Archive for the ‘Seasonal Tips’ Category

Fresh From the Garden

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

Zucchini!  This time of year, those of us with vegetable gardens are blessed with an abundance of fresh vegetables, but anyone who planted zucchini can be facing too much of a good thing.  Stored in a perforated plastic bag in the vegetable bin, fresh picked zucchini should keep well for 4-5 days.  Well known for being the star of zucchini bread, it is versatile enough to be used in many other creative ways:

Slice thinly or shredded, it can be added to quiches or frittatas, used in a wrap or as a topping for pizza. Cut into thicker slices or ‘wands’, it can be served with a creamy dip or yogurt sauce.  It makes a delicious baked vegetarian entrée layered with slices of onion, eggplant, tomatoes and feta cheese.  Chop it and toss with spaghetti, a little pesto and toasted pine nuts.  Cut in half lengthwise, the seeds can be scooped out to create a ‘boat’ to hold a variety of meat, vegetable, grain, or cheese fillings.  Cut crosswise into thick slices, a melon baller can be used to create a little bowl to hold 2-bite servings of tabouleh, chicken or tuna salads.  Use a vegetable peeler to create zucchini ribbons and toss with a flavorful vinaigrette for a tasty salad.  And there’s always ratatouille!

The following recipe is one of my favorite ways to prepare zucchini. It’s quick enough for a weeknight meal, but elegant enough to serve when entertaining as well!

Almond-Topped Zucchini

3 medium zucchini, sliced thin

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon butter

4 teaspoon thyme

1/3 cup smoked almonds, chopped coarsely

Heat skillet over medium-high heat; add oil and butter and swirl til butter melts and bottom of skillet is coated. Add the sliced zucchini and minced garlic and saute briefly til zucchini is crisp tender. Toss with thyme, season with salt and pepper if desired,  and serve, garnished with chopped almonds.


The Clean 15

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

There are many reasons for choosing organic over conventionally-grown produce. Certainly, the presence of pesticides in our food supply is a very real concern. The Environmental Working Group has identified the twelve most contaminated conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables (listed in a previous post) as well as the 15 least contaminated. The Clean 15 are:

1.  Onions

2.  Sweet corn

3.  Pineapple

4.  Avocado

5.  Asparagus

6.  Sweet peas

7.  Mangoes

8.  Eggplant

9.  Cantaloupe (domestic)

10. Kiwifruit

11.  Cabbage

12.  Watermelon

13.  Sweet potatoes

14.  Grapefruit

15.  Mushrooms

This is good news for my budget! Sweet potatoes, peas and asparagus are client favorites, mango sorbet and watermelon soup are wonderful summertime treats, and I have a new recipe using eggplant, onions, and mushrooms that I want to try.  Keeping both of these lists handy helps me shop healthy AND smart.

Healthy Choices

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

A trip to the grocery store can be rather daunting – so many choices, so many distractions! The aromas from the bakery, vendors offering free samples, boxes and cans neatly arrayed on shelves or artfully stacked, all enticing you to “Try me!” My favorite section is the produce aisle. I love the colors, the shapes, the textures, and the possibilities that present themselves as I consider what to buy. What’s in season? What’s on sale? What do I need to make this week’s recipes? My first choice is always to go organic, but availability can be a problem.  And then there’s the cost. In order to make those grocery dollars stretch, and still make the healthiest choices possible, I rely on the Environmental Working Group’s findings. According to the EWP, the twelve most pesticide-laden conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are:

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines (imported)
  7. Grapes (imported)
  8. Sweet bell peppers
  9. Potatoes
  10. Blueberries (domestic)
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale and collard greens

My healthy choices start there – these fruits and vegetables are the ones I always buy organic. Consider which of these you eat most often. Switching from conventional to organic produce on the two or three items you use the most will help you keep that New Year’s resolution to “Eat healthier!”

This Just In… Fresh Pears!

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

The coming of fall brings fresh pears to our markets.  Highly versatile, I love eating them as a snack or chopping them up for a salad – they add a touch of juicy sweetness and are the perfect accompaniment to stronger flavored cheeses such as gorgonzola or goat cheese (tossing them with a

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bit of orange or lemon juice keeps them from browning).  Pears are delicious roasted, baked in a rustic galette for dessert or tossed with apples, plums and berries for wonderful crisps and compotes.  And poached pears are a treat for breakfast.

Bartletts have smooth, juicy flesh and are excellent for canning, poaching or eating plain.  When ripe, their skin turns bright yellow.  Red Bartletts are similar to the regular Bartlett, but are bright red when ripe and add color to salads and are delicious cooked.  Anjou have a spicy taste and are best eaten fresh.  Red Anjou may be eaten fresh or baked.  Bosc pears have a distinctive long, tapered neck and golden brown skin.  They are perfect for poaching, roasting, broiling or grilling.

Choose pears that are firm, well-shaped, and free of bruises.  Allow a few days for pears to ripen in a brown bag at room temperature.  When ripe, a pear will yield slightly to gentle pressure near the stem.  Store ripe pears in the coldest part of the refrigerator.  Pears bruise easily and should be handled gently.

Poached Pears

Peel, halve and core 1 large pear.  Combine 2 cups of water, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, one 3-inch piece cinnamon stick, and one 3-inch piece lemon rind in a large sauce pan.  Bring to a boil; add pear halves and cover.  Reduce heat to low and simmer 8 minutes or til pear halves are tender.  Remove pear halves with a slotted spoon.  Serve as a salad with greens, drizzled with Neufchatel thinned with orange juice and garnished with chopped nuts or as a dessert with a scoop of ice cream sprinkle with cinnamon.  Serves 2

Berry Delicious

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Fresh berries are a welcome sight in the produce section and a sure sign that summer is here!  All fruits provide healthful vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber while being low in sodium, calories and fat.  To protect your investment in healthy eating here are some tips for selecting the best berries

Choose strawberries that are shiny and fragrant with fresh hulls still attached. Smaller berries tend to be more flavorful than large, and they should have that wonderful strawberry aroma.  Blueberries should be round, plump, and have a slightly dusty appearance.  Blackberries should look plump and shiny, while raspberries will look slightly dusty.  At home, sort through the berries, removing any that are bruised, shriveled or decaying.  Store strawberries, raspberries and blackberries in a single layer loosely covered with plastic wrap in the coldest part of the refrigerator and use within 1-3 days.  Blueberries may be stored in their original container. Allow the berries to come to room temperature for the best flavor and wash just before using.

Enjoy these summer treats tossed with salad greens and your favorite cheese, drizzled with a tangy vinaigrette and garnished with toasted nuts, or try this client favorite:

Black- and Blueberry Syrup

1 teaspoon cornstarch (or arrowroot)

1 tablespoon water

2 tablespoons lemon juice

¼ teaspoon lemon zest

3 tablespoons blackberry jam

1 cup blueberries

1 ½ cups blackberries

In a small saucepan, dissolve cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of water.   Stir in lemon juice, lemon zest, blackberry jam and blueberries.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer til slightly thickened, approximately 1 minute.  Remove from heat and gently stir in blackberries.