CONFETTI SALSA: A CELEBRATION OF FLAVOR

“…And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
stiffens and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its long blue shadows…”

-from Song for Autumn by Mary Oliver

I have always thought of October as nature’s last extravagant party before the mighty Michigan cool down. Upper Peninsula summer nights often grow cold by August. While each year I woefully morn having to shut down our pool, there are many gifts that come with autumn.

No matter how old I get, my heart beats a little faster when I see and smell a bouquet of freshly sharpened Ticonderoga pencils and remember how agonizing it was to wait to wear my new school clothes (especially the year my mom bought me Jordache jeans). This year back to school felt different due to the fact that we have many precautions in place to keep our buildings safe from Covid-19, yet, I am thankful that we have been able to come back face to face.

This fall our freezer is full of the bounty of our backyard: kale, spinach, beets, and chicken. Our pork is late this year since we had a difficult time finding a processor since our regular go-to place is backed up with so many orders. Since our area is rural, many people raise their own food and with the 2020 shutdown it appears that more people are realizing how important of a life skill it is to take responsibility for where your food comes from. I filled our pantry with canned green beans, spaghetti sauce, salsa, tomatoes, tomato juice, and pickles. Since childhood, one of my favorite kitchen fragrances is my grandmother’s recipe for dill pickle brine.

Autumn transforms our homestead with magical colors.

To celebrate and say goodbye to another gorgeous UP of Michigan summer, I am sharing a party worthy recipe. However, it’s equally superb (maybe even more so) when enjoyed solo on your favorite lawn chair as you study the activity in your neighborhood. Whether that means a crowd of noisy and giggly pre-teens showing off for each other, or as in my case, a strutting rooster keeping watch over his brood of warbling hens.

Instead of a standard tomato salsa, this salsa imparts a flavor burst with marinated beans. Therefore, it is hearty and the protein rich beans make it a satisfying snack or even lunch. It is a great wrap or sandwich filler and makes a tasty layer in a Mason jar salad. While it is especially fantastic with tortilla chips (my weakness).  I try to incorporate healthier low-carb dippers mini-bell peppers, cucumber wedges, celery or carrot sticks, or even a slice of salami or pepperoni.  

CONFETTI SALSA (this recipe will make a party sized bowl – so you may want to reduce it in ½ for a smaller portion)

  • 1 chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can white beans
  • 1 frozen package edamame
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 4 limes (juice and zest)
  • 2 jalapeno (finely chopped)
  • 2 large cloves of minced garlic
  • ½ cup of chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup of vinegar (I used raw apple cider vinegar)
  • 1/8-1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of vinegar (I used raw apple cider vinegar)
  • 1/8-1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • Homemade Taco Seasoning ( recipe to follow)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

HOMEMADE TACO SEASONING 

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

I use the entire batch for the salsa (2 ¾ Tablespoons), however, you may want to make extra for tacos. It keeps well in an airtight container or jar. 

Make sure you check my other healthy recipes in the tabs at the top of the page. As fall translates to winter, make sure you stay on top of your immune system and fill your plate with a rainbow of fruit and vegetables. Your skin, waistline, and energy levels will also thank you!

I love to sit outside and take in the beauty of our own personal paradise.

 

LOW CARB “POTATOLESS” SALAD: GUILTFREE INDULGENCE

“And all at once, summer collapsed into fall…” – Oscar Wilde

As summer draws to a close, having our health in focus is essential to living the best life possible. While being mindful of what we consume in cold winter months can be a challenge with comfort foods and less body conscious clothing, the cool weather brings countless holiday temptations.



This winter I have to be mindful of my intake of starchy carbs. I have noticed that my low-carb recipes have receive heavy traffic, therefore, I do not think I am the only one attempting to embrace this lifestyle. I have enjoyed the creativity that this method of dining has afforded me, and it’s my goal to convert some of my favorite foods into carb friendly options.

When I think of carbs, one of the first dishes to come to mind is potato salad. My grandma Hilda’s potato salad was scrumptious. The perfect balance of creamy and crunchy with just the right amount of tanginess (vinegar was a major ingredient of my childhood).

