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Try this Tonight – Lemon Herb Roasted Salmon

As promised in my last post, the recipe for that yummy salmon in the photo.  The days of summer are dwindling, so take advantage of this time to grill out.  Invite neighbors or friends to share a delicious meal with grilled salmon as the centerpiece.  Dine al fresco on the patio.  There really is nothing better than great food and good friends.

Guilty as charged!  I admit to having purchased farmed salmon in the past.  Why?  Farmed salmon is more economical than wild-caught salmon.  Also, it seemed to be more moist than wild-caught salmon, probably because wild-caught has been over-cooked at our house.  I have turned over a new leaf and buy only Alaskan wild-caught salmon.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  Alaskan wild-caught salmon poses a low risk for contamination with mercury, pesticides and other pollutants.  Farmed fish have been found to have measurable amounts of undesirable contaminants.   Also, Alaskan wild-caught salmon are the only low-risk salmon in terms of sustainability.  This issue has more importance now than ever as our oceans are being over-fished.

Wild-caught salmon is not only delicious but has a reputation, well-deserved, as a very healthy choice.  Alaskan salmon are nutritionally dense – protein, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, vitamin D, and low in calories. Vitamin D is important for bone density.  This salmon contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.  Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases (heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure), and decrease the risk of cancer.  Omega-3’s have also been associated with eye health and brain health.  Choose Alaskan wild-caught salmon.  If your butcher or fish monger doesn’t carry this, ask them to begin ordering it.

This recipe is amazingly tasty.  The tangy lemon zest and freshly-cut herbs are the stars here.  A quick trip out the back door to my mini-herb garden for the herbs.  If you aren’t growing herbs, make room next year.  They are easy to grow and majorly economical.  They can even be placed among your flower garden.  This recipe has been adapted from a Weight Watcher’s recipe.

Lemon Herb Grilled Salmon

  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 pound wild-caught Alaskan salmon, skin on
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Pierce the top side of salmon in several places with a small knife.  This will allow the herb mixture to infuse the salmon.  Drizzle the top side of the salmon with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, sugar, parsley, thyme, lemon zest, garlic, and oregano until sugar is dissolved.  Set aside.
  3. Grill salmon, skin side up for 3 – 4 minutes.  Flip salmon over and apply herb mixture.  Grill for 6-7 minutes just until no longer translucent.  Cooking times may vary with thickness of salmon.  The skin will adhere to the grill and the fillet will release easily.  Just use the spatula to scrape the skin away.  A grill brush will remove any last bits.

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Add Swiss Chard to Your Grocery List

Color, color everywhere!  At least at your farmers’ market.  Each month in summer your market has a freshly-picked bounty, just waiting for your arrival.  June brings luscious, red strawberries, crisp green beans, and many dark, leafy greens, like spinach and kale.  July brings summer squash, early sweet corn, plump blueberries…  August is truly the best month to hit the farmers’ market because the stalls are over-flowing with color – firm, deep-purple eggplants, sweet red raspberries and blackberries, tiny yellow grape tomatoes, crisp green cucumbers…  and finally that which I await all summer – ripe, red, juicy tomatoes.  We always buy a plant or two that promise  early tomatoes for our mini-garden.  However, they never seem to come early enough.  Pick up a loaf of crusty bread, a jar of Hellman’s mayo, a bunch of your favorite lettuce (hopefully not iceberg), and a few just-off-the-vine tomatoes.  A more delicious sandwich would be difficult to find.

All of those amazing colors have something in common – phytonutrients.  Fruits and vegetables are concentrated sources of phytonutrients.  Many but not all phytonutrients give fruits and vegetables their deep colors, such as blueberries, blackberries, carrots, winter squash, broccoli, melon, tomatoes, watermelon, spinach, kale and Swiss chard.  There are others, not as rich in color, that also contain phytonutients – garlic, onions, and leeks.  Phytonutrients are believed to protect against certain cancers, heart disease, stroke, inflammation, and high blood pressure.  They boost the immune system and generally promote good health.  A variety of vegetables and fruits, with varied colors, should be included daily.

