Tag Archives: Healthy

Chicken Wrap with Spicy Greens

I’ve been working on our patio for a few months now trying to make it more functional and enjoyable.  It’s a narrow area that wraps along two sides of our house and much different than the half-acre of hillside we tended at our former house.  At first, the idea of having so much less to manage outside was attractive because we were busy with our jobs and moving closer to the ocean and a beautiful seaside community that would inspire us to get out more and enjoy weekends full of sun and fun.  But I’m a gardener — I always have been.  And as much as the weather is often quite gorgeous here, I’m content to spend time outside digging in the dirt.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t been very easy for the past few years.

A former owner had planters installed on the patio and made less than smart choices about what was planted in them, so now, several are completely root bound.  Old flagstone capping has loosened from the planter walls, much of it cracked or broken completely.  The fence, although beloved by my cats for its great scratching post qualities, was more a termite high rise.  Tearing it down took little thought.

I’ve always kept pots of annuals and herbs, and for the first time two years ago, began growing tomatoes in pots.  About a year ago, I put together a small herb box as well.  This year, one of the tomato pots has become a salad greens pot.  It may not seem like much, but I can tell you the snails would be quite upset if I ever got rid of the little herb box.  And this year, they’ve truly enjoyed picking out all but one variety of salad green from the new pot.  Who knew snails had such discriminating palates — erm — radula?

Even though my patio is small by suburban yard standards here, I could squeeze the few things I enjoy harvesting in an even smaller space such as a balcony if I had to.  In other words, it doesn’t take much to grow a few of your own veggies and or herbs.  I’d enjoy planting even more among the roses and succulents I’m currently planting in the newly filled, capped, and painted planters, but until those plants are established, adding anything edible to them isn’t advisable and may never be.  Hence, the pots I have are a great idea because I can move them around according to the seasons and sunlight.

My tomato plants are sporting grape-sized fruit, but the idea frying tiny green tomatoes isn’t as appealing to me as plucking some of the salad greens, a few leaves of the perennial bloody sorrel that continues to thrive, some wild arugula, and purple basil.

Perfect for a wrap with a bit of left over chicken and, if the patio was finished, a nice lunch outside with a good book.  All in due time.

Are you a gardener?  Do you have an outside space to relax in when the weather is pleasant?

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Shaved Asparagus and Pecorino Romano Salad

size matters

It’s Spring, so that means it’s officially time for asparagus even though it seems there is rarely a time that it isn’t available at the grocery store.  It’s probably one of our favorite vegetables,  so often in the “green & healthy” rotation around here for one meal or another if the price isn’t too crazy.  Most often, I saute it simply in olive oil with onion or shallots, a bit of garlic and lemon zest.  We bake it, grill it, enjoy it in soup, frittatas, omelettes, salads, and more often without hollandaise than with it.

As much as I pride myself on knowing quite a bit about the vegetables I enjoy, I was surprised to find out even more.

Ten Things:  Did you know that:

#1  asparagus is grown in the US states of Washington, Michigan, Illinois, New Jersey and California (which grows 80% of the nearly 200 million lbs. of the US crop). Otherwise, it’s grown extensively in Mexico, Peru, and China.

#2  it can grow as much as 10″ in 24 hours and that size does matter (the thicker the spear, the better the quality). The writer takes no responsibility for any connections the reader might make which are of a sexual nature.  *snort*

3#  asparagus contains glutathione (GSH) which happens to be the most powerful detoxifier in the body.

#4  the average American eats between 1-2 lbs. of asparagus per year as compared to 18.5 lbs. tomatoes.

#5  ancient Greeks and Romans thought asparagus might relieve a toothache or prevent a bee sting.

#6  asparagus contains rutin, a bioflavonoid vital to capillary strength and increasing circulation in the lower limbs.

#7  asparagus is a super source of folacin which helps not only with the duplication of cells, but growth and repair.

#8   it is a member of the lily family.

#9  after the asparagus harvest, the spears grow into ferns with red berries.

#10 asparagus is better suited to be grown locally more than any other vegetable.

Have you ever tried asparagus raw?  It’s my new favorite way to eat it.

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Vegetable Bean Soup

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I’m not sure how many years ago we started the tradition of taking a long weekend trip late in January, but it’s one of my favorites.  I think it all began when I figured out that the holiday presents other than clothing my husband received were rarely used, so I surprised him with a trip to Solvang one year.  The next year it was Monterey, and from that point on, we tried to find somewhere to go just to get away.  Sometimes the boy accompanied us, but most often, it was just the two of us.  One year we may have taken a plane, and the next we’d drive.  We’d talk occasionally about stretching ourselves to go somewhere we hadn’t been before — Monterey, CA is still our favorite — but the whole point of getting away is to relax, and when you’re the semi-unadventurous people we are familiarity facilitates that relaxation.

