Simple Salads for More Fun in the Sun

Salad and casserole 2In chilly weather, especially when snow or rain is falling, we welcome soups simmering fragrantly on the stove. However when summer is warming us up we don’t need more warmth to overheat us and salads get center stage. Heartier ones like pasta or potato salad are nice when the desire is for more carbohydrates, however protein is vital and is needed to balance them. One of my favorite go-to warm weather salads is made with chicken breasts, shredded.

First try this easy way to cook them. It requires almost no heat from the stove. For two to three servings, use two medium boneless breasts. Pour some olive oil in a frying pan and warm it on medium high. Sear breasts for a minute each side. Quickly slap on a tight cover, turn the heat to medium low, and cook for 12 minutes. Then turn off the stove and leave for another 12 minutes. DO NOT LIFT THE COVER DURING THIS TIME. Once the chicken is cooked, let it cool, then shred the breasts with your fingers. Save the bit of rich broth for another use.

Refrigerate chicken or use at once. For the salad use these ingredients: mayonnaise to taste, 1 tsp dried tarragon or thyme or 2 tsp fresh, 1 Tbs or more parsley, ¼ tsp pepper to taste, ½ tsp salt, to taste, 1 Tbs horseradish sauce to taste, ½ cup celery chopped small, ½ cup sweet onion chopped small or to taste, 1 medium apple peeled and chopped small, if desired, ½ cup walnuts chopped small, if desired, ½ cup dried cranberries or other fresh berries, if desired, plus chicken breasts. Mix all together and refrigerate for at least 6 hours for flavors to blend. The ingredients can be varied; you can also add mustard.

Canned tuna might replace chicken. Dill might substitute for tarragon or thyme. A simple side salad to go with burgers could include lettuce, dried cranberries or other fresh fruit, scallions and a simple lemon juice and olive oil dressing. Egg salad is satisfying and easy: Bring eggs just to a boil, cover and leave on the back of the stove for 20 minutes. Plunge them into cold water, peel and chop. Add mayonnaise to taste, add horseradish sauce the same, ½ cup finely chopped celery, ½ cup finely chopped sweet onion, chopped fresh parsley, fresh or dried tarragon or dill, salt and pepper to taste. Mix and chill. Serve with crackers or on a bed of lettuce with a light dressing.

Curry powder is good with eggs, chicken or tuna, then omit herbs except for parsley. I prefer the mayonnaise made with olive oil. Low fat mayonnaise is less tasty. Fat is also a good appetite suppressant, keeps us from getting hungry as quickly and the right kind has a lot of other virtues as well. There are many other good combinations of fruits and vegetables for salads, and avocado is always a fine addition to any salad. No tomatoes for me though, I’m allergic.

 

If you have any good salad recipes to share please email them to me at tashahal@gmail.com. I love to hear from readers.

Simple, inexpensive nourishing Fish Recipes

Laura's fish 1

Simple, inexpensive and nourishing Fish Recipes

 

Although I was occasionally taken fishing by my Great Aunt Alice’s gardner, I didn’t care much for fish as a child. Nor do I remember how my mother cooked it except that she did, regularly. Stephen’s mother served fish on Fridays because she felt it was fresher then. It well may have been. In those days frozen fish wasn’t very good. Much progress has been made in flash freezing both fish and vegetables. Stephen is very fond of fish so we have it at least weekly.

Increasing amounts of information has come out about how good fish is for you. Many believe they don’t like it because they have not had it cooked properly. White fish takes very little time to cook: one recipe takes about 15 minutes or so and the other a between 25 and thirty. You will surely have all the ingredients on hand as well. I so dislike seeing an intriguing recipe and discover one or more of the ingredients have to be bought from a specialty market.

Our two favorite kinds of fish are flounder and cod. I used to think cod w was good only for chowder until I created this recipe for it. It also makes use of stale corn chips that didn’t get eaten while fresh. Stephen crunches ours up. Children love to do this too. Stephen and I dine well on around a pound or a bit less of fish of either variety. It’s nice to have fresh fish, however the flash frozen is almost as good. I do not fry fish, thus avoiding odors and extra fat.

 

Baked Cod with Corn Chips

Preheat oven to 350 or 325 for a glass dish.

