Farmer’s Market Season

This is the first summer in two years that we haven’t been moving, so we are so very excited about taking full advantage of all summer in our area has to offer. This past weekend we went to our local farmer’s market for the first time and I can’t wait to go every weekend we can and eat some really fresh produce! We picked up some BEAUTIFUL greens, local meat (no hormones, no antibiotics), local goat cheese (some of the best I have EVER had, it’s AMAZING), local honey and local coffee. We used the greens in a salad and I have pretty much used them every chance I have gotten:

I marinated some mahi mahi in an Asian marinade and put it on top of these beautiful greens with some other veggies

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For lunch today I made a salad with beets and some of that local goat cheese and greens. ohhhh man! I also put some of the greens on my sandwich. What a difference in taste from store bought greens! I wish we had gotten more!

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Chicken Burgers

Not much says summer like burgers on the grill! I mean what is better than a hot meat patty topped with fresh, crisp lettuce and a nice cold tomato, ketchup, mustard, mayo for you southern folk, dill relish or pickles, melty cheese for you dairy loving  peeps, a nice soft bun and my personal favorite avocado slices and a fried egg. That and a cold beer is just amazing! There are so many different types of burgers. So many different meats that can be used and flavor palates that a burger can take on. It can be whatever you want it to be. Classic or edgy … burgers are summer!

A recent doctor’s appointment says I need to lay off red meat and greasy burgers, among other things. No way I can just give up burgers, I LOVE them. It really has nothing to do with the fact that they are usually made out of beef, it’s the burger concept. So many toppings that can be personalized. I had to find an acceptable alternative, I wasn’t going to make it through the summer without them. My mom can’t eat red meat, so she makes turkey burgers and I had one she made recently and it was pretty good (I am not a fan of ground turkey, so that was the only thing I didn’t like about it, otherwise it was DELICIOUS). I thought I would see about using some ground chicken and see if I liked that better. Let me tell you … after a little experimentation … I am not going to miss beef burgers at all! These chicken burgers are a really healthy alternative and full of flavor! Even hubby loved them and doesn’t miss the beef aspect!

A word of caution, you have to be careful with ground chicken (& ground turkey for that matter), it will dry out quick and be kinda bland. This recipe has given me super flavorful and moist burgers. It’s a great base to add whatever flavor palate you want. Also, this recipe is heart healthy! 🙂

1 lb ground chicken breast
1/2 of a ripe avocado
1/2 of an onion
1 clove of garlic (2 cloves if you’re like me and love garlic)
1/4 – 1/2 cup bread crumbs
smoked paprika
salt/pepper to taste
fresh herbs when I have them

Throw the avocado, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs & salt & pepper in a food processor. Process until paste. Put the ground chicken and paste into a bowl and combine with your hands (seriously, hands are the best kitchen tools! ;). Pop the mixture back in the fridge for about 20 minutes b/c at this point it will be kinda sticky and loose. Form into burgers and cook on the grill for about 5-6 minutes per side.

Warm up a nice soft bun and top with your favorite things and enjoy! 🙂 My personal faves are avocado slices, ketchup, brown mustard, lettuce, tomato, goat cheese and occasionally a fried egg! 😉

Super Simple Summer in a Snap

It is freakin’ hot here … I mean so hot I literally might melt. This weather is really not my cup of iced tea. There is no relief in sight and I was desperate for some relief. At the grocery store I saw some really yummy looking watermelon that cooled me just looking at it.

This year while living out in the country, hubby & I decided to try our hands at gardening. One of the things we decided to “try” was basil … well, apparently when it rains it pours. We have basil almost literally come out our ears!

With summer bearing down on us and fresh, cool ingredients … I had to try a flavor combination I had heard was delicious, but never experimented with. Success!!

