Days of Taste is an educational program of the American Institute of Wine and Food (AIWF). It is also one of my favorite volunteer opportunities throughout the school year. Imagine working with a group of fourth grade students helping them learn about fresh, local food. Add to that some of the area’s best chefs. Throw in a visit to a local farm. And finish it off with the best salad any of these kids has ever tasted (and they made it themselves). That’s Days of Taste in a nutshell.
It was while working with Days of Taste that I learned how easy it is to create delicious salad dressings – so easy a group of fourth graders can do it! Now, rather than using store-bought, bottled salad dressings, I make my own. It can be as easy as whisking together equal parts vinegar and olive oil along with a pinch of fresh herbs. And there you have it – the best salad dressing you have ever tasted.
So, today was a hot day and I did not feel like heating up the kitchen by cooking dinner. What to do? Salad for Supper! First, I made a basic raspberry vinaigrette dressing. To that I added a mix of baby spinach, arugula, radicchio, and frisee. Next came fresh raspberries, crumbled goat cheese, walnut pieces and smoked salmon. I gently tossed it all together, plated it and then sat down to enjoy my quick, simple and filling supper. A glass of Reisling wine rounded out this perfect meal.
Next time, I may change up the protein – perhaps some grilled chicken – and try some other flavored vinegar and whatever berries are seasonally fresh. I look forward to finding some sorrel (a leafy green with a tart, lemony flavor) to further enhance my salad’s taste profile. This salad is so easy and flexible that you can enjoy it several times a week without ever eating the same salad twice.
Now, off to the kitchen with you and may all your days be Days of Taste.
Summer Supper Salad
1/2 shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar (or other flavored vinegar)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound mixed greens – baby spinach, arugula, frisee, radicchio, and more
1 cup seasonally fresh berries, whole or thinly sliced
1/3 nut pieces – walnuts, toasted almonds, or other
2 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
4 ounces thinly sliced protein – smoked salmon, grilled chicken, hard boiled eggs, toasted tofu
In a large bowl, whisk together shallot and vinegar. While whisking constantly, drizzle in oil to make a vinaigrette dressing. Add greens, berries, nuts, goat cheese and protein and gently toss to combine. Serve immediately. Enjoy.
This recipe is a framework for making quick summer supper salads. Use what you have on hand for your protein – preferably something you cooked at an earlier, cooler time. Choose the freshest ingredients you can find. Greens and berries vary throughout the summer. Use what is seasonally local for the best tasting salad ever. If nuts are not your thing, leave them out. Use different flavored vinegars to change the taste of your dressing.
This afternoon I found myself suddenly hankering and hungering for crab cakes. And I did not want to wait until my beach trip at the end of the month. So, I rushed out and purchased a one pound container of jumbo lump crab meat. I hurried home and assembled the other ingredients needed to make delicious Maryland Crab Cakes. Mixing the ingredients took no time at all. I impatiently waited for an hour while the newly formed crab cakes rested in my refrigerator. Meanwhile, I set the table, tossed a light summer salad, pulled out my last jar of Carolina Slaw, cracked open a beer, and fired up the oven. I could have fried my crab cakes but I decided to be a bit more healthful and baked them, instead. At last they were golden brown and ready to eat. They were so good! I wonder what I’ll crave next time.
Baked Maryland Crab Cakes
1 lbs. jumbo lump crab meat (pick out any shell pieces)
1/2 C bread crumbs (panko or regular)*
2 T mayo
1 t Dijon mustard
1/4 t Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 t Old Bay (more if you love that flavor!)
Salt to taste
*substitute crushed saltines if you don’t have bread crumbs
In small mixing bowl, mix together egg, mayo, mustard, Worcestershire, Old Bay, and salt. Place crab meat and bread crumbs in a large mixing bowl. Add the egg mixture to the crab and breadcrumbs. Gently mix by hand just until completely blended. Form mixture into crab cakes, place on a plate. I use a 1/2 C measuring cup to form 4 jumbo-size crab cakes. You can make the crab cakes any size you like. Cover the newly formed crab cakes with plastic wrap and place into your refrigerator for at least 60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Place the rested crab cakes onto a lightly greased baking sheet (not touching each other). Bake for 15 minutes. Flip. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
I like coleslaw with my summertime foods. It’s a great, goes with everything, food. It’s even good as a topping on grilled hotdogs and pulled pork sandwiches. What I don’t like about many coleslaws is all that drippy, creamy, mayonnaise dressing that comes on them. So, I did some searching and found several recipes for making coleslaw without mayo or other creamy dressings. My new favorite coleslaw is Carolina-style coleslaw with vinaigrette dressing. This dressing is light and greatly reduces the mess that comes with creamy coleslaws.
You can make a batch of the slaw dressing and keep it on hand to use on whenever you have the urge to make coleslaw. Any type of cabbage works as the base vegetable for coleslaw. To that you can add other fresh, crunchy veggies you have on hand – onions, carrots, bell peppers, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, and more.
Go ahead…try it…you’ll like it! Enjoy!!!
