Friday, July 30, 2010

Celebrating Summer with Fresh Produce! Cucumber Cantaloupe Salad, Watermelon Cucumber Salad, and Summer Squash and Corn Chowder

As I mentioned in previous posts I am very fortunate to have a plot in an organic garden.  This is my first attempt at gardening and although I'm pretty sure the other plot owners talk about me, and my weeds I am scared to pull because I'm convinced they are amazing crops waiting to sprout, I am loving having so much fresh organic produce in my house.  We are also fortunate in this area to have multiple Farmer's Markets.  In yesterday's paper, Sunset Foods advertised their own market, with produce from Didier Farm's, held every Saturday through August in their store parking lots.  Below are three great fruit and veggie recipes I tested this week that will inspire you to get out to the market, or in your garden and enjoy one of the best parts of summer-fresh produce!

Cucumber and Cantaloupe Salad
Food Network Magazine July/August 2010

Dominick's advertises their "Locally Grown" section of the produce department.  I haven't seen it in person, but the ad was nice and at least they are trying!  Cantaloupe is on sale through next week.

I didn't make the hens.  I'm sure they are delicious, so if you try it let me know.  Look within the recipe for the instructions for the salad.

Watermelon, Cucumber, Jicama Salad

 There are a ton of watermelon, cucumber salad recipes out there.  This is a good one and I simplified it for an outdoor gathering with kids and adults.  Marinate the watermelon and cucumbers in lime juice and zest, and separate on a platter with small feta cubes.  Top the entire platter with chopped fresh basil and serve with toothpicks so that guests are free to make skewers with all, or some of the ingredients.

Summer Squash and Corn Chowder
Cooking Light August 2010

Some of the best corn I've tasted was grown in Springfield, Illinois.  Even though soup is not what you crave on a hot day, you will find yourself finishing off the pot in no time!  It is surprisingly light and because there are no potatoes in the mix, you don't get that starchy taste found in most chowders.    

**all pictures were copied from websites with links to recipes**

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Kid Tested and Approved Baked Fish and Chips

Here is a link to a recipe from the July/August issue of Food Network Magazine.  Baked Fish and Chips caught my eye immediately because I always get excited about a good french fry, and when I saw that the recipe was Food Network's attempt at cutting half the calories of the yummy English Pub dish, I knew I had to try it.  I have tried many a baked breaded fish and chicken and most of the time the crust burns or never really gets crispy.  This defeat usually sends me belly up at a bar and grill begging for a basket of fried deliciousness!  Not so with this recipe due to a special ingredient: Rice Krispies.  I know corn flakes are often used in mock fried chicken recipes, but I've never seen Rice Krispies.  It definitely makes the dish, creating a nice, crispy crust on the fish without overpowering the delicate meat.

The fries were also delicious, but the real star for me was Food Networks lightened up tarter sauce.  The base of the sauce is  nonfat Greek Yogurt, a food item I absolutely cannot live without, flavored with relish, lemon juice, and Tabasco.  I'm not really a fan of tarter sauce, but I loved this fat free version and will make it myself from now on.

The best part about this recipe is that not only did all three of my children eat their fish without any persuasion, two of them asked for seconds and one of them ate it again for lunch the next day!  For this reason alone I give it 5 stars and suggest you give it a whirl.  Maybe try adding some spices or Old Bay Seasoning to the dry, crushed Rice Krispies, or to the fish before dredging and it will be more adult friendly.    


Food Network Magazine
July/August 2010

Fat Free Tarter Sauce
(Not featured online, copied from magazine)

2/3 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
splash of lemon juice
splash of hot sauce

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.  Cover and chill 10 minutes. 

**Picture copied from Food Network website** 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Jicama Times Two

     Jicama is one of those vegetables that I love to eat, but forget to put in my grocery cart.  Last week, I made a special trip to Whole Foods and brought home a giant jicama that inspired a delicious salad and yummy slaw worthy of posting.
     Jicama is perfect in salads because it absorbs dressings well, taking on whatever flavor you infuse, yet stays crispy and refreshing.  The first recipe below is a meal in itself with jicama, black beans, tomatoes, corn, red onion, and cilantro, tossed in a chili lime vinaigrette.  The slaw(pictured above) compliments grilled meat well with layers of textures and bright flavors.  Shredded zucchini, carrots, chopped jicama, and red onion dressed in lime zest, juice, cumin, and olive oil.  A great use of all the zucchini that is bursting out of the garden right now and much more flavor than the mayonnaise based, cabbage slaw you find on most barbecue tables.

Black Bean, Jicama, Corn, and Tomato Salad

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed(or fresh, cooked, removed from ear, and cooled)
1/2 large jicama, peeled and cut into small cubes
1-2 cups grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 limes
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

In a large bowl combine black beans, corn, jicama, tomatoes, red onion, and cilantro.  In a small bowl, whisk together zest from 1 lime, juice from both limes, honey, and chili powder.  Whisk in olive oil in a steady stream and add salt and pepper to taste.  Add to salad and toss well.  Set aside for 30 minutes to let flavors absorb in salad or refrigerate for later.  

Zucchini and Jicama Slaw
(pictured above with grilled barbecue chicken)

2 limes
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 large jicama, peeled and cut into small sticks
3 medium zucchini
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

In a large bowl whisk together zest from 1 lime and juice from both limes, sugar, and cumin.  Whisk in olive oil in a steady stream and add salt and pepper to taste.  Add jicama sticks to dressing and set aside.  Shred zucchini with the large hole side of a box grater.  Press out water in zucchini in between a few paper towels.  Add zucchini, carrots, red onion, and cilantro to jicama and dressing mixture.   Toss well and enjoy!

