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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Check It Out: California Sun-Dry Tomatoes

So I have a new culinary staple that I wanted to share with you -- California Sun-Dry Sun Dried Tomatoes.

If you haven't tried sun-dried tomatoes before you should give them a whirl.  They're basically ripe tomatoes (traditionally plum tomatoes) that have been dried until the bulk of their water content is evaporated.  In a process similar to creating a reduction, what you are left with afterwards is a nice intense rich tomato flavor in a slightly chewy form.  Mmm, chewy food.

As much as I love them, I am very picky about buying sun dried tomatoes.  I've gotten them jarred and reconstituted with oil, but I find they tend to be very slimy.  Ick, slimy food.  I've also bought them vac-packed but they were too dry and it was more like eating tomato jerky.  Boo, tough chewy food.

And then there were these.  I bought them on a whim and fell in love.  Like the package promises, they are extra moist and very flavorful.  I chop them up and add them to my favorite dinner treat, mini veggie pizzas.  But you can add them to anything...sauces, pasta, stir-fry...or you can process them into a paste and use them as a sandwich spread.  One of my favorite breakfast sandwiches is egg whites with cheddar cheese and sun-dried tomato paste on a toasted bagel.  Seriously, it has life-changing capability.

I'll see if I can come up with something fun to make with them this weekend, but in the meantime, see if you can't find some for yourself.

And you're welcome.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Chicken and Angel Hair a la Grecque

I like to eat a little lighter in the summer so wanted to do something flavorful, but not too heavy on the belly.  This is a little number I threw together in my sleep last night.  Yes, I dream about food. 

For those who aren't familiar with the term, "a la Grecque" is French for "in the manner of Greece" and since this pasta dish was inspired by Greek salad it seemed appropriate.

Chicken and Angel Hair a la Grecque

1/2 box (uncooked) multigrain angel hair pasta
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
flour for dredging
1-1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tsp. white balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. fresh thyme
1/4 cup black olives, chopped
4 cups baby spinach
1/3 cup crumbled feta
salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Prepare the angel hair according to package directions.  When done, drain, rinse with hot water, drain again and set aside.  Meanwhile, back at the stove...

Cut chicken breasts into bite-sized strips and dredge lightly with regular flour.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil and add dredged chicken strip pieces.  Cook over medium-high heat until browned, but not cooked completely through.

Add fresh lemon juice, white balsamic vinegar, fresh thyme, and chopped black olives to the skillet.  Stir well, cooking for an additional minute or two.

Lower the heat to low.  Add spinach and drained angel hair to the skillet, cover and let sit for 3-5 minutes to semi-wilt the spinach.

Uncover skillet, add in add feta, 1/2 tsp. olive oil and 1 tsp white balsamic.

Mix well and serve up.


If you are adamantly anti-olive (and I know who some of you are), you can leave them out.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Radish-Potato Salad

In case you were thinking that somehow you managed to miss Sunday's post, not to worry, you didn't.  This past week was one of those too-many-pots-on-the-stove sort of week and K2 just didn't have her *SUGAR!* together enough to get a recipe posted in time for Sunday. :/

So where were we?  Ah yes, radishes.  Crunchy, yummy, tangy delicious radishes.  Here's a quick-n-easy potato salad recipe with a summer bite you can like.

Radish-Potato Salad

1 lb boiled potato
4 large purple radishes, sliced
1/4 cup crème fraiche
2 tbsp. plain yogurt (optional)
2 tsp parsley (dried or fresh)
1-1/2 tsp dill weed

Peel and cut your potatoes into bite-sized cubes.  Boil until fork tender.  Drain and set aside.

Clean and slice your radishes.  I cut my radish slices in half to make them more bite-sizey.

Mix everything in a bowl and serve.


Purple radishes tend to be a bit sweeter and less tangy than red ones. So if you want more bite, use red ones instead.

