Dill Potato Salad

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Summer is all about salads, and potato salad is no exception to the list.  While I love a healthy and fresh salad devoid of cheese and creamy dressing, sometimes a little creamy potato salad is just what the meal needs.  Especially when you are serving a main course straight off the grill.  I have an abundance of dill left over from our CSA this weekend and I needed a side to bring to dinner tomorrow night.  Potato salad is the best crowd pleaser I could come up with.  I started with a simple base and a combination of yukon and red potatoes to make this creamy and tangy masterpiece.  With the 4th of July coming up, I would recommend this as an easy and cost effective side.

Ingredients: 

3-4 medium size red skin potatoes
2 medium size yukon or golden potatoes
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
2-3 Tbsp light cream
1/4 cup of red onion, diced
1/4 cup of green onion, sliced green and white pieces
1/4 cup of dill, minced
1 Tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Directions: 

1. Bring the potatoes to a boil, whole, let boil for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5-10 more minutes until just fork tender but not completely cooked.

2. In a bowl combine mayonnaise, cream, red and green onion, dill, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

3. Drain and dice potatoes into 1-1 1/2 inch cubes based on preference.  Allow to cool and mix with mayonnaise mixture.  Serve that day or refrigerate for up to 2 days.

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Note: You may want to change out the dill for another herb of choice, but I think the dill is perfect.  You can also add some diced bacon for a meat lovers option, I think this is called German Style.  If you notice the potatoes absorb all the moisture on day 2, make up a little more mayo mix and add to potatoes.

Enjoy!

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Tangy Herb Vinaigrette

2014-06-22 19.04.51 Our summer CSA has been full of greens for salads, which means I was in the market for a new dressing to spice things up a bit.  This dressing is tangy and using the Vitamix makes it smooth and creamy without adding any dairy.  I adapted this vinaigrette from a recipe for pasta salad, but it pairs well with a classic summer salad topped with fish, chicken, or just veggies.

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Ingredients: 

1/4 cup of Avocado oil or another vegetable oil
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/3 cup of red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 Tbsp of chopped dill
1 clove of garlic
dash of salt and pepper to taste

Directions: 

1. Add everything to the Vitamix and blend increasing to high until smooth and creamy.

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I used fresh parsley and dill, however I am looking forward to trying out other herbs to change the flavor profile: basil, thyme, cilantro, oregano, chives or whatever you are growing in abundance.

Enjoy and Eat Well!

Easy Summer Chicken Salad

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Chicken salad is such an easy and seemingly fancy meal to serve at a picnic or pack for lunch.  With a good quality and flavorful chicken, keeping the recipe simple is better.  Today I used a bunch of the beautiful dill we got in our crop share and leftover smoked chicken to make this quick lunch.  I will be starting to post a few of our smoker recipes in the near future, as it is our newest cooking obsession.  If you don’t have homemade smoked chicken you can use grilled, roasted, or even baked chicken for your salad.  This is a great way to recreate your leftovers into an entirely new meal.

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Ingredients: 

1/2 smoked chicken, pulled and diced
1/3 cup of mayo (more or less for desired consistency)
handful of dill chopped
1/8-1/4 cup of red onion, diced
salt and pepper to taste

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Directions: 

Combine all ingredients together and serve over a salad, on bread, or wrap!

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NOTE: You can substitute other herbs if you don’t have dill on hand, such as thyme, cilantro, basil, parsley, chives even mint.  Green onions are a nice addition to this in a wrap and of course some tomatoes and avocado to get some extra vegetables on your plate.

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Lemon Rainbow Chard

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This summer we have opted to join a crop share to see what all the fuss is about.  You know, supporting local farmers, eating fresh, choosing organic, and my favorite part which is eating what is in season.  We are proud to have chosen Genesis Growers Farms (www.genesis-growers.com) with our pickup at the Saturday morning Green City Market.  Along with the medium size box of farmer’s choice fruit, produce, and herbs we have also elected to get 1 dozen eggs.  So far I have to say the eggs are my favorite thing.  The taste of fresh eggs over store bought is almost criminal.  Especially for me who would put an egg on anything.  In our first box we got some Rainbow Chard that was just beautiful.  Interestingly enough I have never bought chard before, so I needed to do a little research before making a dish.

