Zucchini Pesto and Goodbyes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This week has been full of goodbyes. My garden vegetables and herbs spring up with their last hopeful reach for the sun before returning to the earth until next spring. Autumn is right around the corner, so the time has come to bid farewell to long, warm summer nights and hot, sunny days on the lake. And my least favorite goodbye, a good friend Kelly is moving out of state. Portland gets all the cool kids!

Like tend I to do, out of necessity in the process or simply as an excuse to cook and eat, I invite Kelly over for one last meal to share before she hits the road. This is also the exact meal at which summer fades into fall within my kitchen. Huge zucchinis and tomatoes plucked from the vines will be replaced by Crockpot whole chickens and bone broth simmering on the stove. For tonight though, we basque in summer, and fresh zucchini with sundried tomatoes and fresh basil pesto is about as much summer flavor as a plate can handle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ingredients:

2 large, fresh zucchinis

1 cup walnuts

2 cups fresh basil

½ cup high quality olive oil

2-4 cloves garlic

1 Tbls. fresh lemon juice

½ tsp. salt

Dash of pepper

¼ cup sundried tomatoes (jarred in oil if store-bought)

Instructions:

  1. Grate the zucchinis on a box grater, through the food processor or if you’re super fancy a with a zoodler!
  2. Combine all other ingredients besides sun-dried tomatoes in food processor and blend until incorporated, but slightly chunky. Mix in tomatoes by hand.
  3. Serve like a cold pasta dish… Place zucchini in a bowl and top with pesto. Viola! Injoy!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And farewell, Kelly Dear! So many well wishes, new meal memories and southward visits coming your way!

Advertisements

Stuffed Bell Peppers

IMG_4858

This is a deliciously hearty spring supper. Simple and quick to prepare, stuffed bell peppers are a crowd pleaser every time! I used zucchini and portabella mushrooms in addition to red peppers and served them with a helping of lightly blanched asparagus. Make a larger batch and freeze the leftovers for quick meals throughout the week. Injoy!

Ingredients:  

2 Bell peppers, halved, cored and seeded

1 Tbls. Coconut oil

½ Large onion, diced

Sea salt and black pepper

4 Cloves garlic, minced or grated

1 lb. Ground beef, bison, lamb of turkey

2 cups fresh spinach

Fresh basil to taste

Instructions:  

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Place the belle pepper halves facedown in a roasting dish and bake for 10-15 minutes.
  3. While the bell peppers are cooking, heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion, adding salt and pepper to taste, until translucent. Reduce to medium heat and add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.
  4. Add the meat and cook until nearly done.
  5. Mix in the spinach and cook until wilted. 1-2 more minutes.
  6. Add salt, pepper and fresh basil to taste.
  7. Remove the peppers from the oven (they should be just a bit softened) and flip them over. Spoon the stuffing into each one.
  8. Put peppers back into the oven and roast for another 15 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.
  9. Garnish with basil leaves and serve.
  10. Optional- use zucchini and portabella mushrooms in place of red peppers.

 

Asian Steak Salad

IMG_4099

I made this delicious salad from the Make it Paleo cookbook for a group of friends that came by over the weekend. It is tasty and colorful and makes for a wonderful presentation when serving to guests. I recommend marinating the steak overnight for ultimate flavor. If you cannot find coconut aminos in your local grocery store, you can order it here. Or tamari and soy sauce can both work as substitutes. Also, a mandolin works great with this recipe to cut down on time chopping vegetables. I have found mine to be a lifesaver on many occasions! And lastly, I love to make a double recipe of this salad and keep it in the fridge for a quick lunch to go. Just leave the oranges and dressing on the side and the cabbage and other ingredients keep beautifully for 5-7 days. Injoy!