I used small fingerling potatoes for part of mine (mostly because I didn't have enough baking potatoes) and they work just as well, already being of a one-bite size.

If you want a thinner sauce coating, add in the yogurt or a tidge of milk.  I liked my sauce to be thicker so did not thin it out.

Crème fraiche is a super super super thick soured cream.  You can regular sour cream in lieu of crème fraiche if you can't find it, though most grocery stores will carry in the dairy area (yes, I said dairy area).

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Good and Good for You: Radishes

I love radishes.  They're super crunchy and have a nice bite to them.  They have a cool (as in refreshing) peppery flavor and come in white, red, and purple varieties, with the latter being a sweeter version than the former.  They add a nice touch of color to any dish as well as a not-so-subtle kick.  I’ve always enjoyed them in salads or just as a nibble-on snack but what I never realized was just how good they are for you.


Radishes are considered among the most nutritious of root veggies.  Radish is available year-round (with peak seasons in winter and spring) and both the root and the leaves are commonly eaten as vegetable or in salad, stir fry, curry, or soup.  They can be eaten raw or cooked. 

Radish leaves are also edible and contain more Vitamin C than the root does.  I saw a recipe for a radish leaf pesto that I’ll have to whip up for you the next time I get to the Farmer’s Market to get some fresh ones.

What else does it have going on?

Radishes are rich in folic acid and anthocyanins (powerful antioxidants) in addition to Vitamin C.  This combination of nutrients is considered very effective in the fight against oral, colon and intestinal cancer.

Because of its low caloric and high water content, radishes make an excellent addition to a dieter’s plan.  They keep you feeling full longer without having to eat a lot.

Radishes are a natural diuretic which makes them effective in fighting off and/or preventing urinary tract infections. Radish juice helps to soothe the digestive system and detoxify the body.

Because radishes also contain zinc, B vitamins, and phosphorus, all of which are effective in treating skin disorders (like dry skin and rash).  One place I read said you can mash raw radish and use it as a refreshing face mask.

Radishes are also a decent source for calcium so good for bone strength and health.

Wow, so much good stuff packed into one small package.  As always, if you haven’t given them a chance, you should.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sweet Potato-Beet Bake


Yeah, so even though it's Mother's Day, this recipe was one of Dad's requests...but we made for our MD celebration dinner so it all worked out.

Once again, made a trip to the Farmer's Market to pick up some gorgeous still-on-the-stalk beets and fresh-from-the-ground sweet potatoes.  Makes a deliciously starchy side for any celebratory dinner.

Sweet Potato-Beet Bake

2 medium sweet potatoes
2 large beets
3-4 tsp olive oil
1/8 tsp cinnamon
2 slices turkey bacon, cut into small pieces
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced

Peel and cube both the raw sweet potatoes and beets. Cut into 1/2"-3/4"cubes.

In a medium bowl, mix sweet potato and beet cubes with 1-2 tsp olive oil.  Really only need enough to just coat them.  Add cinnamon and stir well.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment or baking paper and spread the oiled veggies on the sheet.

Bake for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees, or until beets are fork tender.  The beets will take a tidge longer to cook than the sweet potatoes.  You can always cut them smaller than the sweet potatoes so that they cook faster.

While those are baking, in a small skillet cook the bacon pieces over medium-high heat until more crispy than not. 

In another small skillet, cook onion slices with 1-2 tsp olive oil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to keep them from burning.  Will take 15-20 minutes for them to brown and start to caramelize.

When the beets and sweet potatoes are baked, the onions browned, and the bacon crispy, mix them all up in a medium bowl and then serve. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sugar Snap Peas with Lemon and Basil

Was over at the parentals (aka "Rents") for dinner on Sunday and my mom showed me a yummy-looking recipe for sugar snap peas.  In a matter of cosmic coincidence, I had just bought some sugar snap peas at the Farmer's Market on Saturday and was wondering what to do with them.  Wondered no more.