Ingredients: for 2 servings

¼ to 1/3 cups ground corn chips

A pound or so of cod

Around ¼ cup good mayonnaise. Do not use low fat

1 TBS so of horseradish sauce. It adds a bit of “sass” to the fish

Method: Lay fish flat in baking dish. Mix up Mayonnaise and Horseradish sauce, spread evenly over cod. Bake in oven and depending on thickness of fish check after 20 to 30 minutes. Fish should flake away easily and have lost its transparency. Serve with broccoli and a simple salad or coleslaw.

 

Poached Flounder Filets

This cooks quickly, so have the rest of your dinner ready before adding the fish.

Ingredients:

2 cups water

¼ cups diced celery,

2 Tbs diced onion

OR if in a hurry, dried onion and celery seed about 2 Tbs each)

1 pound flounder filets

Method: Use a large frying pan. Bring water to a boil and add vegetables, fresh or dried. Let them simmer for 15 minutes or so for fresh less for dried. Then lay flounder filets in pan and turn over after 3 or 4 minutes. Serve with spinach and a salad or squash. Use rice if you need more cars.

 

PS Do you have any recipes to share? I hope so; I so enjoy hearing from readers. You can email me at tashahal@gmail.com The delightful fish is by my daughter Laura Lorenz

What will you Harvest from this Year

onions-on-display

I remember my mother cutting up fruits and vegetables and filling her large canning kettle with jars. The kettle steamed away, filling the kitchen with warmth and making my mother perspire. The jars were later stored against the cold winter months on shelves in a kind of rough closet in our cellar. There was also a small barrel of potatoes there and one of my tasks was to go down occasionally and pick off their sprouts.

Too, my mother made wonderful jellies from the fruit that grew on my great aunt Alice’s trees. A lawyer, my great grandfather was also an amateur student of horticulture. He planted all sorts of fruit trees as well as grape vines, vegetables and flowers all of which were tended to by a gardener. He would bring fruit to my mother that she processed to make the clear jellies we ate with our Sunday meals.

I think of my mom and her tasks at this time of year when fruits and vegetables reach their peak and are harvested. Long ago Pilgrims and Native peoples dried food to preserve it. Later on many housewives filled glass jars, heating them until the food within could be kept for use in the winter. Today the same people who might in the past have canned and preserved it will freeze the extra produce that they cannot use right away. People with gardens are putting food by in order to have healthy, homegrown meals for the winter months. We who live where the seasons prevail have always done this.

These days to be sure food of all kinds is plentiful in every season year round, and if we do not have a garden from which to harvest, we are less likely to preserve the fall harvest against the winter. However, there is more than one kind of harvest to be made at this time. If we have planted ideas in the spring, and tended them during the summer, they may have matured enough by the fall to be gathered in and made use of during the rest of the year. If we have projects we have worked on, ideas we have been developing, stories or poetry we have been evolving; now is the time to get them out there for the final testing, checking or editing.

We no longer live in an agrarian society, and yet the seasons are still a part of us. Their energy need not be confined to the actual planting, tending and gathering of food. For while we may not plant actual seeds to grow, tend, harvest and preserve, we can use the energy of the seasons to generate what we need to nourish our own lives and the lives of others. The seeds of our efforts whether edible, useful, or otherwise productive can be sown in the spring for our eventual harvest and use in the fall. Then during the winter months they can supply what we need to sustain us and keep us from the cold.

Tasha Halpert

 

 

 

Home Cooked Food Feeds Body and Spirit

Fall Reflections 15As we drove down the highway to an appointment I noticed how the trees by the side of the road were beginning to look somewhat different. The ones with leaves that had not yet begun to change looked tired. Their color was no longer the vibrant green of summer. The ones that had begun to turn were just starting to color up, making a tentative venture into the opening notes of fall. The recent spate of warm days may have confused the trees or delayed their color, however, cool air will soon prevail and bring out the glorious brilliance we in New England are so fortunate to see each year.

While I still serve salads in the fall and winter, as the weather grows cooler I focus on warming foods. Cabbage is a great favorite in my household, both for its nutritional value and for the way it keeps so well in the ‘fridge, always ready to eat raw as in my cabbage salad, or cooked. Red cabbage, in particular with its vibrant color and hearty flavor is a very useful fall and winter vegetable. The following recipe is adapted from one I first saw on a video called Two Fat Ladies. The two women traveled the length and breadth of England collecting recipes for local foods. While many of their recipes were not anything I would care to reproduce—being too elaborate, too rich, or using ingredients I might not easily find, this recipe for red cabbage is easy and tasty, as well as economical. According to the Internet, one cup of chopped red cabbage has 33 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A. The same portion of green cabbage only has 3 percent.