Here it is … one of my new favorite flavor combinations and something that is going to keep me cool all summer

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Crumbled Feta (this would also be good with goat cheese crumbles)
Basil (chiffonade)
Balsamic Vinegar

Cut up the watermelon into bite size chunk. Add the basil and feta crumbles. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

Variation: Add cucumbers for some crunch and ridiculous freshness!

Perfect for Summer

One week it’s snowing and the next it’s sunny and 80’ish … which is HOT for me. I am not a fan of hot weather … warm is ok (lets define “warm” as no more than 75 degrees), hot is NOT. When it’s hot I always say I go from one air conditioned unit to another. It’s the only way to survive. Well, not the ONLY way … the other way is to eat cool summery foods! I don’t have as large a repertoire of summery foods, but the ones I do have, I make quite a bit and they are quick and easy and do not require heating up the kitchen. The following recipe is one that we eat often and seems to go with so much and is so refreshing (GREAT with hamburgers fresh off the grill). Also, I could eat cucumbers by the pound (seriously, ask my father-in-law, we “fight” over them when we are together). So whatever way I can find to incorporate them into dishes, I do! 😉

Cucumber and Mozzerella “Salad”

Ingredients
2 Cucumbers (peeled)
Cherry Tomatoes
Fresh Mozzerella block
Garlic Powder
Salt/Pepper
Parsley

Cut each cucumber in half and then each half in half again (quarter spears). Slice each spear into bite size chunks. (How do you like my technical terminology? Ha!!) Wash the cherry tomatoes and cut in half. Cut the mozzarella into bite-size cubes. Put all these into one bowl and add a little garlic powder, salt and pepper. Taste as you go and don’t over season. Sometimes hubby likes it when I add just a tad of balsamic vinegar.

*Note* Penzeys has a garlic salt that is really perfect for this.

Spring Pesto Pasta and Chicken

Sorry for the delay folks … school work has gotten the best of me the last couple months. Now that I am in the homestretch to the end and the workload is starting to wind down, I’ve been letting my creative juices flow a little more and the results have been pretty tasty if I do say so myself! 🙂

The sun has come out (oh wait, it’s almost always out in Denver) and feels warm (NOT always true in Denver) and a sun dress or two may have made an appearance! The windows have been open more often and the cool breezes blowing in. Sunshine, warm weather and cool breezes put me in the mood for lighter fare to eat and quicker meals so I can spend more time outside. This is one of those recipes that is perfect for a spring evening and for eating outside! 😉

I recently saw a recipe for an edamame and spinach pesto. I took the base idea and made it my own and the result was not half bad! 😉

Spring Pesto Pasta and Chicken
I apologize for the poor quality of the picture … all I had was my phone handy.


Pesto:

1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame, defrosted
1 cup spinach leaves (I used baby spinach)
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons water (or chicken or vegetable stock would be great too!)
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt & Pepper to taste

Chicken & Wine Sauce:
2 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup white wine (I like a Riesling because it’s almost always a nice, light wine – feel free to use whatever you like, should always be worth drinking)
1/2 tbsp. butter
1 lb gf pasta (this works best with something like a spaghetti or fettucine, not so much with short-cut pasta)
1 shallot
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 tsp Penzey’s Florida Seasoned Pepper
Goat cheese crumbles

Combine all the pesto ingredients except the olive oil into a food processor. Start the food processor and once the mixture has started to combine, start streaming in the olive oil through the top of the food processor spout. You may need to stop the blender and scrape the sides of the food processor. Pour enough olive oil to get the mixture to creamy. Let the mixture blend for a couple more minutes. It should be creamy and smooth. Taste to adjust for salt & pepper. Add to a small saucepan and cook for a few minutes until simmering … just to heat and get rid of the raw flavor. It’s a beautiful spring green color!

Start the pasta water, bring to a boil, add the pasta and salt generously (this adds great flavor to the pasta and the dish once complete). Cut the chicken into small cubes, sprinkle the Penzey’s Florida seasoning over it and toss and let it sit a minute. While that is sitting, cut up your shallot to your desired size (I don’t mind seeing it and eating it, hubby doesn’t want to know it’s in there), mince up the garlic.

