Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Zesty Fresh Winter Pick Me UP!

Don't you wish you lived in California for all the beautiful fresh veggies all year round?  I often wished I had stayed in San Diego just so I could eat California cuisine every day.  Especially in the doldrums of winter.  Well, I didn't stay, and honestly, I couldn't be happier here in the Pacific Northwest.  From the fruits of the mountains, to the fruits of the sea, and let's not forget the fruits of the vine, the PNW is a foodies playground!  There isn't much we don't have readily available.  And beautiful, I might add!  I meander around the gorgeous fruit and vegetable displays at Whole Foods brimming with excitement trying to narrow down what will actually make it to my table.  If I could only bring it all home!  One of the beauties about living in a temperate climate...local produce, poultry, seafood, wine, cheese, olives...I could go on and on.  I think the best part of exploring the grocery store is finding what's local today.  Seasonal ingredients make you appreciate them each year and beg you to miss them when they're not in season.  The wafting smell of butternut squash roasting warms you in fall and winter.  The sound of fresh snap peas tease you in Spring.  And how can you not love the smell of burgers grilling on the Fourth of July!  The thought and the smell of these wondrous foods stir memories within each of us.  Memories of friends and family.  Food is that powerful!  And sometimes, in the depths of winter, you remember that fresh zest of summer and long for those ingredients.  Sometimes you just need a pick me up.  Everyone knows fresh lemon will always add that punch to those roasted veggies, or roasted chicken, but why not try something new?  Oranges?  They're readily available in winter.  Thank you Florida!  One of my favorite salads involves oranges.  Thanks to the brilliance of my Mom, who has invented this beauty, it has become a staple all year round in my house hold.  It makes a gorgeous presentation to boot.  The glistening oranges against the silky pale green butter lettuce will lighten any ones winter blues.  My Mom also loves to add some jewels to the salad at Christmas.  Pomegranate seeds.  They are like little rubies begging to be eaten.  And what a sweet punch they add.  The ingredients are simple, readily available and a perfect healthy addition to any ones table and tummy!

Orange Jewel Salad with an Orange, Balsamic and Dijon Vinegarette

2 heads of Butter Lettuce (1 Romain bunch is also wonderful)
2 Naval Oranges
1 Red Onion
1 Pomegranate (optional)

Wash and dry lettuce leaves.  Tear to appropriate size.  Zest one teaspoon from orange for dressing and set aside.  Slice both oranges into small bite size wedges.  Thinly slice red onion.  (a whole red onion is usually too much for just one salad, so use your judgement for how much you'd like).  Seed the pomegranate.  The best way to seed the pomegranate is to fill a mixing bowl with cool water, slice the pomegranate in half and place in the bowl of water.  Carefully pick the seeds out of the pith.  This way you won't get red pomegranate juice all over you and stain your clothes.

Orange Balsamic Dijon Vinegarette

2 Tbs. Frozen orange juice concentrate
1 tsp. Orange Zest
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
2 Tbs. Balsamic vinegar
1/4 - 1/2 cup Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a mixing bowl whisk orange juice concentrate, orange zest, Dijon mustard and vinegar together.  While whisking, slowly stream in olive oil.  Add more if dressing tastes too much of vinegar.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  One trick I like to use is to make the dressing in an old mason jar or food jar that has been washed and dried.  The Dijon mustard is a stabilizer for the salad dressing, so all you have to do is dump the ingredients in the jar, cover tightly and shake vigorously.  Then you have a storage container for your left over dressing.  Toss salad with vinegarette and serve immediately.  Enjoy!  This salad dressing is delicious on any salad.  In the summer time, any kind of berry is beautiful and delicious to add.  I particularly enjoy blackberries.  I hope this salad brings you as much joy as it has to the Anderson and friends household for years!

Now for the wine!  In the summer time, pair this salad with a crisp Gewurtztraminer or Pinot Gris and your palate will be delighted.  In the winter, I would enjoy this salad with a robust Chardonney (served slightly cool, but not refrigerator cold) or light and fruity Pinot Nior.  This salad pairs beautifully with a light cheese course and/or chicken, white fish or pork main course.  I have plenty of recipes to share, and I'm excited to share them all!

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Beginning Journey

I'm inspired!  Inspired to create healthy, delicious meals.  I haven't added it up, quite honestly, I'm afraid to! I'm sure I've thrown out hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars worth of ingredients and left overs in my life time.  Probably just last year could have topped one grand!  I believe the stats are that people throw away, on average, $500 worth of food (ingredients) every year.  I know I'm not alone.  I know you have thrown away the last of the milk because it's expired, or the last three yogurts you were sure you'd eat this week.  Bread that now could be mistaken for blue cheese.  Lettuce that is now so rotten it looks like a bad smoothie sitting on the bottom of your veggie drawer.  Who knows how old that jar of roasted red peppers in the refrigerator door are?  Or the ketchup for that matter.  How about the mayo?  Is it still good?  Smell it, maybe you'll know then!  Well, I took a vow this New Years.  A vow to be accountable.  Accountable to the food!  I'm a foodie, why shouldn't I be accountable to the ingredients I buy every week?  I buy these ingredients to create such deliciousness that my friends and family perform happy dances as they enjoy it.  Or simply, the ingredients I buy to make delicious, healthy meals for me to enjoy every week.  I love dancing with joy over a great dish, and I think the food does to.  The tomato deserves the respect of being eaten.  The roasted lemon chicken deserves the respect of not ending up in the landfill.  So, I start this journey.  
I'm single, so the journey should be simple, right?  Well, I'm finding it much more difficult than I thought.  Planning is key!  Sunday's are my day to plan and shop and cook.  I plan meals for breakfast, lunch and dinners that have common ingredients so they don't go bad.  I'm also keeping a folder on the refrigerator for all my receipts I spend on food.  I'm amazed at how aware it makes me.  How aware I am of exactly how much I'm spending at different grocery stores.  It's invigorating!  Just yesterday I did my shopping for the week, and by planning ahead and by taking note of prices, I saved $24.23 on my grocery bill!  Come on!  Usually you see at the bottom of the receipt a 5 Spot or even 10, but close to 25!  Now I'm proud of myself!  The biggest joy in this journey has surprisingly been the preparation of food.  I'm not taking the easy route and buying pre-made meals, or taking shortcuts by buying an already roasted chicken (although they are really delicious, and I'm sure I will several times this year), I'm buying ingredients to prepare my meals the old fashioned way...Homemade!  I have found that by making my own Pico de gallo, I have so much pride in my food as I enjoy it.  Don't get me wrong, for those of you that know me, I'm not one to buy ready made food anyway, but taking the time to plan and prepare is rewarding.  Chopping up the tomatoes, onion and jalapeno and creating a delicious garnish for my Mexican inspired meals this week brings me joy.  As I topped my omelet this morning with homemade pico de gallo, I smiled.  I knew that  the jalapeno smiled too!  
Join me in my exploration of my kitchen.  My frugal food finds, healthy creations and delicious cravings await!

A lighter side of Potatoes:  Cauliflower Puree

1 Head of Cauliflower
1 Tbs. Unsalted Butter
1 1/2 Tbs. Fat-Free Cottage Cheese
1 Tbs. Fat-Free Plain Greek Yogurt
3-4 dashes of hot sauce (I prefer Tapatio)
Salt and Pepper to taste.

Cut core out of Cauliflower and separate into florets.  Steam Cauliflower florets until fork tender.  Drain water.  Add butter, cottage cheese, yogurt and hot sauce.  Puree with hand blender (or transfer to a blender and puree).  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.  It can be stored in refrigerator for up to 4 days.  Makes 4 to 5 servings