I have made it in a crock-pot, which reduces the need for stirring. However I also often cook it in my black iron frying pan. It doesn’t smell like overcooked cabbage, either, even though it needs to cook for at least 3 hours on the stove or much longer in a crock pot. It is delicious the day it is made and even better the day after. I always make a quantity because it keeps well and is handy for a quick supper. Serve it with hot dogs, sausages, or even hamburgers.

Ingredients: 1 medium red cabbage, 2 raw onions, 2 apples, 1\4 cup brown sugar Or 4 tablespoons apple cider, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons butter, salt and pepper to taste. Method: Using a sharp or serrated knife, slice cabbage as thin as you can, being sure to discard the core and any very thick rib slices. Peel and slice onions and apples, being sure apple slices are not too thick. Sauté onion in butter and olive oil until soft. Add these to the crock-pot, or combine in the frying pan with the cabbage, apples, vinegar and cider. Cook in the crock pot for around 6 to 8 hours or in the frying pan for 3 or 4, stirring at least once an hour or more if you like. Serve or refrigerate to reheat, and enjoy!

 

 

Easy, Healthy Spring Recipes

TashasSpiralGardenEven though I love to cook, in the good weather I’m happy not to have to   labor in the kitchen or spend time fussing with complicated recipes when I would rather be doing things out of doors and elsewhere. In addition, local fresh green vegetables are more and more often available as farm stands open and crops are harvested. It is such a treat when local asparagus as well as rhubarb become available. Both are helpful for the bodily cleansing that helps make for a healthful change of season.

This first recipe is win/win in that it goes together quickly, will please just about anyone, and is inexpensive to make. Gluten free or intolerant diners can make and eat it confidently using one of the many good gluten free pastas available in the local supermarkets. Asparagus Pesto and Pasta : Ingredients:1 Lb. Fresh Asparagus (The equivalent of 2 cups) 3 fresh basil leaves or 1 tsp dried—more is fine. ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, ¼ cup chopped pecans, walnuts or cashews, whatever you like is fine; 1 small clove raw garlic, ¼ tsp salt, 3 Tbs olive oil, 8 Oz fine spaghetti or fettuccine.

Method: Cook spaghetti to taste and drain. Add 1 Tbs olive oil and stir well. Place remaining oil, asparagus and all other ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth, pour over spaghetti, stir and serve with a side salad and some fruit for a complete meal. This is also a good recipe to have fun with: try other green vegetables and/or vary the herb as desired. The addition of Parsley would be a natural. Or combine say half a cup of parsley and any green fresh or lightly steamed and still bright green vegetable.

If you have access to rhubarb leaves, you might be tempted to think they are edible. However, they are poisonous for humans, so under no circumstances ought you to consume them. There is a simple recipe for an insecticide on Google so I won’t repeat it. But don’t spray the leaves of your lettuce with it. It’s poisonous and potentially dangerous.Use caution on vegetables, a simple onion garlic spray is better there.

Rhubarb is technically a vegetable and yet we generally serve it as a dessert. There are many ways to prepare it—pies, cakes, puddings and so forth. However, I have always preferred it steamed and eaten plain with honey. To enjoy rhubarb easily, simply purchase fresh, young stems at the market or if you are lucky, pick them from a friend’s rhubarb patch. Snip them into inch or so sections with a pair of sharp scissors. Put them into the top half of a double boiler or a bowl that will fit into a pot with some water in the bottom.

Another interesting thing about rhubarb is that it has so much liquid in it already you really don’t need to add any when you cook it the way I do in a double boiler. Cover and steam for about 45 minutes. Add ½ to ¾ cups honey or sugar, to taste. Stir well and chill. Serve any time of day for a refreshing treat as well as good cleansing for your system. Let your food be your medicine, especially in the spring!

A Recipe for Unexpected Guests

Spring blossoms, whiteIt makes me laugh when it gets cold after a warm day and someone says, “What’s happened to spring? It’s winter again!” That’s what spring is: a back and forth time of year. One day it’s lovely out, the next it snows. It’s difficult to make plans. Once many years ago my father decided to give an Easter egg hunt in the house he had inherited from my great aunt Alice. He invited all the members of an extended family of 12 children grown and married with children of their own, and told them all to come at one o’clock on Easter for the party. Then he went to Maine, intending to return that morning.