One of the nice things about making potato salad is a lot of the prep work can be done ahead of time. Since my family does not warmly welcome the idea of a low-carb way of eating, I can easily prep the ingredients and make two salads. The only extra step is prepping both potatoes and cauliflower. If you are bringing this dish to a gathering, you will win over many hearts by offering a Potato Salad and a Potatoless Salad without putting in extra work. 

While the cauliflower in this salad could be steamed or boiled, I decided to roast it to give the salad an extra layer of flavor. While cauliflower is rather “neutral” tasting (one of the reasons it is such a great replacement for rice, pasta, and potatoes) I roast mine with a sauce that gives a lovely nuance of flavor. I serve the roasted cauliflower as a side often and I use the same sauce to roast broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and root vegetables.

POTATOLESS SALAD

*1 head of roasted cauliflower (recipe for roasted cauliflower below)
*½ chopped green pepper
*¼ cup chopped onion
*3 ribs of chopped celery
*6 chopped hard boiled eggs
*1 cup of mayonnaise (substitute low fat options if you wish – Greek yogurt works as a great substitute)
*Tablespoon yellow mustard (or to taste)
*2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
*Chopped fresh dill (to taste – I added ¼ cup. A couple of tsps of dry will work as well)
*Salt and pepper to taste

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER

*1 head of cauliflower cut into small florets
*2 Tablespoons olive oil
*2 Tablespoons of soy sauce
*I Tablespoon Dijon mustard
*1 Tablespoon minced garlic
Roast the cauliflower for 60 minutes at 425 (Flip the cauliflower at 30 minutes). 

After roasting the cauliflower let cool and add all of the above ingredients. It is recommended to prepare the salad the night before to let all the flavors marry. 

While potato salad tends to be a summer option, I think it makes a great dish year round (especially when you are yearning for summer). Going easy on carbohydrate rich sides and entrees gives us a lit more room to indulge in a scoop of decadent ice cream or a piece of your aunt’s should-be-world-famous pies. I was skeptical about a “potatoless” salad, but the cauliflower seems to do the trick. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did. I would love to hear what you swap out for starchy carbs in your favorite meals.

CABIN FEVER SALAD: GREEK PASTA

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” 
― Philip Pullman

*Note – While it may be October, pretend it’s July. I wrote this in July for my monthly food column in a local magazine (Marquette Neighbors). Yesterday there were snowflakes in the air, so this afternoon I enjoyed time traveling back to July.

July, the sweet spot of summer. Vegetable gardens are planted and are showing promise, Lake Superior is dazzling us with apricot colored sunrises, and we are adjusting to a new way of living. We are a little more cautious, watching things closely from a distance, and hopefully are a lot more appreciative. 

The pond that my husband built for me (and our ducks) is my happy place.

I have heard many people humorously say that 2020 will go down in their memory bank as the year they made dinner 5,000 nights in a row. While I love to cook, it’s the dirty dishes that plague my heart and kitchen. Therefore, 2020 for me is the year that I am extremely thankful for a dishwasher (that runs daily). It is the year that I have had more time to experiment with my Recipes to Try board on Pinterest. It is also the year that I am even more thankful that we have chickens (we have the time to sit down multiple times a week for a formal family breakfast) and the year that my husband decided that maybe cabbage rolls are not as horrible as he thought they were when he was kid. 

The other day my step-son Lukas and I were surveying our yard and I was teaching him the names of the flowers that were in bloom. Of course, I seemed to have a story to go with each flower from my childhood. How my grandfather curated a frothy hedge of pink peonies and how their luscious, fragrant blooms riddled with ants turn me back into an eleven year old too.

Lukas and I get along well and I think it is because we both like to tell stories. Even more important, we listen to each other’s stories. This summer Lukas is obsessed with egg sandwiches and he loves to make different variations of them. However, he’s not too keen on vegetables, but he gives them an honest try. Everything except for beets. He refuses to accept beets and gives his head a fervent shake when I offer him a pickled one from the jar or a roasted one at dinner time.

