Spicy Black Bean and Corn Salad Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

It was a picture perfect morning for an early kayak ride!

It was a beautiful morning for an early kayak ride!

‘Tis the season of temperatures in the 80s and the sunset being around 8:30 p.m. Which means I want to take advantage of every second I can when I get out of work to be outdoors. And which also means dinners are late. Very late. While exercising, I create recipes in my head with items I have in the fridge and the cupboards so I can make a quick meal because I’ll be famished when I walk in the door. (This is how I get through a hike–thinking of food!) This salad is one such creation; I wanted something healthy, of course tasty, but one that I call a “dump it” salad, throw everything in a big bowl, toss and serve.

I’m a big advocate for canned beans, especially this time of year. Even though I prefer to cook my own dried beans, it’s definitely less expensive but more time-consuming, I find I don’t spend as much time in the kitchen as I do in the winter; having a few cans on hand for quick meals like this are a life saver. I measured out two cups of frozen corn to defrost for a couple of hours. When I got home, I took my big mixing bowl and started to add what I had in the fridge and cupboard. I didn’t have enough lime for a quarter cup, so I added some lemon juice. If you don’t have both herbs, you can use just one. And of course, there are substitutes galore: red pepper in place of the tomatoes, scallions in place of the red onion, cucumber in place of zucchini. Or add some protein; I was thinking cooked chicken or grilled shrimp would be good, or even some quinoa or another grain. I served it with grilled chicken sausages and it was fantastic. And of course, if your palate isn’t one for spicy foods, omit the cayenne entirely; just a tiny bit goes a really long way!

This dish makes close to four cups, which I thought was plenty enough for dinner for two and at least lunch the next day. Until I heard the Eater of the House, who went for seconds (or was it thirds?) ask if he could have the rest of the salad! “I wouldn’t eat so much if your food wasn’t so good!” I guess that’s a rousing endorsement for this recipe!

black bean sal 

Spicy Black Bean and Corn Salad
This recipe can easily be doubled for a summertime potluck!

2 cups, defrosted corn
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
2 Tablespoon diced red onion or shallots
1 small zucchini, diced
Chopped fresh basil and cilantro (2 Tablespoons each)
½ avocado, diced
¼ cup fresh lime juice or lime and lemon juice
A dash of cayenne or a bit of chopped jalapeno (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

In advance of cooking, defrost the corn until thawed (at least two hours). Add to large mixing bowl, and add the remaining ingredients (through lime juice). Add cayenne, if using, and salt and pepper.

coloring bookkMVK’s *Like* of the Week: A Coloring Book for People Who Like Food
The biggest things these days in bookshops aren’t the books themselves, it is coloring books for adults! While I myself haven’t gotten into this craze (I like to read too much to spend time coloring), this one did spark my interest, a book for people who like food! Edible Paradise is just that, pictures of lots of fruits and vegetables that you color! I don’t know if this will make me put my book down and pick up a coloring pencil or pen, but it might! You can read more about it here.

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BBQ Pork Tenderloin with Bell Pepper Relish Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

 

I've been hiking this same path for the past few months and love looking at the changes in the scenery. Each time it's different and it's getting greener and greener!

I’ve been hiking this same path for the past few months and love seeing the changes in the scenery. Each time it’s different and it’s getting greener and greener!

And just like that, it was summer.

After a warmer than normal winter and what I thought to be a colder and wetter than normal spring, it seems like overnight we are in summer and the thick of heat and humidity. Which means I close my kitchen and meals are salads, grilled, anything that doesn’t require turning on the oven and stove. And this recipe is perfect for that!

I made this recipe piecemeal. When it was cool in the morning, I made the barbecue sauce. As I was moving about in the house in the afternoon, I made the bell pepper relish, so everything was ready when it came time to grill. I decided to go with the less expensive center-cut pork chops, mostly because I wanted leftovers for my lunch. And I didn’t use the pre-chopped veggies, as I had the peppers and onion in the fridge.