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Chard is in the same family as beats and is similar to kale and spinach in flavor/cooking options.  Typically chard is cooked to soften some of the bitter flavor of the greens, but can be eaten raw.  I found the greens to be more flavorful than spinach when cooked and softer than kale.  Chard is a nutritious little green to add to your life, rich in vitamins A, K, and C as well as a minerals, dietary fiber, and protein (according to Wikipedia).

A lot of the recipes I looked at sauteed the chard with lemon or garlic, and quite a few used fresh ginger.   This got me thinking, as I have a robust amount of lemon thyme already growing in my “garden” I went the lemon and garlic route.

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Ingredients:

– 1 large bunch of Rainbow Chard (stems and greens separated and diced)
– 1-2 cloves of Garlic, minced
– 1 Tbsp of fresh Lemon Thyme with center stem removed, use regular time if you don’t have lemon thyme
-1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes (optional)
– 1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil, or sauteing oil of choice
– 1/4 to 1/2 Lemon, juice

Directions:

1. Cut the chard stems into 1/2 to 1/4 inch pieces, separated from the greens.

2. In a heavy skillet on medium heat, saute the chard stems in olive oil with the garlic, half of the lemon thyme, and red pepper flakes.

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3. Allow to cook for 3-4 minutes until stems are soft and fragrant.

4. Add the diced chard greens to the pan and stir in.  Cover and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring as needed.

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5. Spritz with fresh Lemon, garnish with remaining lemon thyme, and serve hot.

Enjoy and Eat Local!

Growing Basil

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For the first herb in the herb series I feel compelled to pick Basil.  It is easy to grow, packs a big punch, and generally is an approachable herb to both grow and use.  I have found however that most people do not have a clue as to how to grow basil and how to keep it up for a summer of use.  I cringe every time I hear someone say in May (or ever really) that their basil is already flowering, or that they were so excited to pick off one or two huge leaves from the bottom of the plant.  When you are growing herbs, it is always important to cut them so the plant is stronger from the harvest, not weaker.  With basil this is so easy to do and easy to mess up.

There are may varieties of basil, I have always stuck with the traditional sweet basil that is commonly found in Italian cooking.  The plant is fast growing, enjoys high heat and lots of water and sunlight.  Basil is also a bit finicky, if it starts to dry out the leaves will quickly start to wilt and droop (in the matter of a day or hours).  But don’t worry, it will respond quickly to a good watering.  If you don’t get a lot of sunlight, or notice the temperature dropping too sharply at night time you may want to change the location of your plant or bring it in for night time early in the season.  Basil is actually a tropical plant, so northern cold temperatures and shade are not going to result in much bounty.

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Believe it or not this top picture is my basil about a week after planting.  I put them outside and the wind and cold really wilted and damaged the plants.  I had to stake them up to keep them from drooping all the way over.  With careful watering, protection from the high winds, and sunlight they turned into the picture below in just 2 more weeks.

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Some ways to retain moisture without opening the door to fungus or mold (which basil can be prone to) are to put a layer of mulch around your plants and be sure to not over crowd the plants when you have several in a pot.  It’s also important to water at the base of the plant, don’t get the leaves all wet.  On a hot sunny day the water on basil leaves can actually damage the fragile leaves.

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When it comes to picking your basil for use, be sure to avoid picking the biggest yummiest looking leaves from the bottom of the plant.  Those leaves are the primary solar panels that are powering your plant.  If you pull them off you risk losing the entire plant, especially if it is young.  You always want to pick by pinching off from the top 1 to 2 inches of growth just above a split.  You will find that once you do this, you will get two big shoots out of the joint you picked above and essentially will double the growth.  When this grows up high enough you can do the same thing to this new growth…this is how you get a basil plant that is 1-2 feet high and bushy.

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My basil plant from last year at the end of the season

If your plants starts to flower on the top it is “going to seed” or “bolting”.  You want to stop this, as this is your plant getting ready to shut itself down and prepare for next year.  The rest of the leaves will get bitter tasting, and lose that magical sweet quality.  You need to get ahead of the flowering by pinching off the plant a few inches below where the flowering started.  The more you use basil the more energy it will put into making delicious leaves for you to use, which is what you want.

As I mentioned in the last post, make sure you fertilize your soil however you feel most comfortable to keep the soil in the pot nutrient rich.  Yellow and flavorless leaves are often a sign that you need more nitrogen in the soil, which you can replenish regularly with fertilizer.