Lukas always wants to know what recipe I am planning for my recipe column. For this month’s feature he decided no matter what the ingredients were, that it should have Cabin Fever in the title. He thought it was a title that would draw people in and would be relatable. I had to laugh and agree with him. While my husband and I are a little smitten with our log cabin tucked away in the wilds of Skandia, sometimes we too have to venture out and be social. That said, the recipe that I am sharing with you today is one that I often make for potluck and social gatherings. It is a crowd pleaser and one that I make often for my workday lunches or to have as a side with dinner.


CABIN FEVER SALAD – (Greek Pasta Salad)

*Pasta – 16 ounce box (I prefer a small pasta – like orzo, ditalini, or stelline. For this salad I was able to find a petite star-shaped pasta)
*Quart cherry/grape tomatoes halved
*Cup feta cheese (crumbled or cubed – I prefer buying a block and cubing it) –
*½ cup chopped onion (red, white, or yellow)
*Cup of kalamata olives halved
*2 cucumbers chopped (If garden fresh, I leave the peels on)
*1/2 green bell pepper chopped
*½ yellow or orange bell pepper chopped
*4 cups of greens (spinach, kale, or spring mix)
*Juice and zest of 2 lemons (If you make my homemade dressing, you can use the lemon in the dressing)
*Optional – handful of fresh chopped dill. A couple Tablespoons of fresh oregano and a little freshly chopped mint is also wonderful mixed in
*Dressing – I will share my Greek Vinaigrette recipe below. Though, when in a time pinch, I use store bought. I am partial to Newman’s Own Italian varieties or the Zesty Italian that you mix up from the dry packets)
*Salt and pepper to taste

GREEK VINAIGRETTE DRESSING

*1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of red wine vinegar (since homemade dressings can be made to suit individual tastes, I always recommend that you add vinegar to meet the level of tartness that you enjoy. If you prefer your dressings less tart you can add more olive oil)
*Juice and zest of one lemon
*1 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard
(I have also used spicy brown mustard
*1 clove of garlic
*1 Teaspoon red onion
(you can substitute with green, white, or yellow onion)
*1 sprig offresh oregano (Approximately 2 Tablespoons. If you are using dried use 1-2 teaspoons. Taste as you go and add more if desired)
*1/4 cup of olive oil (You can add more depending on taste. You could also skip the oil and add the oil directly to each salad, or to the jar, to maintain portion control)
*Salt and pepper to taste.

Cook the pasta, drain, and let cool before adding the rest of the ingredients and mix. If you are preparing for an event, make several hours (if not a day) in advance to let the flavors marry.

This recipe will make a LARGE batch, so you can halve or quarter the ingredients if you only want a few servings. It keeps well in the refrigerator for several days (it tastes better after sitting for a day or two) and it makes a great Mason Jar salad either layering the ingredients or mixing right up. Sometimes I whip up a batch after we make Shish Kebobs. I make sure to grill up extra skewers of vegetables (tomato, onion, peppers) to make a salad the next day.

I also tend to add less pasta, and add more greens, when I am making it for myself at home. However, I enjoy the texture pasta brings to the salad and it soaks up the dressing and makes it extra flavorful. You may find yourself having to add more dressing (depending on how much pasta you add). Sometimes if it seems “dry” I may add some olive oil, more lemon juice, or even raw apple cider vinegar.

In the summer, when growing my own greens, I am partial to kale over spinach. While we grow both in our garden, kale is much easier to grow. It does not go to seed like spinach and lettuce and I harvest the same patch from spring until fall.

I hope you enjoy this salad and that it helps cure any cabin fever that you may be experiencing. May you savor all the sweetness that July offers and take advantage of a slower pace to listen to the stories around you. Trust me, the Lukases in your life will thank you.

Lukas loves to help out in the kitchen.

