salad days? I know they’re mine.

Spring always delivers sweet, tender greens perfect for salad – Oak Leaf, Black Seeded Simpson, Deer Tongue, Bibb, Cos, Green Leaf, and Buttercrunch. Bitter Arugula, Kale, Frisée, and spicy micro mixes widen the flavor field. Toppings abound in green onions, radishes, salad turnips, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and fresh herbs. Mix, match, and combine your favorites…yum!
leafy greens
It’s not unusual for me to serve a salad as part of a family meal, but when it’s just me I have to be a little more crafty. I may not want to take the time to clean and chop a salad for one. My way around that reluctance is to create a basic salad mix and store it in the fridge. At meal time, I can grab a handful to throw on my plate or I can add ingredients to create a specific flavor profile or entree salad.
sld base
I currently have a salad made of red and green spring mix, chopped green onions, and carrots stored in a Glad® Ovenware 9 x 12 pan in the refrigerator. These pans work great for this purpose. They’re rectangular, not too tall, and easy to stack. I can fill a second container with a salad of arugula or spinach and store it on top of the existing one.

For dinner yesterday, I topped a large bowl of this salad base with tuna salad and almonds. It was crunchy, satisfying, and ready in 5 minutes. Having something green I can quickly prepare helps keep me on track when I fill my schedule too full. When it’s just as easy to reach for the salad as it is to reach for something less healthy, I’m more likely to reach for the salad.

I’ve also discovered that salad is appreciated when family and friends gather for the birth of a baby, a health crisis, or the loss of a loved one. Last year when DJ was born, I mixed a variety of salads each week and delivered them to Ben & his wife. It was easy for me and a great addition to all the casserole dinners their friends delivered. Every time I offered assistance in those early days of baby fatigue, Ben asked for more salad.

Leafy greens don’t just provide a filling crunch, they’re packed with vitamins like A, C, K, and folate plus minerals like potassium and calcium. Delivering all this nutrition with a maximum of fiber and a minimum of calories makes leafy greens a great food choice. Of course, it’s easy to make them less healthy by overdressing or over adorning a salad.
dressing
I like to make salad dressing just before serving the salad and I usually serve it on the side. Yogurt or olive oil make a good base for homemade dressings, and flavored balsamic vinegar, fresh squeezed juice, or unsweetened fruit juice can add interesting flavors.

Here’s a vinaigrette I often pair with arugula. Just mix it all up and let it sit for a few minutes before dressing the salad.

1/2 cup Just Black Cherry juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp water
3/4 tsp salt to taste
1/8 tsp coarse ground black pepper
1 pinch garlic powder

Some of my favorite salad toppings are blueberries, strawberries, ripe pears, oven roasted pumpkin seeds, spiced pecans, raw sunflower seeds, raw almonds, raw cashews, goat cheese, bleu cheese, green peas, homegrown tomatoes, green onions, fresh basil, and fresh mint. I also appreciate black beans, avocado, red bell pepper, white cheddar, and crispy bacon.

However you mix it, top it, flavor it, and dress it, having a basic salad prepared is sure to increase your consumption of leafy green vegetables. That can’t be a bad thing. And all the fresh, tender greens make spring my favorite time of year for salad days!

http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthy-kitchen-11/leafy-greens-rated

https://www.ars.usda.gov/plains-area/gfnd/gfhnrc/docs/news-2013/dark-green-leafy-vegetables/

http://www.rwknudsenfamily.com/


Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

July 5, 2016

Lighten Up A Barbecue With a Green Salad

snappy saladToday’s the perfect day to lighten up a barbecue with a green salad. For 78% of us, the 4th of July includes a barbecue. Along with the burgers, brats, hot dogs, chicken, and ribs you’re sure to find plenty of potato salad, baked beans, and corn-on-the-cob. What’s often missing from the table is something light and green. While salad may not be practical for some environments, it can work well at a back yard barbecue.

On a really hot day, cold crunchy greens aren’t just healthy, they’re refreshing. Keep the salad in the refrigerator until the burgers come off the grill, then bring it out so the chill will hold while it’s served. If the refrigerator isn’t convenient, have an ice chest dedicated to salad. Salad dressing can be stashed on ice along with the sodas or beer.

Sometimes I compose a salad in advance. Other times, I serve all the toppings separately and let the guests build their own. When I compose the salad myself, I use ingredients that don’t easily wilt so that I have a longer window to serve a perky salad outdoors.

Chopped Romaine makes a good base. Carrots, celery, onions, bell peppers, radishes, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, radicchio, grape tomatoes, sugar snap peas, corn, black beans, pico de gallo, hard cheeses, boiled eggs and steamed asparagus all hold up well.

I like to top a salad with nuts, sunflower seeds or toasted pumpkin seeds, but I wait until serving time to add these ingredients so they don’t get soggy. Crisp bacon pieces are also a great topping added at the last minute.

arugulaStrawberries, blueberries, or blackberries are delicious additions to a green salad, but I usually reserve those for indoor meals rather than a barbecue. The same with arugula, butter lettuce, and chard. It’s easier to control the quality of delicate ingredients at an indoor party.

MIxing fresh herbs in a salad can brighten and heighten the flavor of the greens. While herbs are delicate, cutting or chopping them into small pieces lessens the possibility of a wilted bite. I use parsley, basil, and mint most often, but dill, chives and cilantro are also great choices.

It always seems special to add a homemade dressing. All you need for a vinaigrette is oil, vinegar, and some herbs and spices, citrus, or other fruit for flavor. Sometimes a drizzle of honey adds the perfect touch of sweetness. I usually add a bit of water as well.

There are flavored vinegars and oils available for extra pizazz, but plain old apple cider vinegar and extra virgin olive oil work just fine. Balsamic vinegar pairs well with cherry or chocolate and provides a deeper more caramel note to your dressing. Mirin is light and can be used in place of other vinegars.

A creamy dressing can be made with yogurt, mayonnaise, sour cream or buttermilk. Many creamy dressings use a combination of some of these ingredients. Here’s a creamy dressing I’ve been enjoying atop my salad this week:

Green Goodness Dressing
4 – 6 Servings

1 tbsp Penzey’s Green Goddess Dressing Base
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup real mayonnaise
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp honey
1/4 tsp basil paste
1/8 tsp salt or to taste

In small jar, combine dressing base with water. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Add vinegar, mayonnaise, yogurt, honey, and basil paste. Sprinkle with salt. Put lid on jar and shake until well mixed. Refrigerate.

When it’s hot and muggy outside, I love a cold salad to lighten up a barbecue or any other meal for that matter. Just talking about it is making me want one so I’ll be off to the kitchen now to chop some greens!