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

Broccoli & Zucchini Jar Salads with Creamy Cucumber Dill Dressing

Broccoli & Zucchini Jar Salads with Creamy Cucumber Dill Dressing by Produce with Amy“We need space to be productive, we need places to go to be free.”
― Laure Lacornette

My promise to you, and myself, is that this post will be short and to the point. My weekend to-do list is lengthy and I have many new and healthy recipes to share.

Since I started posting Mason jar salad recipes a couple of years ago, they have been the most popular recipes on my blog. Weekly I receive comments, questions,  and messages of thanks. I love hearing from my readers and it fulfills me to know that my recipes are helping others eat more fruit and vegetables and embrace a healthy lifestyle. Believe me – you help me too!

Glowing Green Mason Jar Salad with Avocado VinaigretteIf you are new to Mason jar salads I recommend that you read this post for tips: Mason Jar Salads: Fresh, Visually Appealing, and Versatile.

I also have to give a huge shout-out and thanks to Tammy at Organize Yourself Skinny for linking my Glowing Green Mason Jar Salads on her post The Ultimate Mason Jar Salad Tutorial and Recipe Round Up. What an honor it is to be included in one of her posts.

For today’s salad I spiralized zucchini to add to the bottom layer and marinate in the dressing. While I am not a fan of kitchen gadgets, I love my spiralizer and this weekend I will be using it to cut ribbons of zucchini to incorporate into a vegetable lasagna (instead of pasta). Here is a link to the spiralizer that I purchased: Paderno World Cuisine Spiralizer.

The dressing in this salad is one of my favorites and I shared it in a previous post. The combination of cucumber and dill is one of my favorites: Creamy Cucumber & Dill Dressing.
Creamy Cucumber and Dill Dressing

BROCCOLI & ZUCCHINI JAR SALADS WITH CREAMY CUCUMBER DILL DRESSING

I divided the following ingredients in this order in 7 – one quart Mason jars:

*4 Tablespoons of Creamy Cucumber Dressing (link to recipe above)
*1 medium spiralized zucchini (you could also slice the squash)
*Sunflower seeds (I added 2 Tablespoons per jar)
*1 quart of halved cherry tomatoes
*1 head of chopped, blanched broccoli (to blanch broccoli I bring a pot of water to a boilBlanched Broccoli and immerse the chopped broccoli and cook for 3-4 minutes. I take out of the boiling water and instantly immerse in a bowl of ice water. The ice water shocks the broccoli and it is lightly cooks, turns bright green, and retains some of its crispness)
*Romaine lettuce
*Croutons (the croutons were an experiment. They did get soggy after sitting in the jars for a few days. I did not mind this since it reminded me of a panzanella salad. However, if you want your croutons crisp – I would recommend leaving them out and add them right before eating your salad)

Pin this recipe HERE.
Broccoli & Zucchini Mason Jar Salads with Creamy Cucumber Dill DressingThe dressing in this salad works well with the broccoli and zucchini and I hope that you enjoy it. I love being able to prep salads once and being able to eat healthy all week. This weekend I am creating a new jar salad recipe with an autumn theme. It will feature crisp apples and a glorious pear dressing – so stay tuned.

In the meantime, make sure you check out my other Jar Salad Recipes. Thank you for stopping by and please feel free to share my recipes with others. I would love to hear from you. Healthy food prep may take time but remember that we are worth all the hard work. Cheers to our health!

Produce with Amy


 

Verdant Salad with Spring Green Vegetables

Verdant Salad with Spring Green Vegetables ~ Produce with Amy“If you wish to make anything grow, you must understand it, and understand it in a very real sense. ‘Green fingers’ are a fact, and a mystery only to the unpracticed. But green fingers are the extensions of a verdant heart.” 
― Russell Page, The Education of a Gardener

April 4It feels a bit outlandish to be sharing this recipe today.  A few weeks ago in the creation process, I imagined finishing this blog post on a clear spring day. The kind of day that makes you want to rush out and hang freshly laundered sheets on the line and brew up a pitcher of iced green tea with fresh mint leaves. I should have know better.

As I type, Mother Nature is brewing up a storm with violent snow squalls and over a foot of snow is predicted across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. At least I know that I am not alone when I say that I am aching for green grass, spring flowers, and the opportunity to poke seeds down into a plot of damp earth. Instead, today I made the most of a quiet house and replaced visions of iced tea with a steaming bowl of homemade Hot & Sour Soup and watched with wonderment the blizzard churn outside.

In preparation of the storm I did go to the grocers yesterday. Our freezer was rather bare so I made soup for the whole month and froze all but a few servings.

A sampling of yesterday's produce on the kitchen island and my husband upcycled from an old table.

A sampling of yesterday’s produce on the kitchen island and my husband upcycled from an old table.

Shellac ManicureYet, I did not forget that it was spring break and before the chore of shopping and food prep, I did treat myself to a shellac manicure.