2-3 lbs. shredded cabbage (green cabbage or Chinese cabbage)
1 small red cabbage, shredded
2-3 carrots, shredded
2 celery stalks, minced
1 red pepper, minced
1 medium red onion, minced
1 C honey or sugar (honey is less sweet)
1 t salt or 1 T Fish Sauce (for an Asian flare)
2/3 C vegetable oil
1 t dry mustard
1 t celery seed
1 C apple cider vinegar
Optional dressing ingredients:
Juice of 1-2 small limes
1 small hot pepper minced
Combine all dressing ingredients in small sauce pan. Stir over medium heat until it just comes to a boil, and all the sugar has dissolved. Pour just ennough over veggie mixture to coat, not drown. Refrigerate overnight before serving. Reserve extra dressing for your next batch of slaw.
There’s nothing like a bowl of fresh veggie soup to brighten the day. The vegetable crunchiness makes my mouth want to sing; while the rich nutrient goodness makes my body want to dance.
Fresh veggie soup is good food! So, why don’t we eat it more often? The stuff in cans is lifeless mush. The frozen soup mix veggies are boring. Vegetable soup needs to be alive. It needs to be made from fresh veggies.
In January, fresh veggies are available in the produce section of my local grocery stores. The veggies aren’t local, so they are not as nutritious as they were when they were first picked. But, they will do until late spring and summer arrive with their fresh, local harvests.
I like to use whatever veggies are on hand when I make my soup. This means the soup is unique each time I prepare it. On busy days, I sometimes stop at my grocer’s salad bar and load up on pre-cut veggies just so that I can have dinner ready in the shortest time possible. I prefer to chop my own veggies when I need them. I find the process soothing as I feel the texture of the vegetables and contemplate them crunching in my mouth.
I keep a jar miso in my fridge to make the broth for all my veggie soups. Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning made by fermenting soy beans or rice or barley. Miso is high in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals. Miso tastes good and is good for our health. Miso comes in a variety of colors and intensities. Buy a brand that needs refrigeration — it will taste best.
The following recipe is based on the vegetables I had on hand today. Please use what’s in stock in your kitchen — yes, you may use frozen veggies, if that is what you have available. If you don’t have rice noodles, use whatever pasta is in your pantry. Try different shapes of pasta just to keep it interesting.
This soup is meant to be quick, easy, and healthful. So put some water on to boil and get chopping on those veggies. You’re hungry and ready to eat!
2 C chopped veggies (e.g., carrot, celery, bok choy, onion, garlic, mushroom, tomato, zucchini, snap peas)
1/2 lemon or lime
3 C boiling water
3 tsp Miso paste
4 oz rice noodles or other pasta
[Optional] Chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley or cilantro)
1. Prepare pasta according to directions on the package. Cook until al dente (tender with a wee bit of crunch remaining)
2. Boil 3 cups of water for the soup.
3. Chop veggies into bite-size pieces.
4. As soon as the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and add all the crunchy veggies to the water. Reserve any soft veggies, such as tomatoes and mushrooms, until just before serving.
5. Simmer the veggies for 4 minutes.
6. Stir in the miso paste and juice from lemon or lime; continue simmering for 2 minutes.
7. Stir the soft veggies into the soup.
8. Place half the noodles in each soup bowl. Top with the cooked veggies. Fill the bowl with broth. Sprinkle with chopped herbs, if you have them.
9. Continue adding veggies and broth as you eat, unless you start with large bowls.
Yes, this soup tastes like it needs salt. The miso adds only a touch of salt to the broth. If you want saltier soup, try adding a teaspoon of soy sauce to the soup in your bowl. Or don’t add salt and enjoy the natural flavor of the veggies. Choose wisely; live long and healthfully!
Here we are, two weeks into the new year. So, how are you doing with your New Year’s Resolutions? Still working on them? Or have they already become yesterday’s news?
By this time, most years, I have given up on any resolutions I may have made as the old year ended. But not this year! I can proudly proclaim that I am sticking with this year’s resolutions. I have resolved to lose 40 pounds by the end of 2012. And I have resolved to make positive lifestyle changes to support that first resolution. The changes include actually exercising 3-4 times each week — not just saying, “I should exercise”; getting a good night sleep every night (that’s at least 7 hours, not the usual 4 or 5); and make better eating choices.
I’m already making some good eating choices. Last year, I started buying more organic produce than ever before. I also purchased as much local produce as I could use — I visited a farmers market nearly every week throughout the summer and fall. I have found several sources for free-range, hormone and anti-biotic free, non-GMO fed meat — mostly chicken. The other meats and fishes are becoming more available all the time.
The biggest challenge facing me, when it comes to making better choices, is portion control. I enjoy eating — it shows. I am currently involved in a fairly restrictive diet program. No one else in my household is following this diet. That means I need to prepare special meals just for one — me.
I’d like to share one of my simple dishes with you. It is nutritionally complete. At less than 500 calories, it fits within most diet’s calorie guidelines. Yes, it looks high in fat (19 g). Just remember salmon is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, which our bodies need. The veggies are mostly raw (briefly blanched in hot water) and crunchy. The rice noodles are gluten free and help round out the meal.