Old Fashioned Sweet Pickled Beets

There is no love sincerer than the love of food. -George Bernard Shaw

On the eve of Valentine’s Day I wanted to offer you up a romantic recipe. Last year I made a luscious beet soup that my husband John did not find delicious. However, his reaction was memorable and I still laugh thinking about it. Needless to say, I will not be making him soup this year. I am still deciding on an entree, but I know that I will definitely make a leafy green salad with pickled beets, feta cheese, raspberries, walnuts, and a homemade lemon dill dressing.

The summer of 2019 will go down in my memory bank as the year of broccoli and beets. While my tomatoes took their sweet time to ripen, our freezer quickly filled with broccoli and I celebrated in growing the most gorgeous and lavish beets that I have ever laid eyes on.

As they say, the third time’s the charm, and this statement definitely applies to my beets this year. Two summers ago I could not get my beets to germinate in the ground and last summer rabbits devoured them as soon as the greens started to show forth. Thankfully, I am a stubborn woman and I did not surrender. Thus, I had a bounty of this lovely root vegetable to pickle and roast. 

My beautiful beets.
Earthy Beets

Beets do grow wonderfully in the climate of the Upper Peninsula. They love cool weather, so you can plant them late and harvest them up until the first frost. My mom taught me to harvest them when they are no larger than a tennis ball. Since they are a late crop you should still be able to find some locally at the farmers market and most supermarkets carry them in the produce section.

While beets are an acquired taste, many people who do not enjoy beets as a side vegetables seem to like them pickled. Many people that I have talked to reminisce fondly about a grandmother who was known for her pickled beets.

Thriving in the garden.

This fall was my first time pickling beets and it was much easier than I imagined. Working with beets can be messy work and I was delighted to see how easily the skin slid off after boiling them and immersing in cold water. An added benefit is the fragrant aroma of spices that fills your house. Pickling beets is a perfect activity for a crisp autumn afternoon, or on a cold winter’s day. Most grocers carry bunches of beets in the produce section year round.

OLD FASHIONED PICKLED BEETS
(The brine recipe rendered 3 quarts and 4 pints)

*2 cups of water
*2 cups of apple cider vinegar
*2 ½ cups of sugar
*1 teaspoon whole cloves
*1 teaspoon whole allspice
*1 stick of cinnamon
*12 large beets
*Canning jars and lids

Remove the greens from the beets. Since they contain a lot of nutrients I wash the greens and freeze for green smoothies. The greens are also wonderful tossed into soup or sauteed with garlic and olive oil and served as a side.

Beet greens for smoothies.

Cut the ends off the beets and boil until tender. Do not under cook the beets. When they are finished cooking immerse in an ice bath and the skins will slide right off.

While your beets are cooking you can prepare the brine. Allow the brine to come to a boil and keep it hot.

Slice the beets and pack into your clean canning jars. Pour the hot brine over the beets and leave a ½ inch of head room. Add your canning lids and rings. Since the brine is hot, the jars should seal without the help of a water bath. 

You can also make pickled beets without canning them. Simply follow the above directions and do not seal the jars. You can put them in the refrigerator. Wait a couple weeks for the brine to infuse the beets and they will keep for a couple of months. While pickled beets are a fantastic ingredient in a leafy salad, they also make a wonderful appetizer for gatherings. My mom always puts together a lovely festive tray with dill pickles, bread and butter pickles, pickled cauliflower, and these lovely beets. They also are a great hostess gift. One of my favorite ways to enjoy this delectable pickled vegetable is on a piece of toasted baguette with a smear of goat cheese that is infused with rosemary and a few crunchy walnuts.

If you do not already grow your own, you will want to add a row of beets to your garden next summer. Spring is fast approaching and it is the perfect time to browse seed catalogs, plan, and dream. If it is not possible to grow your own, make sure you frequent the farmer’s market to enjoy some locally grown beets. These pickled beets will help you savor summer all year long.

YEAR ROUND SUMMER SIMPLICITY – LATE NIGHT ZESTY BROCCOLI

“It was such a pleasure to sink one’s hands into the warm earth, to feel at one’s fingertips the possibilities of the new season.”
― Kate Morton

My ten-year-old stepson Lukas is the King of Questions. Not simple questions either. If you spend any time with young children you know exactly what I am talking about. Luke’s questions often border on the bizarre with a hint of gruesome thrown in. 

