Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Summer Squash Ribbons with Feta and Pine Nuts

(Printable Recipe)

Yellow squash in ribbons this thin is so tender you'll swear it's been cooked, but no - it's fresh and ready in minutes for a cool salad or easy side.  All you need is a sprinkling of seasonings and it's dressed to serve, without a drop of dressing to fatten it up.

Here's what you'll need: Several Yellow Squash, the smaller the better; small green onions (scallions), a few sprigs of basil, feta, pine nuts.
Trim the ends from each squash. Using a vegetable peeler (or mandolin set to the very thinnest setting) shave strips of squash, disposing of the first and last piece which will just be skin. If the squash is very seedy, toss it. Little seeds won't matter, but any slices that are mostly seed aren't worth keeping. And this is why we pick through the squash for the tiniest ones in the first place!
Stack up several basil leaves and thinly slice them into little green ribbons. Here I've used sweet basil most easily found in the grocery in pots or in small plastic boxes in the area where fresh herbs are sold. If it's spring, keep an eye out for different types of potted basil from herb growers or flower stands. The flavors can vary from spicy to sweet to exotic and strong. You'll find which you like best.
These are a few of the basils I'm growing this year. The tiny leafed one in the middle is Greek Globe Basil, the sweetest basil I've ever tasted. The pretty, variegated basil on the left is not only beautiful to grow it has a fine mild flavor with a note of something spicy as well. And, of course, sweet basil on the right. Incidentally, if you grow your own, cut it and use it up before it blossoms, for it is worthless from the moment the first flowerbud appears. The entire plant turns to bitter licorice and is good for nothing but the compost heap.

Finally, toss your ribbons with salt and pepper and about a tablespoon each of the chopped basil, finely sliced scallions (I've used purple ones here that I found at the Farmer's Mkt), Crumbled Feta, and Pine Nuts.     As an alternate to the Feta, I have also used fresh Parmesan, grated on a rasp here from a left-over rind. A little of this goes a long way since it's so strong. In a good way!
Note for those on the Take Shape for Life Program - if you make this with 2 cups of squash, you'll have four 1/2 cup servings and the pine nuts, feta, and onion will equal about a serving of the allowable condiments for the day. Never heard of TSFL? My husband and I  lost 110 pounds (together!) in under 4 months and are health coaches who can help you do the same! You can click the link above to send me an email through TSFL. We feel the benefit every day of getting back to good health through this plan.

SUMMERFEST at the Food Network IS BACK!! Check out these other great blogs for squash ideas:

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Plum Delicious Pork Chops

(Printable Recipe)
It doesn't take sweet sticky BBQ sauce to make the pork chop tempting enough to eat. Here's a plum yummy method that melts the fruity flavor of the sweet plum into the chop without adding the calories and carbs of sugar. And you'll have tender and tasty chops in about 30 minutes, tops.

These are Pork Loin Boneless Center Cut Chops, thin cut. By which I mean they are less than an inch thick. Showcased here with the only other two ingredients you will need: a couple of ripe plums and a little fake sugar. I like Splenda or Truvia because they behave more like sugar for cooking.

Season the pork chops with salt and pepper on both sides.

I sprayed this pan well with non-stick spray and set the heat fairly high. It should be good and hot so you hear a sizzle the instant the chops go in.  They will immediately stick to the pan and start to brown. Don't attempt to turn them over if they don't want to budge. They will let go of the pan when they're finished browning. We're just going to sear both sides quickly to get a good browned and then finish them covered.   Go work on the plums while they're doing their thing.

 The quickest way to slice a plum: Cut from top to bottom until you hit the pit then turn the fruit all the way around with the knife in place so it is only held together in the very center. Twist the two halves in opposite directions and the pit will come free from one side, sticking to the other. Now it's fairly easy to gouge out the pit with a sturdy little measuring spoon.  Slice each half into 5 or 6 thick slices.

Your chops should be nicely browned by now and ready for some fruity topping. Sprinkle each with a little Splenda and layer on the plum slices. Throw any extras into the pan around the chops. Word of Warning: Don't get all slap happy with that fake sugar and decide it's easier to mix it in with the salt and pepper before you put the chops in the pan. Even fake sugar burns like the real stuff and that lovely browned chop will turn icky black instead.

Now pour in about 1/2 cup of water, cover with a tight lid, and take the heat down to the lowest setting. The water will bring up those excellent browned bits of fond on the bottom of the pan and will create steam to gently cook the chops the rest of the way, which will only take another 10-12 minutes. When ready, they will be fork tender and the plums will practically disintegrate when you touch them. I checked the meat with an instant read thermometer probe to be sure it had reached 160 and moved them immediately to a serving platter.