At eight AM that day it commenced to snow furiously. By twelve it had pretty much stopped, however my father, having been snowed in was still in Maine. I was faced with hosting a party for a large group of people I had never met not to mention hiding the eggs, providing the food, and being gracious. I called a friend and together we managed to pull off the party. I was rather put out with my father who very cavalierly said, “Oh, I knew you could handle it.”

For as long as I have known him, Stephen, like my father has been prone to spontaneously invite people over for a meal. Confident in my ability to come up with something on the spur of the moment, he doesn’t hesitate to play the host, and to be honest, I can say I have never minded. I love to cook and it gives me pleasure to provide for my friends or even for strangers who may become friends. The trick is to have certain things on hand that I can rely on to fix quickly and easily to feed two or more guests. Potatoes to bake and serve with sauce and cheese, shrimp in the freezer–a quick fix for shrimp scampi. Another is cooked rice for the following recipe.

Chinese fried rice works wonders as a quick meal. Of course you must have the simple ingredients on hand. The secret of this dish is that it must be made with leftover rice. Very quick to fix, it is popular with most. To serve four, use a cup of cooked rice per person, one egg, half a cup of frozen peas, half cup of chopped onion, half a cup of chopped celery, and 2 Tablespoons soy sauce or Dr. Bronner’s Mineral broth. If you have any leftover chicken, or extra firm tofu chop a half a cup of that too. 2 or 3 sliced garlic cloves and 2 or 3 Tablespoons ginger in thin strips is good too.

Take a half a cup large or extra large shrimp per person from the freezer, and thaw briefly in warm water. Peel if necessary and line up on a cookie sheet. Bake at 425 for 5 or so minutes. Scramble the egg without any extra liquid and fry in some oil or butter. Set aside. In a large frying pan, sauté the ginger, garlic, onion and celery in oil until transparent. Stir in the rice and cook 5 minutes stirring. Add the peas, the egg, broken up, tofu, chicken and shrimp. Stir in the soy sauce and cook 5 more minutes stirring occasionally. Voila, Dinner is served.

An Excellent Seafood Chowder by Tasha Halpert

CA Mural          As a child I loved to play with and rearrange the contents of my mother’s pantry, especially the bowls, utensils, and such. As an adult, I truly enjoy finding the perfect implements and utensils for my own food preparation and cooking. In the many years I have been doing it, I have accumulated a nice variety of cooking tools and containers. Because I truly enjoy working with food, I’m always looking for new items I can use. When someone left a cute little orange bowl here after a party, I fell in love with it. However, not wanting to be selfish, I set it aside in case the owner could be found. When after more than six months of inquiry had passed, I decided it was mine.

It sits cheerfully on my kitchen counter, washed and replaced immediately after use because once something fell on it in the dish drainer and took a chip out of the edge. It is a useful size, perfect to contain the ingredients for so many of the dishes I create. Recently, my orange bowl held the onions and celery I chopped up for a seafood chowder.

Since I have worked so hard to perfect this recipe I thought it might be fun to share it with my readers. One of my challenges was to create it without milk for my lactose intolerant husband and to thicken it without cream. Another was to cook it in such a way that the fish, clams or other seafood did not get tough. It shortens the time if you want to omit the thickening, however, it does wonders for the texture.

My basic seafood chowder with fish, clams, and/or other seafood begins with about 3/4 of a cup each of chopped onion and chopped celery, and 2 tablespoons each of butter and olive oil. Sauté until they are nice and tender. Add two medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into half inch pieces. I think large chunks of potato overtake the taste, and they do swell up in the broth. Add 4 cups of water, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and an optional teaspoon of thyme. Bring to a boil then simmer covered until potatoes are cooked through.

If all you want is a simple fish stew, add 3/4 of a pound of cod and whatever else you like (chopped clams, shrimp, scallops–bay or large, etc.) Cover pot and turn off the heat. Fish will cook in the cooling broth and not get tough when carefully reheated. However, if you take the trouble for the next step you will have a very special dish.

To make a chowder instead of a simple fish stew, you must have a thickening agent. In which case, before you put in the fish, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small pot. Add 1/4 cup any flour–gluten free is fine. mix well, then slowly add 1 cup any kind of unflavored milk, whisking constantly to make a very thick blend. Add this to the vegetables and broth, stir well and bring to a boil. Now add whatever fish you are using, turn off the heat, cover and let sit until fish is cooked through. Reheat gently to serve or refrigerate. It tastes even better the next day and will serve 4 nicely.