“So, Amy,” he inquires, “Would you rather swim with a shark or with an alligator?” “Would you rather be hunted by an invisible alien queen or a carnivorous dinosaur?” “Would you rather be trapped in a car without gas during a blizzard or in the path of tornado?” 

Therefore, I am always relieved when he asks me an easy question such as, “What vegetable would you choose if you could only eat one for the rest of your life?” Of course, when my response to him was that I would have a difficult time deciding between tomatoes and broccoli — he remembered our discussion last year that tomatoes were technically a fruit. So my answer had to undeniably be broccoli. 

For years broccoli has been a favorite. One of my college memories is of a Chinese take-out restaurant near the campus of Marquette University that my roommate Kat and I were known to frequent. Being frugal college students, and since the portions were large, we would share an entree. She would choose either Beef and Broccoli or Chicken and Broccoli. She would eat the meat and I would eat the broccoli. It was a perfect system and part of the reason that we lived together during all four years of our undergraduate studies. 

When I met my husband John, I was happy to discover that he shared my affinity for broccoli. Frozen broccoli became a staple in our grocery cart and it was one of the first vegetables that we planned for our garden. Since we have a hoop house, we are lucky enough to grow enough broccoli in the summer to last the entire year. We start our seeds in March, plant them mid-April, and for the past couple of years are able to start harvesting by the 4th of July. 

I can usually cut several heads of broccoli off of a plant before it starts going to seed. At that point I pull the plant and another takes it place. Therefore, once the seedlings go in the ground, I make sure to start another tray of seeds for backup. Most summers we are able to grow at least three individual crops of broccoli. 

I love when the seeds start to sprout!

To preserve I blanch the broccoli for three to four minutes (until bright green) in boiling water and immerse instantly into ice water. I then squeeze out any excess moisture and lay the broccoli out on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer for approximately 10 minutes. I then vacuum seal the broccoli in plastic bags which keeps it fresh all year long in the freezer. I find that freezing the broccoli, as well as squeezing out the moisture, makes sure that the vacuum bags seal properly without pulling the moisture into the sealing machine. 

I eagerly await the 2020 growing season.

Once we started growing our own broccoli, it would be hard to go back to store bought. The flavor of fresh out of the garden, or even garden fresh out of the freezer, is dramatically different. We use broccoli in pressure cooked meals, in green salads, as a simple side dressed with real butter and a splash of lemon and a sprinkle of sea salt, or even as a late night snack (our favorite especially in the summer). Truth be told, I am known to sneak out to the hoop house in my nightclothes to cut fresh broccoli, a few beans, and peas (if they are still growing) and whip up a batch with the seasoning mix I am sharing with you today. 

I think that meals and snacks should be fresh and simple, especially in the summer when our chore list is a mile long and we do not want to heat up the kitchen. Though this winter we’ve been turning to vegetables often as snacks to balance out winter’s comfort foods. After all, spring break is around the corner and we have a special bucket list trip planned.

LATE NIGHT ZESTY BROCCOLI

*1 head of fresh broccoli or one large frozen package (cut fresh into florets)

*Juice and zest of a lemon (you can use concentrate if in a pinch, fresh is always best)

*1 Tablespoon of soy sauce

*2 teaspoons of chili paste or to taste (found in the Asian food section. It can be spicy, so use an amount to suit your taste)

*teaspoon of olive oil or butter

*Optional – teaspoon of minced garlic. (Some chili paste already comes with garlic. However, you can always add some for good measure.)

Prepare the broccoli with your favorite method. When I use fresh I use the blanching method and with frozen I cook in the microwave for 3-5 minutes (depending on the amount I use). In a bowl add the lemon juice and zest, soy sauce, chili paste, garlic, and butter (the hot broccoli will melt the butter) or olive oil. Toss and serve warm. 