This recipe was exactly what I wanted in a summer dinner. The spiciness of the sauce and the crisp, fresh flavor of the bell peppers was delicious and complemented each other with the pork. The bell pepper relish was SO good, I’m going to make it again to serve over other cuts of meat.

I made this on a weekend night, but time-wise it definitely could be made during the work week. And using the pork chops, I was able to have leftovers for a couple of lunches, too! Served with coleslaw, this was a delicious way to welcome in the new season!

pork and relishBBQ Pork Tenderloin with Bell Pepper Relish

This recipe first appeared in the June 2016 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

1/2 cup prechopped onion
1 (8-ounce) package prechopped red, yellow, and green bell pepper ( I diced up one yellow and one red pepper)
3/4 cup cider vinegar, divided
3/4 cup water, divided
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 cup unsalted ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
Cooking spray
1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed
1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

2. Combine onion and bell pepper in a bowl. Bring 1/2 cup vinegar, 1/2 cup water, sugar, and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour vinegar mixture over bell pepper mixture; let stand 15 minutes. Drain.

3. Bring remaining 1/4 cup vinegar, remaining 1/4 cup water, 1/4 teaspoon salt, ketchup, and next 6 ingredients (through red pepper) to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook 4 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Place 1/2 cup sauce in a small bowl; reserve.

4. Coat grill rack with cooking spray. Sprinkle pork with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add pork to grill; grill 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Brush pork with remaining sauce; grill 5 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the center registers 140°. Place pork on a cutting board; let stand 5 minutes. Cut into 12 slices. Serve with bell pepper mixture and reserved 1/2 cup barbecue sauce.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Speaking of Grilling…

I’ll admit, I’m not the best griller in the world. But these tips, sent to me by a local business, are really helpful! I’m going to use these to make myself a better griller for the summer of 2016!

grilling

 

Ramps Two Ways Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Speaking of a fleeting season, I wait all year for my lilac bushes to bloom! The peonys will be next!

Speaking of a fleeting season, I wait all year for my lilac bushes to bloom! The peonies will be next!

We are now looking at Memorial Day weekend in a couple of days and are in the thick of the springtime harvest season. The farmer’s market is now open outdoors, with the locals selling their delicate greens and late winter root vegetables. I think spring is the most fleeting of the seasons; I feel like I blink and I’m then looking at young squashes. Which means when it’s spring I take full advantage of what the season has to offer and for me that means ramps. The season lasts maybe three weeks, so when I see them I grab them, so I hope this post isn’t too late! If so, tuck this recipe away until next spring. You will thank me. 🙂

Ramps are also called wild leeks and can be found in wet, woody areas, but I, of course, find them nice and clean at the coop. They have a lighter, more delicate flavor than say garlic or even cultivated leeks. You can use both the greens and the stems for different recipes or all at once. I love to sauté the stems in a little bit of butter and then add them to scrambled eggs (the addition of some fresh dill and cheese only makes it even better). And you can add some to pesto and also pickle them, too. (See below.)

To clean ramps, I fill the sink with cold water and swish them to make sure all the dirt is removed. For the greens, I cut just where the greens stop and the stem starts.

One of my favorite food writers is Melissa Clark of the New York Times. She frequently appears on WNYC’s The Leonard Lopate Show, which I listen to as a podcast. Recently she was on talking about springtime vegetables: ramps, asparagus, rhubarb, and gave a “recipe” for ramps that sounded delicious. (You can listen to the show here.) I decided to try my own version. I grabbed a handful of ramps at the coop and created these two recipes, greens for one and the stems for another.

This recipe is forgiving. As I was making it, I didn’t keep track of the specifics, so you can make this for one, two, or more eaters depending on how many ramps you have! Hopefully ramp season hasn’t passed by and you to try this! It was sooo good!

ramps
Sautéed Ramps with Ricotta
Inspired by Melissa Clark.

These would be delicious as an appetizer or accompanying a nice dinner salad or soup. Or you could make it your whole dinner (that’s what I wanted to do!).

