We are healthy eaters, most of the time. Vacation is another story. When we went to the beach for a recent weekend getaway, I packed a ton of food to help us stay on track. I figured the more good food we had with us, the less tempted we’d be by the chips and cookies that usually figure heavily in our travels. Full disclosure: we still treated ourselves to one dinner out (mmmmmm shrimp po’ boy) and some chips while we were on the road. And I had an ice cream float one night- it’s the beach! I consider it a success, both the food and the trip overall. The key was bringing healthy foods we couldn’t resist.
Salad dressing is so easy to make, I stopped buying it at the store long ago. This recipe is one of my favorites. It is tangy, bright, and has a nice crunch from the poppy and sesame seeds. I adore the delicate flavor, texture, and appearance of poppy seeds. The dressing is good on any salad and can also be used as a marinade. This week, I served it on a salad of strawberries, cucumber, red onion, and mint.
Growing up, my parents served a garden salad with every dinner. It usually had lettuce, carrots, and miscellaneous other veggies. It was fine. Even good. But I got bored. I rebelled against the salad for many years after leaving home, focusing on other types of vegetable preparations. Recently, I’ve fallen in love with salad all over again. It started with a beautiful head of green leaf lettuce I bought at my local farm club. It tasted so fresh, crispy, and bright. Combined with fermented carrots and my homemade mix-and-match dressing, it was truly delicious. We planted a lot of greens in our garden this year, as well as in the Aerogarden. Now we have enough to harvest fresh garden salads a few times a week.
I came up with a list of ideas for making a scrumptious salad on the fly. Start with a head of fresh lettuce, spinach, or one of those super convenient salad mix bags. Then add in one or more from the list, and walla! Better than most salads you get in a restaurant.
At the end of the growing season I am always left with a ton of basil. A great way to preserve the leaves is to keep them in the fridge, covered in olive oil and salt. They will keep for many months this way. I use them in any cooked dish that won’t mind a little extra oil. They are great in a stir fry, mixed with roasted meat and veggies, or in one my favorite dishes, Ezekiel’s chicken.
Did you know you can save up food scraps and make a killer broth out of them? We’ve made a habit out of keeping a freezer bag for scraps we would otherwise throw out: bones, shells, carrot peels, celery butts, onion skins and pieces, and herb stems. These are all the ingredients needed to make a delicious stock. Obviously, stock tastes like what you put in it. You can mix it up as much as you want or try to stick with a theme, such as seafood stock with shrimp shells, fish bones, and complimentary herb stems. Or you could take a traditional chicken, carrot, celery, onion, and herbs approach. The finished stock is tasty enough to drink hot and seasoned with salt and pepper. You can also use it as a base for miso soup or other kinds of soup, or use in any recipe that calls for stock.
This recipe for fermented peppers is my absolute favorite ferment. I make it with the abundance of peppers I grow in my garden each year. It works for any kind of pepper. I have used jalapeños, banana peppers, poblanos, and Rio Grande Golds, to name a few. They come out a bit like the pickled pepperoncinis that often come with pizza. I use them in sandwiches, salads, rice or quinoa dishes, and many other ways.
Fermentation is all the rage because of its wide array of health benefits, especially in providing probiotic bacteria that are good for digestion. This will just be a short delve into fermentation basics with some helpful links to explore.
Fermentation is a type of pickling. You put food in a jar, cover it in brine, and wait for the natural bacteria to digest the food, enhancing its vitamin content and providing an abundance of probiotic bacteria that will benefit your gut when consumed. You use a saltwater brine to preserve and protect the food while it ferments. This is different than vinegar pickles or any type of canned pickles. Vinegar contains different organisms that aren’t as good for you (they’re not bad though) or no organisms at all. Canning methods use submersion in a hot water bath, which kills the beneficial bacteria desired in fermentation. Pretty much any kind of fruit or vegetable can be pickled through fermentation. The result is tangy and sour. Think sauerkraut, kimchi, and traditional dill pickles.
Growing your own herbs is the easiest and most beneficial type of edible gardening you can do on a small scale. You don’t need much space, time, or money to grow herbs, and if you like to cook, you will use them nearly every day. Basil is one of my favorite herbs. I am currently growing two types, Genovese and lemon, and I use them all the time. Yesterday, I put torn basil leaves all over my delivery pizza. See, you don’t even have to cook to use garden herbs.
These tips are for growing basil both in containers and in the ground. I’ve successfully grown basil using these guidelines in diverse climates all over the country- south Texas, the Pacific Northwest, and southern Illinois.
For me, one of the great pleasures of spring and summer is picking and eating berries. Strawberries are the earliest berries ready for harvest everywhere I've lived, so every year, eager for the season, I find myself on my hands and knees in a strawberry field, covered in mud with red stained teeth and nails. As with most produce, strawberries are best when they are in season, from late spring to early summer. While you can get them year-round in grocery stores, store-bought strawberries never compare favorably with freshly picked ones. That said, if you know what to look for, you can find respectable strawberries everywhere from the field to the farm stand to the supermarket.
Choosing fresh strawberries:
Color, while important, is not the most reliable indicator of strawberry flavor. Deep red color on the whole berry, up to the greens, indicates ripeness, not sweetness. Even after berries are picked off the vine, they continue to develop anthocyanins, the pigments that make strawberries red. However, they do not continue to produce sugars, so a strawberry can be very red and ripe, but still not sweet. So how do you choose scrumptious strawberries? Give 'em a whiff. Sniff for a strong, sweet, strawberry smell. The most fragrant berries will also be the most flavorful.
My name is Hillary. This blog is about the everyday food I prepare in my kitchen, with tips and recipes for easy, wholesome, and diet friendly meals. I have been chanting "cheese please!" since I was a toddler, although lately I've cut back on dairy.