Put a sauté pan over medium heat, let it get hot and add olive oil (“Hot pan, cold oil, food won’t stick” – The Frugal Gourmet) … just enough to barely coat the bottom of the pan (don’t want to deep fry). Add the shallots (they should sizzle when adding), sauté for a couple minutes, add the chicken and brown (“brown food tastes good” – Anne Burrell). Add garlic and sauté for just a minute (burned garlic tastes bitter). Add white wine and butter. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let it all cook together for a few minutes and marry together.

Drain pasta (reserve a cup of pasta water), add to a large pasta bowl. Toss with warmed pesto. If the pesto is too thick, add a little pasta water until it’s at the desired sauciness (yes, that’s an “Amy-ism”). Plate pasta, add chicken to top, sprinkle on goat cheese crumbles. VOILA! Enjoy with a glass of white wine and a beautiful sunny evening! 😉

There are so many great variations for this recipe … here are a few of my favorites:

Bacon Variation 1: Render up some bacon that has been chunked into small pieces. Cook until crispy. Add to pasta once the pesto has been added and they have been tossed together or as a garnish on top.

Veggie Variation 2: Roast some veggies till just under done and add to the chicken the last couple minutes of saute’ing (or just make the sauce with the roasted veggies). The picture shows some eggplant that I tossed with salt and pepper and olive oil and then roasted. The chicken and veggies can also be grilled and then cubed up afterward. The wine sauce can also be made by itself and poured over grilled meat if you want to put a whole chicken breast.

Seafood Variation 3: This would be fabulous with some grilled shrimp or fish as well. We can’t get good fresh seafood here in Denver, therefore it’s chicken. This is where the making the wine sauce separately would work.

garlic, lemon & dill grilled chicken with garlic sauteed spinach

warm weather (ok, ok … HOT) has arrived here in the western united states (& everywhere). one of the hardest things for me is to come up with summer dinner ideas that don’t involve a salad. i love hearty meals, but when it’s hot i do not want to eat something heavy or heat up the kitchen making it. the solution … grilling!! we love to grill all summer (well, we grill all year long ;), it keeps the house from getting hot and makes for wonderfully flavorful food! and you can grill just about everything! we do! grilling is also a great way to make a pretty quick dinner. throw something in a simple marinate for 30 minutes (or several hours) & throw it on the grill. you will soon have a delicious dinner that has kept the kitchen cool and provided a filling, but light summer meal.

tonight’s dinner was no exception. i needed something fairly quick, delicious and nutritious. voila! quick throw-together marinade, add a side and there you have it … dinner!

Grilled Garlic/Lemon/Dill Chicken

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 lemons*
1-2 tsps dill (amount depends on your like of the flavor of dill)
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
1 tbsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 tbsp citrus champagne vinegar
olive oil

Put garlic slices, dill, cracked black pepper, vinegar, squeeze juice from 1.5 lemons into bowl. Whisk olive oil into other ingrediants. Add chicken breasts and marinate for 30 minutes to 3 hours in the fridge. Let meat stand for a few minutes before putting it on the grill.

Garlic Sauteed Spinach

2 bags fresh spinach
1 lemon
2 cloves garlic sliced
olive oil
salt & pepper

Heat olive oil in large saute’ pan on med-low. Add garlic slices. Do not turn the heat up to high or garlic will brown to quickly and turn bitter. Let garlic cook slowly flavoring oil for few minutes. Once oil has been flavored by the garlic dump in the spinach and turn constantly with tongs until spinach has wilted a bit. Once wilted, take off the heat and put in a serving bowl. If spinach cooks too much it will turn slimey.

Enjoy!

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* Quick foot note … if you are finding that your lemons, limes or oranges do not want to give up their juice, toss them in the microwave for 20 seconds and you will soon have a very juicy citrus! a little trick i learned along the way. 😉

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