The lemon brings a nice freshness to the peas and the basil is not an addition I would have thought of, but loving everything basil, I was most pleased with the dish...and ate them all one sitting.

Sugar Snap Peas with Lemon and Basil

1 tsp olive oil
1/2 lb (8 oz) sugar snap peas, fresh
1/4 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp lemon rind, grated
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp salt
dash of fresh lemon juice
lemon wedges, for squeezin' garnish

In a medium size skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add in fresh snap peas and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, or until crispy tender.

Add in chopped basil, lemon rind, salt and pepper.  Mix well and add in a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.  Cook for an additional minute or so and then remove from heat.

Serve with lemon wedges on the side.  Mmmm, refreshing and delicious.

Makes 2 servings...or one if you are piggy like me.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Drink Up, It's Cucumber

Yes, they are not just for salads anymore.  Here are a couple of ideas for some refreshing cucumber beverages to cool down with on warm days.

Cucumber-Apple Smoothie
(on right in photo)

1/2 cucumber, peeled and chopped
2 granny smith apples, peeled and chopped
1 tsp water or crushed ice
sprig of mint, optional

In a blender or food processor, mix together the ingredients.  Pour into a pint glass (or two highball glasses).  Will be thick and frothy, but you can cut with a dash of sparkling water, or vodka.  Garnish with cucumber spears.

Pimms Spritzer
(on left in photo)

1 oz Pimm's No. 1 Cup
2-3 slices of cucumber
2-3 slices of apple
Ginge Ale or Sprite

Half fill a 16 oz glass with ice.  Pour in Pimms, add cucumber and apple, then top with soda.  Give a quick mix and enjoy.


If you aren't familiar with Pimm's No. 1 Cup, it's a British liqueur based on gin that has a blend of spices and citrus in it.  It's thickish and red-brown in color.  It mixes well with lemonade or champagne, or in this case soda and fruit/veggie.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Good and Good for You: Cucumbers

I love cucumbers, I love their crunch and their light taste.  Always makes a great addition to any salad, but other than that, I didn't know much about them...until now.


Did you know that the cucumber is a member of the squash family?  Cucumbers are native to India and Africa and have been cultivated for over 4,000 years.  The Egyptians introduced them to the Greeks and Romans.  By the 9th century, they made their way to France.  By the 14th century they were introduced to England.

From the Middle Ages until sometime in the late 17th-early 18th century they were actually considered a slightly unhealthy vegetable, due mostly to their tendency to be fairly indigestible and to cause flatulence.  In truth, they don't have a high food value, contain only negligible amounts of vitamins and minerals, but on the plus side, they also contain no fat, no sodium,and no cholestol.

So why are they good for you?  Because they contain up to 96% water, they are thirst-quenching AND refreshing.  Ever wonder where the saying "cool as a cucumber" comes from?  It's because the interior of a cucumber runs 20 degrees cooler than the air outside.  It's high water content also makes it a hydrating food that prevents drying of the skin (aka wrinkling!) and can help remove toxins that lead to aging.

Cucumber juice has been used throughout the ages in cosmetics for softening and whitening the skin.  During the English Regency (and even today), a cucumber tonic was used to try to remove freckles which considered an unfortunate blemish of the skin (which is ridiculous because freckles are wholly adorable). One of the few minerals cucumbers contain is silica which is necessary in keeping a healthy complexion.

Similar to aloe, you can use cucumber juice to provide immediate cooling relief for cuts, small burns, and skin conditions.  If you puree the whole vegetable, it can be used as a face mask or rejuvenating poultrice.  That's why people put cucumber slices on their eyes, to help remove puffiness and redness from being tired.

Cucumber mixes really well with other juices and provides a nice refreshing addition to any beverage which makes them the perfect go-to veggie for a hot summer day. In fact, I'll be bringing you some beat-the-heat inspired combinations for you to try.

Until then, stay cool.