This sauce perks up other vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, green beans, or cauliflower. It makes a nice dressing for a cold salad and works well drizzle on vegetables before roasting. While most people may imagine a late night snack in the summer to be a creamy bowl of ice cream. Trust me on the broccoli. It if you also want something sweet then finish it up with a cool piece of watermelon, or in the winter, a juicy tangerine. It is a summer treat that you can enjoy year round. It is pleasing for the taste buds and the waist-line alike.

February is the perfect time to start planning your garden. I know that the seed catalogs have started to arrive at our house and the stores are starting to get the garden centers ready. Homegrown broccoli is a life-changing taste – you will be thankful all year long that you took the extra effort to grow your own.

Broccoli = Summer Year Round

ITALIAN HUMMUS SPREAD WITH SUN-DRIED TOMATOES, CAPERS, AND OLIVES

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
–Joy Harjo

While it is only mid-October, I know many people are making plans for the Thanksgiving holiday. November reminds us that our kitchen tables are a sacred space. A hub where we can gather with loved ones and celebrate in our abundance. In our home, the kitchen table is a verb and not a noun. In our house the kitchen table is a place where our children learn responsibility, and manners, by engaging in conversation, helping prepare meals, set the table, and helping clean up after. It is also the place where homework is mulled over, canvases are covered with paint, Legos are stacked, manicures are glossed, and dinosaurs are sketched. It is a place where our cell phones and tablets are put away and we give each other our undivided attention.

Growing up my family embraced visitors at our kitchen table with bottomless cups of strong coffee, homemade baked goods, and as a child it is where I learned to value of the power of stories. At times I was excused, if the conversation was not fit for small ears, but the majority of the time I was a welcome participant in a glorious mix of laughter and a legacy of tales from the past. The kitchen table is where we mourned the loss of my grandparents, welcomed the hearty appetites of friends who helped my father raise the trusses on our new home, and where my mom fed my teenage friends after the Homecoming dance.

I believe that the best meals are made with simple ingredients. Therefore, you will find recipes on my blog that are not complicated to make. In addition, I want to share food ideas with you that are wholesome and nutritious for your family.  In the spirit of Thanksgiving, this hummus recipe makes a great dish to pass at a gathering,

While protein packed hummus is often my go-to choice – it can get a little bland and boring – so I try to give it a boost with a variety of ingredients. If your hummus needs a little interesting nudge, I think you will enjoy this recipe.

ITALIAN HUMMUS SPREAD WITH SUN-DRIED TOMATOES, CAPERS, AND OLIVES

*Hummus (you can use store-bought or find the recipe that I use is below)
*1 teaspoon of dried oregano
*1/2 cup of chopped sun-dried tomatoes
*1/2 cup of chopped Kalamata Greek olives
*1/2 cup of chopped Italian parsley

*1/2 cup of chopped artichoke hearts
*1/4 cup of finely chopped red bell pepper
*1/4 cup of chopped green olives
*3 Tablespoons of capers
*3 Tablespoons of olive oil
*3Tablespoons of pesto 
(store-bought or homemade. In place of pesto you could also use finely chopped fresh basil)
*Loaf of crusty bread (you can also use crackers, pita bread, tortilla chips, or raw vegetables for dipping)

HUMMUS
*30 ounces of

*1/4 cup tahini
*1/4 cup lemon juice and zest
*1 garlic clove
*1 teaspoon cumin
*salt to taste

Stir in oregano, sun-dried tomatoes, Greek olives, and parsley into hummus.

*Note – in place of raw garlic I added one head of roasted garlic to my hummus.

If you have never roasted garlic before, you have to try it. Roasting garlic makes it sweet, mellow, and creamy.

ROASTED GARLIC

Slice the end off of the garlic bulb (the wider end). Drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and wrap in tinfoil. Pop into a preheated oven and bake for 30-40 minutes at 450 degrees (depending on your oven).

After roasting the garlic flesh will become soft and will slide right out of the bulb. It’s marvelous spread on bread, in hummus, and works well in any recipe that requires garlic. I always use all of my roasted garlic immediately, but it would keep well for a week in the refrigerator in an air-tight container.