Now that you have a beautiful and healthy basil plant, you can start putting it to work in the kitchen.  Basil is extremely versatile, you can add it to salad, smoothies, cocktails, sauces, pizza, fish, poultry, the list goes on and on.  You can dry it, freeze it, or make it into a pesto when you start to have too much.  I can’t wait to start sharing more recipes with basil over the summer.

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Check out some of my previous recipes that involve fresh basil:

Pestohttps://seasonsforcooking.com/2013/09/14/end-of-summer-pesto

Basil, Lemon, and Jalapeno Pestohttps://seasonsforcooking.com/2013/09/05/basil-lemon-and-jalapeno-pesto

Coconut, Strawberry, and Basil Smoothiehttps://seasonsforcooking.com/2014/01/04/coconut-strawberry-and-basil-smoothie

Mango and Mint Smoothiehttps://seasonsforcooking.com/2013/09/22/mango-mint-smoothie

Whole Trout Dinnerhttps://seasonsforcooking.com/2013/08/26/whole-trout-dinner

Spinach French Toast with Tomato Topping  – https://seasonsforcooking.com/2014/04/08/spinach-french-toast-with-tomato-topping

Light Spinach and Artichoke Diphttps://seasonsforcooking.com/2013/10/26/light-spinach-and-artichoke-dip

Spicy Spaghetti Sauce with Turkey Meatballshttps://seasonsforcooking.com/2013/10/11/spicy-spaghetti-sauce-with-turkey-meatballs

Meaty Lasagnahttps://seasonsforcooking.com/2013/09/18/meaty-lasagna

 Enjoy and Cook Well!

How to: Planting your Herb Garden

2013-04-28 15.01.39 If you haven’t already noticed I love using fresh herbs in my cooking.  The flavor is unbeatable and takes your home made dishes to a whole new level.  With summer around the corner fresh flavors are what we are all craving.  Why not spice up your meals with a sprinkle of chives, basil, thyme or mint?  This is my first installment of what will hopefully turn out to be a fruitful series on home grown herbs.  How to grow, harvest, and use these potent plants to enhance your cooking and way of thinking.  Keep in mind this is based on my experiences, I am by no means a botanist or herbalist.

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If you are buying herbs from the store you know how quickly they expire and how expensive this becomes over time.  Growing your own herbs is a great way to keep an endless supply at your disposal.  We don’t have much outside space, but I utilize every bit that is there to grow a small selection of my favorite herbs.  If you don’t have outdoor space to let your herbs grow, try
growing indoors along a window where you get a fair amount of sunlight.

2013-04-29 11.53.41A few shots of our balcony herbs last year.

 

I have to grow my herbs in pots as our outdoor space is a metal balcony, 4 stories off the ground.  When I think about it this is actually an ideal arrangement (or at least that is what I tell myself) for several reasons.  First, I can easily move my herbs indoors when the weather gets cold to maintain and use for the winter.  Second, most herbs are actually weeds and spread like wildfire.  When they are contained in a pot, you can keep control of growth.  Last but not least, I can move the pots around to redesign our outdoor space easily.

What to do and know:

Once you decide on the herbs you want and get your starter plants home, you need to pick out a good pot.  Beyond basic aesthetics you want to have a pot that has a hole in the bottom to allow excess water to drain.  If the water can’t drain from the pot you run the risk of the roots being too wet and molding = yellow dying plant.  Keeping a plate under the pot will keep it from making a mess when you water.  I use a few different styles of pots, but always go back to the trusty and cheap clay pots pictured below.  Make sure the pot is big enough as well, you want the roots to have room to grow as your plant grows.  I try to pick a pot that will be about as large as the plant itself when it is full grown.  Bigger is better.

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Prepare your pot by putting a few rocks on the bottom to assist with water drainage and to keep the soil from falling through that nice hole in the bottom.

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Now for the soil.  I use a standard potting soil that comes with fertilizer that claims to feed the plants for up to 9 months.  This is where people get creative.  I have heard of mixing in egg shells into the soil, peat moss, news paper, vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, the list goes on and on.  I can see the merit in this, but to be honest I’m not that intense.

Fill your pot 3/4 of the way full with soil, take your starter plant out of the tray and make a little hole large enough for the bulb.  A little trick I learned is to breakup or unwind the roots after you pull it out of the tray.  The idea here is that the roots in the tray are typically wrapping around in a circular motion that if not broken from this growth pattern can eventually strangle the plant as the roots continue to grow in this direction.  You want the roots to spread out into the new space you are providing, so loosen them up to let that happen.

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With your new plant in the pot, fill in any spaces left with soil making sure to leave a little space between the top of the soil line and the top of the pot.  You will appreciate this extra space when you water.  Gently pat the soil down, be careful not to pack to hard.

Now you want to water, water, water your new plant to let it settle and start to grow!

A few basic tips on providing the best care to your little baby plants:

1.You have to water them pretty much daily (I water first thing in the morning).  The reason is that these pots are of a confined space so there is only so much soil and so much saturation.  Growing plants need a lot of water to not only survive, but thrive.  You don’t have to worry about over watering, as the excess water will run out the bottom.  Keep in mind these pots will get hot in the sun and water in the soil will readily evaporate further depleting your roots from water.  On hot days, you will want to consider watering twice a day.  I know, needy little suckers.

2. Fertilize your plants with some sort of supplement, I use miracle grow powder that I add to the water every two weeks.  You want to keep the soil nutrient rich to give your plants what they need to stay healthy.  Yellowing leaves or loss of vibrant color is typically a sign that you need to fertilize.

3. Use your herbs!  When you cut your herbs back for use they come back two fold with new growth and you keep maturation at bay so the plant doesn’t go to seed.  With most herbs, there is a right and wrong way to harvest them…we will cover this further as the herb series continues.

What am I growing so far this summer you may ask, well let me tell you:

-Chives
-Basil
-Mint
-Lemon Balm
-Rosemary
-Thyme
-Lemon Thyme
-Curly Parsley
-Sage

The summer is just starting and I’m sure I’ll find a few more plants I want to have around, like tarragon and oregano…if only I can find the space!  Let me know what you have growing!

Enjoy!

Dijon and Chive Grilled Chicken

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While I was home this past weekend at my parent’s house my mom supplied me with some very delicious fresh herbs.  And when I say some, I mean a seriously hefty amount.  I am going to start up an herb series to help everyone get their own herb garden started and give you ideas of what to do when you are faced with a large amount of fresh cut herb goodness.  Herbs are such an easy way to add flavor and spice to your food without the calories or fear of processed chemicals.  Before I get the series started I wanted to share this amazing chicken recipe.

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In a traditional glaze, which I typically use with a ham, I combine some sort of sugar (brown sugar, regular sugar, honey, agave, etc) with a mustard (honey mustard, yellow mustard, brown mustard, dijon mustard, you get the point), and maybe a splash of citrus (lemon juice, pineapple juice, orange juice, etc).  Today I wanted to use my abundance of chives, so I combined agave and dijon mustard with a small handful of fresh cut chives.  The result was fantastic.  It turned our grilled chicken into a flavorful and juicy treat.  I drizzled the extra glaze over the finished product, you can thicken it with some mayo or greek yogurt if you want a creamy gravy for on top.

The key to a sugary glaze is to hold off on adding it to the meat until the last few minutes of cooking.  The sugars will get activated and can burn if you put it on too soon.  When added at the end and given a few minutes to adhere to the meat, you will get the full benefit of the glaze and you will also seal in moisture!

Ingredients:

2-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
3-4 Tbsp of agave (or sugar of choice)
1-2 Tbsp of dijon mustard (or mustard of choice)
1-2 Tbsp of fresh cut chives
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  If you want to cut back on cooking time and increase glaze coverage, either butterfly the breasts or beat with meat hammer.

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2. Mix together agave, mustard, and chives in a small bowl.  Adjust proportions to taste preferences.

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3. Grill chicken on a hot grill (around 400-450 degrees).  In the few minutes before the chicken is fully cooked glaze on all sides and finish cooking until center reaches 165 degrees.

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4. Drizzle with extra glaze if desired.

This goes really well over a salad or with a side of grilled vegetables for a complete healthy meal.  Don’t forget you can eat the flower of the chives as well.  Just remove the center stem and sprinkle over your salad or chicken for a little extra chive flavor!

Enjoy and Eat Well!