We don’t go as often as we used to since life isn’t as hectic, but this year my husband charged me with finding somewhere to go within a reasonable driving distance.  I’m thinking it’s because the patio is torn up and figuring what to do with it is a far less attractive option than heading off on a Friday afternoon for anything unrelated to a DIY project.  I don’t blame him.

I asked the boy what he thought, and without hesitation he mentioned Julian.  You may remember me waxing over this small town early last month, and since I’d toyed with the idea of gifting my husband with a get away there before moving on to something else, my research had already been done.

We’re back now, and as much as we might have enjoyed some sign of wintery weather, there wasn’t a trace.  Clear blue skies, dry air, and highs of 65 during the day welcomed us.  The cabin was nestled against a mountainside beneath huge cedars, young pines in the undergrowth, and massive coastal live oaks.  The persistent rush of water from a stream nearby was the only sound to be heard.  We hiked, cooked a little, played cards and Yahtzee, and enjoyed the quiet, our books, and one another’s company.   I took Tessa Kiros’ breathtaking book Falling Cloudberries:  A World of Family Recipes which I finally treated myself to after seeing it for the first time about a year ago, and  read through it over the two days.

When I open it to make one of the many wonderful recipes from now on, I’ll remember last weekend and smile.

Here’s a simple, delicious vegetable soup adapted from one of Kiros’ recipes.  It’s light and full of bright, fresh flavor that will warm you through and through.

Perfect.  Just like our weekend.

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Apple Butter

I’ve been wanting to make apple butter since last fall and knew when I saw the Rome Beauties at the market the other day, now was the time.  I don’t often see Romes here, but when I do, I think of all the lovely things I might cook, because they’re the perfect apple to cook with.  Their somewhat mild flavor intensifies richly with cooking.

Why apple butter?  Why not apple pie, or apple cobbler, baked apples, a pandowdy, buckle, or slump?

Outside of apple butter being another thing I can check off my “Made it Myself” list which threatens my sanity from time to time, it’s a flavorful fat-free substitute for butter on my morning toast.  Once in the habit, you don’t miss the butter.  I like to stir it into oatmeal or hot Grape Nuts instead of milk and sugar, and it swirls nicely into a cup of non-fat plain Greek yogurt with a sprinkle of granola.

When I started looking for a recipe, I was surprised to find most were loaded with sugar — sometimes as much as four cups.  I found one that contains far less and you can make it in the slow cooker like I did, or on the stove in far less time.

Make it on a chilly day when you want the whole house to smell sweet and spicy.  You’ll have the people you love wanting to know what you’re cooking.

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Cabbage Rolls

If you’ve asked a kid recently what his or her favorite food is, the likelihood of pizza or hamburgers being the response is fairly high.  But if you probed a bit expecting some thought about food coming from their own house — food that didn’t come from a box, frozen package, or needing to be microwaved, it could be a different story. Macaroni and cheese may be mentioned, and perhaps tacos or spaghetti  — unless the kid is like my youngest who surprised me when he was about eight with “mussels and clams in white wine sauce” after trying them at a restaurant in Monterey.   The chance of cabbage rolls topping his or any kid’s list is slim to none,  yet they were one of my favorites.

Maybe it was the tomatoes.

When I think about it, tomatoes factored into most of my favorite childhood dishes:  spaghetti, goolash (I’ll save that one for another day), stuffed bell peppers — yes, and pizza.  I love tomatoes in just about any form, so you can imagine my horror when I discovered other cabbage roll lovers enjoyed theirs prepared with sauerkraut.

Really?

I do like sauerkraut, because it is cabbage, and cabbage plays a pretty important role in, well, cabbage rolls.  But my palate suggests sauerkraut belongs on my favorite kind of hot dog — one that’s loaded with mustard, lots of onions, chili with beans, and a dollop of sauerkraut.  Bear in mind there should be so much of that tasty combo of flavors, the actual dog has to be difficult to find under it all or it hasn’t been made properly.

Cabbage rolls must be similarly slathered in tomatoes.

Although my version of cabbage rolls isn’t quite like those my mother made, stuffed with ground beef and rice, it’s close enough.  I’ve substituted turkey, wheat berries instead of rice, and sneaked in a bit of tangy feta.  Easy on the budget, very good for your body, not a challenge to put together — especially ahead of time — get your picky eaters to help you prepare it, and who knows?  You may have a convert on your hands.

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