 Spread hummus evenly on platter. Sprinkle on artichoke hearts and bell peppers. Drizzle with pesto and add the green olives and capers.

Slice bread, brush with olive oil, and toast in the oven or broiler until crisp. Serve and enjoy!

Hummus can be infused with endless herb combinations. Great additions are: avocado, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, roasted red peppers, feta, and goat cheese. Sometimes I like to add a little bit of nut butter and honey, and I love to whirl in pumpkin, roasted squash, or eggplant.

Other ideas for hummus are as a sandwich spread (or stuffing for a pita pocket), dollop on top of a green salad, or as a layer in a jar salad.

My wishes to you and your family as you necklace your kitchen and dining room tables to celebrate in your blessings. As we pass into winter and the season of hope, let us remember to be thankful all year round. We will make a space at our table for members of our community and break bread together.

Bruschetta – The Multifaceted Topping

“…star of earth, recurrent
and fertile
star,
displays
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit,
no husk,
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness.”
~Pablo Neruda

Is it just me — or do ripe garden tomatoes feel like nature’s apology that summer is almost over? My response is hearty forgiveness! In February I have dreams about tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes. In September and October my pressure canner seems to run round the clock, my salad plates are deliriously joyful, and I try to be present in the moment – because nothing compares to a juicy tomato fresh off the vine.

If you find yourself with an abundance of tomatoes this recipe will make your taste buds sing. While many traditionalists will say there is only one way to make bruschetta, I say be creative to your heart’s desire. While I love to top a crusty slice of Italian bread, if you are watching your starchy carbs – top a zucchini round, a portabella mushroom cap, spaghetti squash, or add a generous helping to your chicken or fish (either add before baking – or right before serving depending if you want the tomatoes raw or cooked). This recipe also makes a fine addition to a green salad (or layer in a Mason jar salad) or as an add-in to an omelet, crepe, pasta dish, or as a pizza topping. I use Parmesan and mozzarella in this recipe, but over the years have subbed goat cheese or feta as well.

BRUSCHETTA

  • 1 pint of cherry/grape tomatoes quartered (any ripe tomato will do. Grape/cherry tomatoes mean less cutting if you are in a time pinch.)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped Kalamata olives
  • ½ cup of chopped basil (fresh works best)
  • ½ cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup of mozzarella cheese (sliced or fresh mozzarella balls also work well)
  • 2 Tablespoons of chopped onion
  • 2 Tablespoons of minced garlic (roasted garlic works well in this recipe)
  • Juice and zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 Tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil

Mix everything together (except for the mozzarella cheese), and if you have time, allow mixture to sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours so the flavors marry (it will keep for several days). 

I like to toast the bread under the broiler for a few minutes (brush with a little olive oil and rub with roasted garlic if you desire). Top bread (or other ingredients) with the mixture (don’t forget to stir well and the drizzle with the flavorful juices), top with mozzarella cheese, and broil for 5 minutes. Enjoy!

If you are serving a large group, you can slice a loaf of bread in half and top each half with the mixture. I have used ready-made garlic bread (in the bakery or freezer section) and it made an indulgent side to a pasta dish!

As summer slips-through our fingers, do not forget to feast on what is fresh and ripe in the garden or farmer’s market. Share your abundance with a co-worker, friend, or neighbor and your heart will be double happy! Make sure you check out the tabs on the top of this page for more healthy and vibrant food ideas. 

 

 

Seasonal Simplicity – Squash

We do not have to look at the calendar to be reminded that the winter holiday season is upon us. Christmas displays started popping up in stores right along with jack-o- lanterns, while television commercials repeat a dizzying array of gift ideas. Not to mention that we all have that one friend on social media who has their Christmas shopping finished at the end of September. Unfortunately, I am not that friend. Though every year I want to be.

Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” As my husband and I try to become more self-sufficient in our food production, I have embraced the idea of rustic elegance when it comes to meals. Not only does it suit the farm-to-table lifestyle, but it can be an efficient way to cook.