My friend Jackie Johnson has been working her magic on my nails since fall and I find that a manicure perks up my mood and gives me something pretty to anticipate. Each time I go, I love to pick out a different color and this week was no exception. I decided that with gray skies and giant snow banks in the horizon, the brighter the color the better, and I indulged in a vibrant orange hue. The color speaks to me the intensity of spring tulips after a long winter and feels as fresh as juicy citrus.

ManicureIncidentally, if you are in the Marquette, Michigan area ~make sure that you make an appointment with Jackie at Lakeshore Skin Care. Jackie’s new clients get 20% off for the first visit with her and 20% off for each sixth visit. She also does regular manicures and spa chair pedicures. Jackie is full of spunk and sparkle and she makes your visit comfortable and entertaining (make an appointment at 273-0512).

Take my word for it, you will be hooked on the shellac manicure and you are worth the pampering! As we often talk about in my Weight Watchers meetings, rewards are important in our journey and when we make an investment in ourselves we feel stronger, empowered, and more capable of taking on challenges. A manicure is the perfect reward because it serves as a constant anchor and reminder of our commitment.

Even though it may not look like spring outside my window, I am excited to share my spring salad idea with you. It combines fresh green vegetables with a zingy Asian inspired ginger dressing. In case you do not enjoy ginger, I will also include a Mexican inspired dressing that I use with my Confetti Salad. I have made the salad both ways and they were equally delicious.

This recipe did render a large bowl (approximately eight cups) so you might want to cut the recipe in half if you want to enjoy a couple of meals and not for the whole week. However, it is so pretty and flavorful that it would be a great dish for a gathering. It is perfect for an event because it is a recipe that can be made in advance and the flavor improves as it marinates.
Verdant Salad by Produce with Amy

VERDANT SALAD WITH SPRING GREEN VEGETABLES

  • 2 cups of edamame
  • 2 cups of chopped asparagusVerdant Salads with Avocado
  • 2 cups of chopped broccoli
  • 2 cubed avocados
  • 1 cup of chopped celery
  • 1 lime (juice and zest)
  • 1/2 bunch of chopped cilantro (since cilantro is an acquired taste you could use parsley if you are not fond of cilantro)
  • 1/4 cup of chopped onion (I used red because I had some leftover from another recipe but I would recommend green onions to match the green theme)
  • 1/8-1/4 cup of rice vinegar
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • Fresh minced ginger root (to taste. Since ginger is strong I would recommend adding a little at a time. I like the taste of ginger so I used a 1 inch piece)
  • 2 Tablespoons of toasted sesame oil
  • 1 Tablespoon tamari (or soy sauce)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Alternate dressing (for those who are not fans of ginger…which is also an acquired taste)

  • 2 limes (juice and zest)
  • 1 jalapeno (finely chopped)
  • 1 large clove of minced garlic
  • 1 bunch of chopped green onions
  • 1/8 cup of vinegar (I used raw apple cider vinegar)
  • 1/8-1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • Homemade Taco Seasoning (to taste. I ended up adding approximately 1 Tablespoon)
  • Salt and pepper to tasteBlanching involves a quick immersion in boiling water and placing the vegetable instantly in an ice bath. This process allows the asparagus to turn vibrant green and remain crisp.

I blanched the asparagus and broccoli by immersing it in boiling water for two-three minutes and directly dropping it into an ice-bath. This brings out the best of the nutrients in they vegetables but they still retain a pleasant crispness.

Add all of the ingredients to the bowl (you may want to add the avocado last so it retains some of its shape). Stir, serve, and enjoy!

Printable recipe: VERDANT SALAD WITH SPRING GREEN VEGETABLES

Pin it HERE.
Verdant Salad with Spring Green Vegetables Lettuce Wrap by Produce with Amy

This salad would make a wonderful layer to a Mason jar salad or it would be great in a lettuce wrap. If you are interested in a another spring salad check out my Summon Spring Jarred Salads with Asparagus, Strawberries, and Pineapple Vinaigrette. While you are at it, make sure that you check out all my other salads. Make sure you follow my posts via email and stop by my Facebook page and give it a like. Please let me know if you try any of my recipes. I love to hear from individuals who are also embracing a healthy lifestyle and finding ways to eat more fruit and vegetables.

To all my readers who are still gazing at a winter landscape out the window, hold on tight. Spring will be here soon and it will be glorious and sweet. Until then, wrap yourself in some color and do something special to spoil yourself. Ladies, trust me on the shellac manicure. Gentlemen, do not forget, your nails need pampering too. Take care and remember that taking time to prepare fresh meals may be time consuming, but it is an investment in your health. Thanks for stopping by and cheers to thriving together!

The view outside my window this afternoon.

The view outside my window this afternoon.

 

Verdant Salad with Spring Green Vegetables and Dressing Two Ways by Produce with Amy