Olive oil
Ramp greens
Crushed red pepper (if desired)
A good baguette (gluten-free if needed)
Ricotta cheese
Fresh lemon
Kosher salt (or another larger-grained salt)

1. In a medium saucepan, heat about 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Add your ramp greens and sauté until just softened. If you want a little bit of heat, add just a shake of some crushed red pepper.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Slice the baguette and put on a cookie sheet. Bake until the bread is nice and golden.

3. Add a smear of ricotta cheese on each piece of bread. Add some greens and just a tiny squirt of fresh lemon juice and salt. Then eat warm!

ramps2Pickled Ramps
The way I like to eat these is in a quesadilla or tostada. They are great with melted cheese!

½ cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons water

Mix the vinegar, sugar, and water together in a small bowl to make sure the sugar is dissolved. Add ramp stems (cut into half-inch pieces), and add to vinegar mixture. Cover. You can eat them in about two days and the bowl can be left on the kitchen counter covered for seven to ten days.

 

garlicMVK’s *Like* of the Week: Peel an Entire Head of Garlic in 10 Seconds!
Ok, I’ll admit I haven’t tried this technique from Saveur magazine yet, but since peeling garlic is my least favorite thing I do in the kitchen (even above doing dishes!), it is on my radar when I need a whole head of garlic!

Check it out here!

Springy Chicken Soup Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I’m baacckk!! I know some of you missed your weekly Wednesday recipe as some friends had mentioned they hadn’t received something from me in a while. I hope that translates to most of my readers! After writing 272 blog articles for five (five!) years, I really felt a need for a break. It’s nice to just cook without the thought of having to write about it! And meals at home, when I’ve been home, have been simple, nothing fancy, along with a few duds. But now that we’ve turned the corner into spring, I’m feeling like getting back into the kitchen and cooking and writing about it!

But even though the calendar says it’s May and springtime, doesn’t mean the weather is cooperating! After a warmer than normal winter, I’m finding the spring colder than normal. Even when it’s sunny outside, there is still a nip in the air and wind. I spent a few days the first week of the month in New York City and regretted the fact I didn’t have my winter coat with me! Even today as I write this, they have snow predicted in the forecast! #Truth! So the days of soup and other cold weather comfort foods aren’t over yet, but this recipe has a springy twist to it!

I love having romaine lettuce in a soup and I don’t use it enough; it adds a certain lightness and freshness to a soup that you don’t get from spinach or kale. Any chicken soup is comfort in a bowl for me and this was really delicious and using chicken thighs adds much more flavor than white meat. Instead of using fresh thyme, I added about a half teaspoon of dried. This came together quickly on a weeknight and certainly warmed my insides from the cold, damp weather outside. With springtime ingredients like the leeks and peas, it gave me a reminder and faith that yes, warmer weather will be coming. When? I’m just not sure!

springy chickenSpringy Chicken Soup

This recipe first appeared in the May issue of Cooking Light magazine.

1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into small pieces
1 cup thinly sliced leek
1 cup thinly diagonally sliced carrot
4 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
3 large thyme sprigs
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups torn romaine lettuce
1/3 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved (about 1/4 cup)

Preparation
1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil; swirl to coat. Add chicken; cook 6 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove chicken from pan.

2. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add leek and carrot; sauté 5 minutes. Add stock and thyme; bring to a boil. Cover and cook 8 minutes or until carrot is almost tender. Stir in chicken, peas, pepper, and salt; cook 3 minutes. Remove thyme; discard. Remove pan from heat; stir in lettuce and parsley. Place 1 1/2 cups soup in each of 4 bowls; top each serving with 1 tablespoon cheese.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Meet the Orb Weaver Cheesemakers!
Orb%20Weaver%20DSC02437%20cowI consider myself lucky beyond belief that I live in a part of Vermont where cheese (and the cows!) and their makers are close by. Orb Weaver Cheese can be found in my tiny town and their cheese is delectable. And for 30 years, the farm has been run by just two women!

This is a great story on Marian and Marjorie’s beginnings and the process of making their cheese. You can read the story here.