You can easily multiply this recipe by the number of diners who will join you in this light and healthy meal.
I promise to share my new healthier recipes with you. But don’t be too surprised to occasionally find some special treats in the mix, too.
Here’s to a happy, healthy you in this new year! Enjoy!
Simple Salmon Supper
1. Pre-heat oven to Broil.
2. Cook the rice noodles according to the directions on the package.
3. Brush both sides of fillet with a light coating of olive oil.
4. Lay fillet onto a broiling pan and place in oven as close to broiler element as possible. Broil the first side for 3 minutes. Flip fillet over and broil second side for 3 minutes. If you prefer less rare fish, add up to a minute to each side.
5. Just before the noodles are done cooking, drop the snap peas into the same pot to blanch for 1 minute. Remove peas and plate them. Repeat the blanching and plating with carrot pieces.
6. Drain the noodles and add them to the plate with the veggies.
7. As soon as the fillet is finished broiling, remove it from the oven and plate it.
8. Drizzle soy sauce and lime juice on fillet and noodles.
9. [Optional] Sprinkle fillet and noodles with kelp granules.
10. Enjoy with a glass of spring water with a twist of lime or with a glass of your favorite white wine!
What do you think of when you hear the words “cranberry sauce”? Have you spent your life eating the red, gelatinous stuff from a can? I loved that stuff when I was a kid. I especially liked the way it looked like the can when it slid out of the can and onto its serving plate. And it jiggled like Jello®. This jiggly, gelatinous stuff was the only way I ever saw or tasted cranberry sauce, until I was an adult.
As an adult, I discovered that I could buy something called whole berry cranberry sauce, in a can. Suddenly, cranberry sauce became more interesting and tasty. And then I discovered that I could purchase the whole berries by themselves and make my own cranberry sauce. There even were recipes on the back of the cranberry bag!
Since making that first batch of cranberry sauce (actually relish), I have not opened nor eaten a can of cranberry stuff. Freshly made cranberry sauce or relish is fantastic! In case you are wondering — cranberry sauce is cooked until the cranberries soften and pop, while the cranberries are raw in relish.
The following recipe is very simple and is based on the first recipe I ever used for cranberry relish. The primary difference is the use of SweetLeaf®, a chemical-free, zero-calorie, zero-carb, zero-glycemic index, 100% natural sweetener. Of course you can use a different sugar substitute. I like the taste of SweetLeaf® and used it.
This recipe is great for diabetics as well as anyone looking for a way to cut back on the calories during their holiday feasting. Remember to save some for those leftover-turkey sandwiches. Enjoy!
1 Navel orange, washed, sticker removed, quartered*
4 cups fresh cranberries, washed, bad ones removed
1.5-2 tablespoons Natural Stevia Sweetener**
Chop orange in a food processor (peel and all).
Add cranberries and process until coarsely chopped.
Transfer cranberry mixture to a large enough bowl.
Stir in sweetener.
Chill until serving.
You can add additional sweetness to this recipe, without sugar or other sweeteners — add half of a peeled and de-seeded Honey Crisp apple (or other sweet apple) to the food processor before adding the cranberries.
* If you use a different kind of orange, remove the seeds.
** Or use other sugar substitute in an amount equivalent to 3/4 to 1 cup of sugar.
I love the taste of cranberry with turkey. Usually, I make a raw, chunky cranberry relish to accompany Thanksgiving dinner and the leftovers beyond. This year, I decided to try something a bit different.
During my end of season visit to the local farmers market, I found fresh persimmons. I was not sure what I would do with them, but bought several anyway. I brought them home, peeled and sliced one and enjoyed a surprisingly yummy flavor.
After a bit a research, I decided to include the persimmons in this year’s Thanksgiving cranberry condiment. The following recipe was modified from the recipe presented by Deliciously Organic.
1. Sort through cranberries and reject any that are soft and squishy.
2. Bring wine, cloves, and honey to a simmer over medium-low heat in a large saucepan.
3. Add cranberries.
4. Continue simmering, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes until most of the cranberries “pop” (the skins break open).
5. Remove from heat.
6. Remove the cloves and stir in the persimmons.
7. Add more honey to taste, 2-3 tablespoons if needed.
8. Pour into a glass bowl and chill.
In assembling your ingredients remember this wise axiom: “if you would not otherwise eat/drink it, don’t put it in your pot.” Since this recipe calls for wine, use only wine that you enjoy drinking. For me, that is Merlot. You may prefer a different dry red wine, such as Beaujolais or Cabernet Sauvignon. Or, you may prefer a sweet red wine, such as Port or one of the dessert wines. Use what tastes best to you. As for the honey…try to find local honey. It has so much character — it tastes like home. I like the tartness of cranberries, so I use only 1/2 cup of honey. If you like it sweeter, go ahead and add more — one tablespoon at a time. Taste after each addition. Enjoy!