 

Ingredients:

Steak Marinade

2 Tbls. coconut aminos

2 Tbls. fish sauce

½ tsp. each, salt and pepper

Red pepper flakes, to taste

1 clove garlic

½ tsp. fresh ginger, minced

 

Salad

10 oz sirloin steak

2 cups shredded cabbage

¼ cup red belle pepper, sliced thin

1 radish, sliced thin

1 medium carrot, shredded

8 grape tomatoes, halved

½ navel orange, chopped

1/8 cup slivered almonds

½ green onion, chopped

 

Sesame Ginger Dressing

½ Tbls. garlic, minced

½ Tbls. fresh ginger, minced

2 Tbls. toasted sesame oil

2 Tbls. coconut aminos

2 tsp. sesame seeds

½ tsp. each: salt, pepper and red pepper flakes

 

Instructions:

1. Whisk together all ingredients for sesame ginger dressing and steak marinade

2. Marinade steak for at least 3 hours before cooking

3. Grill sirloin steak on high for approximately 4 minutes per side, flipping once

4. While letting the steak rest, rinse and chop all vegetables as well as the orange and toss together

5. Slice the steak thinly

6. Plate salad, and top with strips of steak

7. Drizzle with dressing and serve

Mystery Box Challenge: Persimmons, Jicama, Anaheim Chili, Mint, Fresh Ginger and Lamb Chops

IMG_2642

Every so often I like to pretend I’m on Chopped (one of my favorite cooking programs) and participating in a Mystery Box Challenge. You know the one, the box of several mystery ingredients that usually don’t pair well, and a limited amount of time to create an awesome dish to present. In my version, I imagine myself closing my eyes and spinning around in circles in the middle of the produce department of my grocery store and throwing the first few items I point at into my basket. In reality I peruse the brightly colored shelves and give myself 1 minute to choose 4 random items that I’ve never worked with before and take them home to play in the kitchen. And I don’t give myself a time limit, just try to engage my creativity and come up with something seasonal and delicious for dinner.

On this particular foggy Tuesday afternoon, I stopped at the produce stand a few blocks from my home. I had gone to pick out a few items for a dining room centerpiece. Hard, colorful little bundles of decorative corn on the cob, a bumpy dark green gourde and a perfectly round white pumpkin. As I shopped, more veggies were being loaded in from the farm truck and I started to get inspired. Persimmons, about 9 different varieties of squash and lots of leafy greens were beginning to stack up near the entrance. Mmmmm! A perfect opportunity for a Mystery Box Challenge!

I glanced at my watch and begun the 1 minute countdown. I knew those perfectly ripe persimmons were coming with me, so I immediately put 4 into my basket. After that, I passed the pyramid of jicama, a yam-like vegetable from Mexico. I had no idea what to do with that, perfect! Into the basket. Next, I walked quickly over to the herb section. Mint and fresh ginger jumped out at me. Not a likely pair. I very rarely cook with mint unless it’s sprinkled on a fruit salad, so that was a great addition. And ginger I’ve mostly only used in smoothies, tea and an occasional pumpkin pie. Into the basket they went. Lastly, I knew I wanted something with a kick. I grabbed the first hot pepper I saw, which happened to be an Anaheim chili. Great! Done! On the way home, I also stopped by the butcher and picked up a couple of lamb chops for protein and snipped a few sprigs of rosemary from my neighbor’s enormous hedge.

Back in the kitchen, my culinary adventure began. Without realizing it initially, several of the ingredients come from the warmer southern region and actually pair together quite nicely. I used the jicama and fresh mint in a slaw with green apples and carrots. The persimmons I made into chutney with the chili and ginger along with golden raisins, green apple and other warming spices. This went perfectly with the lamb chops, for which I made a rub with the fresh rosemary and some garlic and sea salt. It all came together beautifully! In addition I did sauté up some kale and onion with coconut oil as the plate was looking a bit void of greenery.

When is the last time you challenged yourself in the kitchen or in other areas of your life? Where do you become your most creative self? Do you tend to stay within your comfort zone much of the time? There is a popular saying ‘Magic happens outside your comfort zone.” I certainly agree with that sentiment and the delicious meal created that day is a shining example. This week, think outside the box. Pick up an ingredient you’ve never worked, or try a new technique in the kitchen you’ve never tried (wok much?). Challenge yourself, get creative and have fun! Injoy!

 

Jicama and Green Apple Slaw

IMG_2623 IMG_2627

Ingredients:

1 cup matchstick-cut Granny Smith apple

1 cup matchstick-cut jicama

1/2 cup matchstick-cut carrots

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

Instructions:

1. Toss apple, jicama and carrots together in a large bowl.

2 Place mint leaves, olive oil, sugar, vinegar, Dijon mustard and garlic in a food processor. Pulse until blended but slightly chunky, about two 10-second intervals.

3. Pour dressing over apple mixture; toss until well mixed. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

Persimmon Chili Chutney

IMG_2551 IMG_2571

Ingredients:

2/3 apple cup cider vinegar

3/4 cup water

1 cup chopped onion

1 large tart apple – peeled, cored and chopped

1 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 Anaheim chili pepper, chopped fine

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon ground coriander seed

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

4 Fuyu persimmons, peeled and chopped

Instructions:

1. In a large saucepan combine the apple cider vinegar, water, chopped onion, chopped apple, golden raisins, sugar, lemon juice, chili, ginger, lemon peel, coriander and cloves. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until mixture thickens, stirring frequently, about 25 minutes. Add the persimmons and simmer until the persimmons are tender about 5 to 10 minutes.

2. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Cover and refrigerate chutney. May be made a day or two ahead.

 

Rosemary Crusted Lamb Chops

IMG_2635 IMG_2593

Ingredients:

1 pound lamb chops or rack of lamb

2 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 garlic clove, minced

4 Tbsp olive oil, divided

Instructions:

1. In a small bowl, mix the rosemary, salt, pepper, garlic, and 2 tablespoons of the        olive oil together. Coat the lamb chops with the mixture, massaging it into the meat with your fingers. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes.

2. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan over high heat. When the oil is shimmering hot, sear the lamb chops on all sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.

3. At this point, if you want your lamb chops rare, they are likely cooked enough. Remove them from the pan; cover them with foil and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. If you would like your chops more cooked, you can put them in a 400°F oven for 3 to 5 minutes, or keep them in the hot pan, remove from heat, and cover the pan for a few minutes. Then remove from the pan to a plate or cutting board, cover with foil and let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving

In the Crockpot: Herb-Roasted Chicken with Vegetables

IMG_4052

There’s nothing quite like opening your front door after a long day at work and being welcomed by the aroma of herb roasted chicken hot and ready to carve and consume. I use my Crockpot 2-3 times a week during the winter and I love and appreciate it more each time!

The assembly of this one pot wonder takes about 10 minutes in the morning (you can even chop the veggies and herbs the night before and have them waiting in the fridge for you if that works better) and is easy as can be! The wonderful thing about using a whole chicken is that, depending on how many are enjoying the meal, there are usually leftovers that can be a wonderful lunch the following day. And making bone broth is fantastic way to utilize the incredible nutrition of all the leftover bits. The gift that just keeps giving! Injoy!

IMG_4103

 

Ingredients:

1 free-range, organic chicken

2 sweet potatoes or yams

4 potatoes

4 or more stalks of celery

4 or more carrots

1 large onions

1 head of garlic, peeled

ghee (or pasture butter)

juice of ½ lemon

thyme (dried or fresh)

sage(dried or fresh)

rosemary (dried or fresh)

freshly ground pepper

sea salt

 

Instructions:

1. Rinse chicken and pat dry.

2. Place in roasting pan and rub ghee (or pasture butter) over the breast and legs.

3. Squeeze lemon juice over chicken.

4. Arrange chopped vegetables all around chicken and season everything with salt, pepper, thyme, sage and rosemary.

5. Roast covered in Crockpot for about 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low (Could be longer depending on weight of chicken).

 

In the Crockpot: Butternut Squash Soup

IMG_4047

This soup rocked my world this weekend! And got rave reviews from the friends I shared it with, I might add. An extremely simple recipe to create, just gather the ingredients, toss them into the Crockpot and leave it alone for 6-8 hours. At the end, blend it all up into a creamy pot of deliciousness and enjoy! This is the perfect type of meal to prepare the night before, set the Crockpot to ‘on’ before you leave for work and have a hot, delicious, nutritious meal waiting for you around dinnertime.

Recipe:

1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed

1 large onion, rough chopped

1 can full-fat coconut milk or equivalent amount of homemade coconut milk

1 cup chicken broth

1 apple, peeled and cut into chunks

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Place all ingredients in slow cooker and set to Low. Allow 6 to 8 hours to cook. When squash is soft, blend soup with an immersion blender or carefully transfer to a blender to process. Consistency should be smooth and silky.

Season with unrefined sea salt and pepper, and top with a swirl of olive oil or balsamic vinegar. In the photo, I also added a topping of crisp bacon for a little extra protein and green onions for a tasty zing. Injoy!

Stellar Supper: Fish en Papillote

IMG_1923

Living in the Pacific Northwest, my kitchen is fortunate enough to see the freshest and most delicious seafood of all kinds. And I do love all kinds of seafood. The snap of a plump shrimp being readied to grill. Fresh wild caught Copper River salmon with a simple lemon garlic sauté. The briny flavor of what my guy affectionately refers to as the bottom feeders… muscles, clams, oysters. It is all in regular rotation through my meal plans.

Tonight’s supper idea came from a local food writer Kathleen Flinn, and is a modified version from her memoir Kitchen Counter Cooking School. En Papillote is a French technique and simply means baked in paper. The preparation of this delicious and nutrient-packed meal is unbelievably quick and easy (It is more assembly than cooking, really.), involves very little clean up and the results are super fresh and flavorful. It really is a stellar way to enjoy fish.

And though I do recommend fish as an awesome source of nutrition, mainly packed full of Omega 3s, there is much controversy about the very real issue of overfishing, as well as the unfortunate health risks due to our ocean’s toxicity levels. I certainly do not want to be a buzz kill here, or detour you from eating fish, but I feel it is important to add a word on these challenges. It has been upheld by many health professionals that wild caught fish is the best overall for our consumption. These fish intake all of their natural nutrients, passing that awesome nutrition onto us, get adequate exercise doing what they do best, swimming, and live out their days in their natural state, being part of an interconnected ecosystem. Farmed fish on the other hand are often sectioned off in a coastal part of the ocean called offshore Aquaculture, which is detrimental to the oceans in those areas. Farmed fish, just like other livestock, live in overcrowded conditions and are fed antibiotics to combat the risk of infection. These drugs go into our oceans as well as our bodies when we consume them. In addition, the nutritional value is diminished greatly in farmed fish.

There has been a lot of research about farmed fishing, also known as Aquaculture, and is supported by many experts in the field including NOAA the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as a way to ease the pressure of overfishing on our oceans. This is a concern since we are rapidly overfishing to the point of extinction in certain species. Though this argument doesn’t quite hold up since it requires at least 5 lbs. of wild caught fish to raise 1 lb. of farm fish. Meaning we are still catching 5 times more wild fish to feed to our farmed fish. Not very sustainable. And since there is a real danger of mercury in our oceans, not to mention the 300 tons of radioactive water that is still being leaked into the Pacific daily from the crippled Fukushima Plant in Japan, it is best to moderate the amount of fish consumed. My recommendation is twice a week. Also, consult the Seafood Watch guide and select varieties that are the best choices for your region. Finally, if you enjoy catching your own fish in alpine lakes, all the better!

Alright, back to the yummy stuff. Aside from all the controversy surrounding fish, let me say again that it is an excellent source of nutrients and should be incorporated into a healthy, balanced diet.

Following is the recipe for the Fish en Papillote. Enjoy!!

IMG_1934

Ingredients:

(Serves 2 individual packets)

1 ½ Tbls. olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Two 4 to 6 ounce cuts of fish (I used salmon)

Few springs of fresh herbs (dill, basil, thyme, rosemary) I used thyme and rosemary

3 thin slices of fresh lemon

¼ cup water or stock

½ to ¾ cup fresh vegetables (zucchini, shallots, onion, broccoli, leeks fennel, mushrooms, carrots)

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 400

2. Start with 2 pieces of parchment paper, 10×12 inches each, fold in half

3. On one side of the middle crease of each piece drizzle the olive oil and a dash of the alt and pepper. Add fish and turn over to coat.

4. Place the rest of the ingredients on top and around the fish

5. Fold the paper like a book and crimp the edges securely to avoid allowing any liquid or steam to escape. Here is a quick video tutorial.

6. Place the packet on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Allow to sit at least 2 minutes after removing it from the oven.

7. Open carefully and serve immediately. Enjoy!