**This slaw would be fabulous in fish tacos!!  Grill some Tilapia and serve with slaw in warm tortillas-yummy!!** 

And yes that is boxed macaroni and cheese in the picture.  Trader Joe's Wisconsin Cheddar which I think is a little bit healthier than other commercial brands?  It's the mac-n-cheese that gets the kids to the table, making it easier for me to get them to try the chicken and slaw.  Whatever works, right?!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Arugula and Broccoli Pasta Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Here is the recipe for a pasta salad I made tonight that my husband said is the best salad he ever ate!!  Maybe he was just really hungry, but I also thought it was very tasty and perfect for a hot summer night.  I threw together some arugula from my garden, steamed broccoli, whole wheat pasta, tossed them in a lemon vinaigrette, and topped it with a handful of pine nuts.  Great layers of flavor and textures, and so refreshing!  The only thing missing was shaved Parmesan cheese, which I will add next time.  Since this is the best salad my "until we are parted by death" dining partner ever ate, I'm thinking there will definitely be a next time!

Arugula and Broccoli Pasta Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

1 14 ounce box whole wheat pasta(penne or bow tie preferred)
1-2 cups steamed broccoli
1-2 cups baby arugula
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
shaved Parmesan cheese (optional)

Lemon Vinaigrette
1-2 tablespoons lemon zest
juice from 2-3 lemons
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil

Cook pasta according to box directions.  While pasta is cooking, make vinaigrette.  In a large bowl, whisk together lemon zest, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, garlic, black pepper, and salt.  Whisk olive oil into mixture in a slow, steady stream.  Set aside.  Drain cooked pasta and run under cold water until pasta has cooled slightly.  Add cooled pasta, cooled steamed broccoli, and baby arugula to the lemon vinaigrette and toss gently.  Top with pine nuts and shaved Parmesan cheese if desired.

Adjust the amount of lemon zest and juice to your taste.  I love tart flavors, but you may prefer a more mild vinaigrette.  

**I love dishes like this because I can easily set aside plain pasta and broccoli for my kids before I create a meal that my husband and I will enjoy.  One day their taste buds will catch up with ours, but for now I let them enjoy their version of a simple dinner!**

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pan Seared Tilapia with Thai Basil Dipping Sauce and Quinoa with Asian Greens, Leeks, and Shiitake Mushrooms

In May I spent a wonderful afternoon with a great group of volunteers digging up weeds, breaking up cement like soil, and laying compost for the Nurture Grow Your Own Food Garden.  Plots in the garden were given to families from the Northfield Township Food Pantry that completed programs with Nurture last year, and ten percent of the crops are donated to the food pantry.  The following week, seeds were planted and since then more volunteers have been working hard to help our plots flourish.

I am very fortunate to have my own plot and recently harvested enormous crops of Asian greens, also known as Mizuna and Red Asian Mustard Greens.  At first I used them as you would in a salad, with red peppers and a peanut dressing.  I thought they were delicious, but then read up on these mysterious greens and learned that they are most often cooked in a stir fry or as a warm, wilted salad.

Below is the recipe for Pan Seared Tilapia and Quinoa with Asian Greens, Leeks, and Shiitake Mushrooms that I tested tonight.  It was hit with the husband!  The children of course were less excited about our "fresh greens from the garden!", but still enjoyed the fish and quinoa.  The greens cooked up very nicely and I love the way the quinoa absorbs all of the rich flavor from the mushrooms and soy sauce, brown sugar, stock, and red pepper flakes added to the mix.  Really, the best part is knowing that a portion of our dinner came from our little plot at the Nurture Grow Your Own Food organic garden!  

Thank you to all of the hard working Nurture volunteers who have been sweating it out for the last few months.  I can't wait to see what we get to harvest next!

Pan Seared Tilapia with Thai Basil Dipping Sauce and Quinoa with Asian Greens, Leeks, and Shiitake Mushrooms

For the Tilapia:

4 Tilapia Filets
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon lime zest
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil

In a small bowl, combine chili pepper, coriander, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Rub mixture on all four Tilapia filets.  Heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet on medium high heat.  Cook filets in pan for 3-4 minutes per side or until fish flakes easily.  In another small bowl, combine soy sauce, lime zest and juice, and basil.  Pour over cooked fish or serve on the side as a dipping sauce.  

For the Quinoa:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 leeks, whites and light green parts sliced thinly lengthways
1 cup thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 cups asian greens, roughly chopped
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 - 1 cup low sodium chicken stock
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon sesame oil
salt and pepper
1-2 cups cooked quinoa

Rinse sliced leeks in a bowl with cold water to remove any dirt from inside.  Pat dry with a towel and add to olive oil heated in a large pan on medium heat.  Add sliced mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes, or until the leeks begin to look slightly translucent.  Add garlic and greens and saute for 1 minute.  Add soy sauce, brown sugar, stock, red pepper, sesame oil, and salt and pepper.  Cook covered for 3-5 minutes.  Add cooked quinoa and stir to combine.  Check for flavor and add more soy sauce, brown sugar, red pepper, or salt and pepper if desired.  

For more information on Nurture and the Nurture Grow Your Own Food Garden, please visit the website at