Serve with Cucumber Jicama Salad for a cool crispy side!

4 Pork Loin Boneless Center Cut Chops
2 Purple Plums
Splenda or Truvia

**If you're in the weight loss phase of the Take Shape for Life Plan it's OK to cook with the plums, but remove the remaining fruit before eating the chops. You'll still get all the yummy plum flavor!**

SummerFest at the Food Network website (FN Dish) is back! Once again, you'll find my foodie blogs on the Food Network along with other great food lovin' bloggers, offering up our best ideas for your Farmer's Market finds all summer long. Each week we'll be blogging together with the FN Dish to produce fabulous ways to enjoy your produce!  This week, it's plums, next week summer squash. Check out these delicious ideas:


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cucumber Jicama Salad

(Printable Recipe)

Cool cucumber and lightly sweet jicama make a perfect summery combo for this light slaw or salad. It's a crunchy and refreshing alternative to creamy cole slaw, with plenty of flavor from the upside-down vinaigrette that's more vinegar than oil and has just the right punch of red chili paste to spice it up. If this sounds like a mix that's all over the map, that's because it is - a little bit Asian, a little bit south of the border, and a dab of good old backyard garden.

While the summer cukes and Vidalia onions are in abundance I could eat this slaw every day. English cucumbers will certainly suffice in winter and purple onions will do (and add some nice color). Jicama adds the real crunch in this dish, and it's usually in my grocery all year round, looking like a fat round potato that has found its way into the Odd Vegetable bin. Most grocers stock these near similarly strange produce or root vegetables.

First of all, here's the quick and easy way to get into this tuber. Forget peeling it. Go for your largest sharpest knife and chop off four "sides" to get it into a boxy shape. Set it up on one of the flat sides and take off the top and bottom the same way so you're left with a nice square shape you can easily slice.
Keep what's left in the middle!

Now cut into thin slices.
Stack the slices into manageable piles and cut down through the whole stack for julienned sticks. If you're starting to think you'll just skip the cutting and get out your grater, do resist! The jicama might withstand it but grate that cucumber and you'll have cucumber water on your hands and little else. Great to splash on your face but not so good for our slaw, ah...we'll just call it a salad instead.

Finally, chop through the stacks one more time for inch or so length pieces.  And it's time to match the cucumber to the jicama.

Peel and halve from end to end, then again across the middle. If there are lots of seeds, just scrape them out with a spoon so that what is left is firm flesh only. Stand the pieces on end and slice into thin flats that can be julienned into strips as we did the jicama. Again, resist the temptation to grate like a regular slaw, although you could slice in little half moons if you think that's simpler, you'll just loose some of the crunch that makes this salad so refreshing.

Finally, the onion. Thinly slice and chop those strips into smaller sticks to match our other vegetables.
You'll see here a bit of chopped green onion (scallion) that I decided to add as a garnish  to the finished dish also, for good looks and a different onion flavor element.

So, to the finished measure: 1 cup each of cucumber and jicama with 1/4 cup onion. You'll probably have more than enough to double this recipe, but to this measure of vegetables pictured, use the following recipe of vinaigrette initially:

Whisk together 2 Tbs Rice Vinegar, 1 Tbs Olive Oil, 1 tsp each of Splenda and Red Chili Paste, and a pinch of salt. (Most every grocery stocks Rice Vinegar and Red Chili Paste with other Asian foods.)
Rice Vinegar is very different in flavor than plain white vinegar or wine vinegar, having a hint of natural sweetness without adding carbs or calories. 

Give it a taste before you pour: if
you like more heat - add a little more chili paste, more sweetness - an extra dash of Splenda, if tangy is what you like - another splash of the vinegar.

And now, the anointing of the salad: toss with only half the dressing for starters and then see how much you really need. I had plenty of extra vegetables and used all the dressing, but see what tastes best to you!

1 large cucumber
1 jicama
1 small Vidalia onion
(or purple onion)
1 Scallion, green top only
Rice Vinegar
Red Chili Paste
Olive Oil

SummerFest at the Food Network website (FN Dish) is back! Once again, you'll find my foodie blogs on the Food Network along with other great food lovin' bloggers, offering up our best ideas for your Farmer's Market finds all summer long. Each week we'll be blogging together with the FN Dish to produce fabulous ways to enjoy your produce!  This week, it's cucumbers. Check out these delicious ideas: