Heirloom Tomato Simple Side

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Heirloom tomatoes are about to be finished for the season, but if you can get your hands on one I would highly recommend it.  A good tomato can stand alone on my plate, but sometimes it is nice to dress it up a little.  For a simple side we have been eating this summer I slice the tomato into big slices and dress it up a little.  It doesn’t get much easier or healthier.

I love the way basil matches with tomatoes, but don’t feel like you have to stop there.  I love chives when serving with a savory breakfast as pictured above or parsley when accompanying a sandwich.

Ingredients:

-1 heirloom tomato sliced thick
-1 Tbsp of good quality olive oil
-dash of Kosher salt
-1 Tbsp of fresh herbs roughly chopped or torn

Directions:

Arrange tomato slices on a plate and drizzle with olive oil.  Next sprinkle with herbs and kosher salt…done!

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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!

Summer Turkey Burgers

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Summer is almost here, which means grilling season is upon us.  There is something so magical about coming home from work and smelling the unmistakable fragrance of a hot grill.  Burgers are a classic and easy dinner option that can be put together and grilled in a pinch.  Turkey burgers are not as popular of a choice when grilling as traditional beef patty burgers, the main reason being the fat content.  As much as we don’t want to admit it, the fat content in a good beef burger is where all the extra juicy goodness comes from.  To get past this minor flaw, I brushed the outside of my burgers with avocado oil before grilling to instill some healthy fat into the patty and seal in some moisture.  I chose avocado oil because of its high smoke temperature, indicating to me that it would likely hold up to the heat on the grill well.  This did the trick, the patties turned out both flavorful and juicy.  My other idea was to incorporate some coconut oil into the patty itself, I haven’t tried this yet but imagine it would have a nice result.

The turkey burgers also tend to need a little extra kick in the flavor department.  The green onions and fresh thyme made for a nice flavor profile to these healthy burgers.  As my herb garden grows, I look forward to trying different flavor combinations in the patties.  For serving I chose a bed of lettuce and grilled vegetables, delicious and very healthy.

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Ingredients:

1 pound of lean ground turkey
1 heaping Tbsp of fresh thyme, center stem removed
2 green onions sliced, yellow and white pieces
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp of garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
avocado oil for brushing

Directions:

 

1. Mix ingredients together all except for avocado oil.

2. Separate into patties of your desired size and mold into thin disks.

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3. Brush outside with avocado oil and grill on hot grill (400-425 degrees) for 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the patties.   Internal temperature should be 165 degrees for eating.

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Enjoy and Eat Well!

Garlic Herb Ribs

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We make pork ribs as a year round dinner option.  There is something so great about knowing your dinner will turn out moist and delicious with minimal effort every time.  Usually I make them as the previously posted “Easy Oven Ribs” with a rib rub and spicy barbecue sauce.  Tonight I wanted to mix it up a little bit, making up a rub of my own that doesn’t have the traditional spicy barbecue flavoring.  With the drippings in the pan I made a gravy, but didn’t need it, so I will save it for some mashed potatoes or biscuits in the future.  The rub is pretty versatile, if you like it I would suggest making a large portion to use on chicken, pork, or even burgers storing in an airtight container at room temperature for quick use.

For a side I made a red cabbage and shaved brussel sprout coleslaw, using the same dressing directions previously posted for the “Summer BBQ Coleslaw”.

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp salt, just shy of full
1 Tbsp ground pepper, heaping
2 tsp onion powder, heaping
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried thyme, heaping
1/2 tsp celery powder
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp sugar

1-2 racks of meaty pork ribs
1 bottle of beer per pan

Directions:

1. Combine all dry ingredients, stir well.

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2. Arrange ribs on a shallow cooking sheet.  Season with rub, patting into surface of meat on both sides of the rack.  This rub is pretty potent and salty, so you don’t need to season too heavily.  Arrange meaty side up on the cooking sheet.

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3. Pour beer into the pan to completely cover the bottom and seal tightly with foil.  I used Stella, as I wanted a lighter beer flavor to pair nicely with the garlic herb rub.  You can use anything you want, I’d recommend a pilsner or other light lager.

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4. Bake in oven at 225º F for 4 hours; to speed up the cooking time without sacrificing moisture you can up the temperature to 285º F for 3 hours.

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To make the gravy with the drippings in the pan was so simple, and it seems such a waste to dump all that juicy goodness.  I poured the drippings into a small sauce pan and added 1/2 cup of water (adjust based on taste and amount of liquid reserved) to cut some of the saltiness, then thickened with corn starch as directed.  When I got the consistency I was looking for I added a small handful of diced shallots and almost a tablespoon of brown sugar.  Whisking together and simmering on low for about 5 minutes.  Really delicious, but like I said the ribs were so moist they didn’t need the gravy, so I’ll use it for another meal in the next day or two.  Biscuits and gravy for brunch?

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Enjoy!

Garlic Herb Stuffed Chicken


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This dish came together the other night when having my family over for dinner.  I needed to make something easy and hearty after a day of work.  I started by making a homemade red sauce with roasted red peppers to go over some whole wheat angel hair pasta.  While the red peppers were roasting in the oven I threw in a garlic bulb to roast, you never know when you will want roasted garlic.  I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with the chicken, but the breasts were really thick so I started by cutting slits through the center 3/4 of the way through.  Initially I did this planning to butterfly to cut down on cooking time.  Once I made the slit I decided to stuff them with herbs and garlic instead.  I cut a handful of herbs from my window garden and mixed them with the roasted garlic and cracked black pepper to make the stuffing.  Dabbed with butter on top, it baked perfectly staying moist and full of flavor.

I recreated this dish a few days later, to use up the remaining sauce.  This time I served it with spaghetti squash and topped with garlic sauteed mushrooms.  So good and so easy!  You can use any herbs you have on hand, I happened to use a different combination each time I’ve made this.

Ingredients: 

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2-4 cloves of roasted garlic
handful of fresh herbs, chopped (I used thyme, parsley, and chives)
1 tsp black pepper, more for serving
2-4 pads of butter
2 cups of fresh sliced mushrooms
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

Directions: 

1. Start by roasting your garlic:  cut the top few centimeters off the cloves leaving skin intact.  Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then loosely wrap in foil.  Place in oven at 400 F for 45 minutes.  This works well if you are roasting red peppers for sauce or spaghetti squash for serving.  Otherwise I try to roast garlic a few times a week so I have some on hand for use during the week.

2. Cut through the chicken longways nearly the entire way through, keeping it as one piece to stuff.

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3. Mix together your chopped fresh herbs, minced roasted garlic, and black pepper in a small dish.  Rub this mixture generously in the center of the chicken, then line the breasts in a small baking dish.

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4. Rub any remaining herb mixture on top of the chicken and dab with butter, be generous.

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5. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until cooked through.

2014-03-07 20.16.016. For serving I sauteed the mushrooms with 2 cloves of minced fresh garlic, 1-2 pads of butter, and red pepper flakes on medium/low for 10 minutes.

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Enjoy!