I welcome food prep that can carry over into a variety of meals. Cooking in bulk can
serve a busy schedule well – especially during the hustle and the bustle of the holidays. For example, a large pan of roasted Brussels sprouts can be a healthy holiday side dish and the leftovers can hearty up a breakfast quiche, add flavor to a spinach salad, or be an unexpected addition to a pasta dish (and with the time you save you can wrap up those last minute gifts).

One of the foods that has come a long way from the bad rap that many of us gave it as kids, is squash. Not only does it grow easily in a garden, but it will keep a long time (several months) when stored in a cool place. If you do not have a green thumb, you can find a wide array of squash in the supermarket.

While I am known to use spaghetti squash as a healthy alternative to pasta, I enjoy preparing butternut and acorn squash. Both can be served whole (or more accurately halved) and they can be stuffed with a variety of ingredients (think rice, quinoa, or farro. Nuts, dried fruit, and even sausage). The squash can also be cubed and roasted, or even mashed. Since it can be prepared ahead of time, you can warm it up or serve cold as a salad. As long as you have the oven turned on, you might as well prepare a few extra squash and puree the leftovers with broth (and cream if you’re feeling indulgent) for soup (I also like to add apples to butternut squash soup).

Since both butternut and acorn squash are quite hard and difficult to cut, I prepare them whole: Pierce Butternut Squash and place in a baking dish (add a couple of cups of water to bottom of the dish)

Roast squash for 30-45 minutes at 400 degrees.

Peel squash and remove seeds. If you want to cube the squash and roast it, you could prepare using the above technique for a shorter amount of time until it is soft enough to cut easily. Once you have the squash cut, drizzle with olive oil and spices and roast until slightly caramelized and soft.

I recommend serving squash on a large serving platter. For a real rustic feel, do not peel but “scoop” the squash to serve.

A great accompaniment to squash is roasted cranberries, walnuts, and a homemade
Pumpkin Vinaigrette. The vinaigrette also makes a fantastic dressing for a green salad and it will keep over a month in the refrigerator.

Roasted Cranberries:


If you have never roasted cranberries before, you are missing out. Not only will your house smell amazing, but the sweet-tart flavor is astounding. Plus, you control how much sugar you want to use. You might want to make a triple batch (or more). Roasted cranberries are delightful as a topping for oatmeal (hot or refrigerator oats) and they make great appetizers (serve on toasted French bread or crackers with brie or goat cheese).

The sweet tart flavor of cranberries is incredible in refrigerator oatmeal.

*Bag(s) of cranberries (fresh or frozen)
*Juice and zest of one orange
*1 teaspoon of rosemary (more to taste)
* 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (more to taste)
* ¼ cup of honey (to taste. You can also use maple syrup or brown sugar)

 Roast for 20-25 minutes at 375-400 degrees
 Serve warm or cold (as they cool they will thicken)

Pumpkin Vinaigrette:
(make sure you check out the recipe Apple-a- Day Mason Jar Salad that
incorporates this dressing)

* 1/2 cup of vinegar (I use raw apple cider vinegar. You may want to vary the amount of
vinegar based on how tart you like your dressing. I recommend adding a little bit at a time
and tasting the dressing as you go)
* 3/4 cup of pumpkin
* 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
* 1/4 cup of water (the dressing tends to be thick so I thin it out with water. You could add
extra vinegar.)
* 1 large clove of garlic
* 1 lemon ~ juice and zest
* 3 green onions (you can use a Tablespoon of regular onion)
* 1 inch of fresh ginger root
* 1 Tablespoon of pure maple syrup (you could also use honey)
* 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
* Salt and pepper to taste

Blend dressing until smooth. The combination of sweet, savory, tart, and spicy ingredients make it a pleasing combination.

This holiday season I hope you find many moments to make memories with your friends and family. If you are responsible for preparing a feast, remember that many foods can be made in bulk to serve many recipes and save precious time. Keeping our menus simple and rustic, does not mean that we have to sacrifice taste. Nature provides us with complex flavors and textures. One of the best gifts that you can give loved ones this year is a meal cooked with fresh and wholesome ingredients. From The Waldo family to yours – may your table be filled with holiday blessings!