Swiss chard belongs to a group of vegetables called chenopods.  Beets, spinach, and quinoa are included in this group.  Chard has a great variety of phytonutients, as shown by the vibrant colors – dark green leaves with veins and stems of reds, purples, and yellows.  Chard seems to help regulate blood sugar.  It is an excellent source of vitamins K, C, and E.  It also counteracts inflammation and offers a good supply of calcium that supports bone health.  It is available all year, but is at its best in the summer months.

Tips

  • Look for leaves that are deep green without wilting, browning or yellowing.
  • At the supermarket it should be kept in a chilled area.
  • Don’t wash before storing in the refrigerator in a plastic bag.  It keeps up to five days, but try to use it within a day or two of purchase.
  • The leaves can be blanched, refreshed in ice water and frozen for later use.

The following is one of many delectable ways to prepare Swiss chard.  The raisins are a sweet counterpoint to the slightly tart taste of chard.  The pine nuts add texture, and the balsamic vinegar adds a depth of flavor.  This recipe, originally from Martha Stewart, has my usual tweaks.  Yes, that yummy recipe for salmon will be in my next post!

Sautéed Swiss Chard with Raisins and Pine Nuts

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch of Swiss chard
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 2 minced cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  1.  Wash chard well and pat dry with a towel. Trim stems from leaves and remove thicker ribs from larger leaves.  Cut these into 1/2-inch pieces.  Cut leaves across into 1-inch slices.
  2. In a large skillet with a lid, toast pine nuts over medium heat to brown a bit, 2 – 4 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. In the same skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add stems, cover and sauté about 4 minutes.  Add just a bit of olive oil near edge of pan and add the garlic.  Sauté briefly for a minute.  Add chard and raisins and quickly mix all in pan.  Cover pan and reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook until tender, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. If necessary, tip pan with lid pulled back to drain excess water.  Stir in vinegar and pine nuts and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Soup in August? Yes, If It’s Fifty Degrees!

I have been remiss!  I have been back “Up North” to spend time with a favorite aunt and cousins, all of whom I rarely have an opportunity to see.  The time flew by, and I did no posting while there.  After this ungodly hot summer, the weather was actually quite cool, as in donning winter jams for sleeping and fires aglow in that ancient, brick fireplace.  The thermometer barely hit fifty by 8:00 AM.  It may seem a bit early for a hearty soup recipe, but that was just what was called for one very chilly evening.  I delved into my recipe files and chose one of my most requested hearty soups, minestrone.  The original recipe came from the Ovens of Brittany, a much beloved restaurant in Madison, WI, but sadly no longer there.  I have tweaked the recipe a bit over the years.  It has a yummy tomato base and is chock full of vegetables and tortellini.  I usually double or even triple the recipe to freeze for later.  We served it with a fresh green salad and a French baguette, crusty outside and chewy inside.  We added logs to the fire, set up the card table right in front of the fireplace, filled the wine glasses, and enjoyed a cozy supper together.  The soup received rave reviews, so as September approaches, put your favorite soup pot on to simmer with this recipe.

Sorry, but no photos.  Incandescent lights do no justice to photos of foods.  Next time I make it, I’ll be sure to take some when the light is good.

Minestrone

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2/3 cup chopped carrots
  • 2/3 cup chopped celery
  • 2/3 cup chopped zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 24 ounces V-8 juice
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1  14 – 16 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 can of dark red kidney beans (15 ounces)
  • fresh or dried cheese tortellini
  • Parmesan cheese, grated or shaved
  1. Heat oil over medium heat in a soup pot or large skillet.  Add onion, carrots and celery.  Sauté 5 minutes.  Add zucchini, green  pepper, basil and parsley and sauté  5 more minutes.
  2. Add vegetable juice, broth, tomatoes, and kidney beans.  Either simmer slowly for an hour or put in a crock pot for 4 – 6 hours.  I recommend using V-8 juice rather than tomato juice.  It gives it a great depth of flavor.
  3. Cook the tortellini according to package directions.  The amount of tortellini is up to you, depending on if you like your soup to be mostly broth or almost like a stew.  Add the tortellini at the end and heat through.
  4. Serve with grated or shaved Parmesan.

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Quinoa Revisited

I am somewhat entranced with quinoa after having discovered its delicious nutty taste and many health benefits.  So, behold an original, healthy recipe which could double as a salad for a luncheon or as a main course.  (See my post, “Goldilocks Had the Right Idea” for the health benefits of quinoa.)  Serve it at room temperature or warm, right out of the skillet.

If you don’t have a basil plant in an herb garden, in a clay pot on the patio, or in a sunny window, get thee to a local nursery and purchase one.  There is a sunny spot in my herb garden reserved for one basil plant every year.  It grows to enormous proportions and provides all I need all summer long.  At the end of the summer, I make pesto, freeze it in slightly oiled cupcake tins, pop them out and keep in a freezer bag for use later.

For this recipe, I used grilled chicken, but one could use baked or poached chicken as well.  What a delicious way to use up left-over chicken.  This recipe could easily be doubled or tripled.  It is a simple recipe to put together.  Serve with a simple side salad of fresh spinach and your choice of vegetables – crisp cukes, sweet peppers, creamy avocados, ripe tomatoes …  Farmers’ markets are brimming with a bounty of gorgeous produce now.

Quinoa with Chicken and Vegetables

(serves 2)

  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, shredded finely
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 small head broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 cup cooked chicken, diced
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sweet red pepper, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  1. Add chicken broth and quinoa to a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed and quinoa is translucent.  Remove from heat.
  2. Add basil and parmesan.  Give a quick stir, cover pan, and set aside.
  3. Steam broccoli until bright green and tender.  Refresh in a bowl of ice water.  Drain the broccoli well and pat dry.  Chop broccoli roughly.
  4. Sauté pepper and onion till almost soft.  Add minced garlic and sauté briefly.  Add to quinoa mixture.
  5. Add chicken and broccoli and serve.

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Still in the North Woods

Still in the North woods.  No, not still as in moonshine.  Dashing your hopes for a moonshine recipe? Merely still on vacation.  Still “up north”, as we say in the Midwest.   We are among the fortunate to be owners of what we fondly call “the cottage”, a beautiful, old summer home built around 1889 and later purchased by my great grandmother.  (See photo in my post, “Risky Business”) No doubt, she was a feminist in her time.  A single parent, her husband having left her, she became an osteopath around the turn of the nineteenth century. Imagine a woman in medical school in those times!  Now, five generations later, it is shared by four families, which, in reality, are thirteen families.  My grandmother, an only child, had four of her own, and then it went on from there.  Now my cousins and siblings take loving care of this grand old place to preserve it for us and the next generation.  I have no horror stories of rivalry over time-of-use, mistreatment of the property, or any other nonsense.  The system runs quite perfectly.  This is usually the only time of year that myself, my siblings, and our families get to see each other, and this is a wonderful place to reunite.

What a hectic week with a grand project for the summer.  The walkway to the back door, made of flagstone, had heaved over the years and had actually become dangerous for my aunts and uncle, all in their eighties.  So, our fourth of the family offered to replace the walkway with a brick pathway.  Not as in pay someone to do it, but do it ourselves.  It is now done and is quite beautiful.  It was a labor of love, emphasis on the labor, with most of the crew in their sixties.  I know the aunties and uncle will be quite pleased.

As a result, I tried to keep the crew well-nourished with tasty things to eat.  One morning cherry-orange scones, another morning Irish soda bread. and yesterday I had a request for a breakfast of fried rice, using the left-over brown rice from the night before.  The sizeable skillet-full was gone in no time.  Tonight it was our turn to cook.  There are twelve of us, three who are vegetarians, so we decided on polenta with a mushroom ragu, barbecued pork tenderloin, actually tasty turkey burgers, broccoli (cooked to perfection, as in bright green, not army green), and a crisp, green salad.  All seemed to find something to please the palate.

Below find two I Phone photos of the nearly completed project.

 

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A Dearth of Italian

Mamma mia!  This must be withdrawal.  Tuesday mornings are bringing a sense of purposelessness.  I find myself wandering aimlessly on Tuesday AM’s without direction.  No Italian lessons for a month now and two more weeks to go!  To say nothing of missing the stops, post lesson, at Alterra for a latte and a scone.  With “la nostra insegnante” (our teacher) and family in Italia for a vacation, I fear I am becoming a little rusty.  That actually would be an understatement. Vocabulary seems to have leaked out to who knows where.  Either that or they are in an unmarked folder somewhere, lost in my cranium, because I can’t recall even well-known “le parole” (words).  There’s nothing like weekly lessons to stay on top of it.  Who am I kidding?  I’m never “on top of it”, but still I love learning this language.  Today I put the Italian bag with dictionary, notes, flash cards and homework on the porch, front and center, where it can’t be forgotten or ignored.  This strategy seemed to work because today we took out our homework and completed a decent amount.  That’s the tricky part.  Remembering it!  Vieni a casa, Carmela.  Abbiamo bisogno di te.  Come home, Carmela.  We are in need of you!

AARP magazine says, “Learning is like Rogaine for the brain.”  Catchy, but true.  Keith L. Black, M.D., chair of neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in L.A., says, “When you challenge the brain, you increase the number of brain cells and the number of connections between those cells.”  He’s referring to new things, not something already in the repertoire.  A foreign language is probably one of the more difficult choices one can make.  Taking music lessons, especially piano lessons, is an amazingly brain-healthy activity, requiring the brain to do several tasks all at once.  Try knitting or quilting something for a grandchild.  Have a grandchild teach you some computer skills.  Kids are usually way more proficient.  There are so many possibilities and opportunities to delve into.

Get back to me.  What have you chosen and how is it going?  Your foray into something new will be a shining beacon for the rest of us.  LOLing!

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A Perfect Salad for Those Hot Nights

Perfect in two ways. This salad with an Asian flavor says summer nights. The slightly sweet and tangy dressing is yummy combined with the noodles, crisp sugar snaps and grilled chicken. Reason #2. Prepare this salad early before the heat of the day arrives. Refrigerate and all that will be left to do at the last minute is to slice some fresh fruit as a side and voila’… supper is on the table.

Grilled chicken is a healthy choice, of course. And then there is olive oil. Olives have been around for five to seven thousand years and are one of the world’s oldest foods. We all have heard that extra-virgin olive oil is a better choice than other oils. But why? It is a mainstay of the Mediterranean diet and is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease. It supports the blood vessels and helps to keep them strong, seeming to help prevent platelets from clotting. The main fat in olive oil is monounsaturated, the highest percentage of all other oils. It seems to lower your total cholesterol and your LDL cholesterol (Remember “L” for lousy). There also appears to be a mechanism that lowers blood pressure. Recent studies have shown that extra-virgin olive oil reduces the risk of certain types of cancer, like breast, upper respiratory, and digestive. In addition, it has anti-inflammatory benefits; as little as one to two tablespoons a day of extra-virgin olive oil will have significant health benefits. Newer studies are pointing to better bone health and better cognitive functioning also.

Tips

  •  Extra-virgin olive oil contains far more healthy ingredients than other olive oils.   However, in the U.S.A. extra-virgin is not necessarily extra-virgin. Look for the initials COOC, AOC, or DOP on the label; then it will truly be extra-virgin.
  • Look for cold-pressed because little heat is used in processing.
  •  Buy it in tinted bottles because it will help prevent oxidation caused by exposure to light.
  •  Store it in a dark cupboard, away from heat sources.
  • Avoid pure olive oil because it is a blend of refined and unrefined oils.

Asian Noodle Salad

(serves 4 – 6)

• 12 ounces sugar snap peas or snow peas
• 4 ounces dried Japanese udon noodles
• 1 tablespoon sesame oil
• 3 green onions, white and pale green parts only
• 2 grilled chicken breasts, cut into strips
• 1/2 – 1 cup mango dressing
• 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Mango-Chutney Dressing

• 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/2 cup Major Grey’s mango chutney
• 1 1/2 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
• 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
• 1 tablespoon honey

1. Steam sugar snaps for a few minutes till bright green and crisp tender. Refresh in a bowl of ice water and drain.
2. Slice green onions thinly.
3. Cook udon according to package directions. Drain and mix with 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Set aside.
4. For dressing, whisk all ingredients together.
5. Add onions, sugar snaps, and chicken to noodles. Add dressing to salad and toss, reserving some dressing for drizzling on top.
6. Sprinkle on sesame seeds and serve.

 

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