 

Easter Sides Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

easterAm I the only one who feels like Easter snuck up on us this year? It seems like I just barely made my Valentine’s Day dinner and now it’s time for another holiday! But since it’s here, planning is in order!

I usually make the first potato salad of the year to serve alongside the traditional ham, but it feels too early to make one in March, so I needed to find another potato side dish. Cooking Light has lots of menu ideas and some delicious sounding potato recipes. For me, springtime is lemon and chives. I thought this roasted vegetable dish sounded divine and decided to make it for my dinner one night. Served with pork chops, it was SO good! But not before a few changes.

I was making this for a solo dinner (not 12!), so my measurements went way down. As I mentioned last week, I can’t eat onions and garlic for a while (although I can eat chives and the greens of scallions), so I didn’t include the Vidalias, but I know they would make this dish even better! I’m not a fan of baby carrots, so I peeled and cut into chunks five small carrots. And I couldn’t find fingerling potatoes, so I used only small baby reds, which I cut into quarters. The vinaigrette is terrific and since this was a smaller portion, I have some leftover for another meal. I served them with pork chops, but this would be excellent served alongside ham, a pork roast, chicken, even fish.

I gave you two additional potato side dishes below. Rosemary is a great complement to potatoes and an herb vinaigrette with roasted potatoes has to be good, right? Whatever you cook and serve for your holiday meal, I hope you are surrounded by family and friends and it is delicious. Happy Easter!

veg 

Lemon-Chive Roasted Vegetables

Serves 12

This recipe first appeared in the March 2008 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, halved
1 1/2 pounds small fingerling potatoes, halved
1 pound baby carrots
2 medium Vidalia or other sweet onions, each cut into 8 wedges
1 tablespoon olive oil
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425°.

2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; toss well to coat. Arrange vegetables in a single layer on 2 jelly-roll pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes or until tender and lightly browned.

3. Combine vegetables, chives, and remaining ingredients in a large bowl; toss gently to coat.

And here are two more ideas for you!

Rosemary Potatoes-From the March 2001 Cooking Light

Roasted Potatoes with Herb Vinaigrette-From April 2007 Cooking Light


Processed-Foods-PhotoMVK’s *Like* of the Week: Nutrition Diva!

I have been listening to the “Nutrition Diva’s Quick and Dirty Tips” podcast for years now. Once a week, nutritionist Monica Reinagel gives a short podcast on a nutritional topic. Each one is well thought out, clearly explained, and less than ten minutes. They’re great!

I also follow her on Facebook and recently she posted this article on a new study about the American diet. While there is a movement for “clean eating,” the study showed more than half of the American diet is comprised of ultra-processed foods and lots and lots of sugar.

Although I found this interesting, I always look at studies with a wary eye. This one was from 2009-2010, so perhaps things have gotten better? Regardless, it does make interesting reading. You can read the article here.

 

Solo Dinner: Greens, Eggs, and Ham (Optional) Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

The sky was absolutely breathtaking the other night on my walk.

The sky was absolutely breathtaking the other evening.

I’m a solo gal this month while the Eater of the House is out of town, which means ME meals, dinners that include some of my favorite foods (eggplant!) and that I can eat when I finally get around to making dinner (8:45 anyone?).

So in honor of St. Patrick’s Day and that spring has finally sprung, I thought I’d bring back one of my favorite dinners which requires no recipe and can be prepped in advance so everything is ready to go when you get home! Also a plus, a salad supper is forgiving to the waistline; summer is coming and you want to be sure you fit into your wardrobe!

I love tender lettuces for this salad, such as butter lettuce or a mesclun mix. When you are home and are doing other things, fill a saucepan with water and boil up some eggs. They require no watching and can cook for as long as you want and they’re also a great snack. The ham in this recipe is the beloved bacon. When I buy a package, I’ll divide it into two strip portions and wrap each individually for recipes such as this. Topped with a tangy mustard vinaigrette, this salad is great served with a nice piece of bread and a crisp white wine and will feed the dream that summer is on its way!

salad
Greens, Eggs, and Ham (Optional)
Vegetarians, leave off the bacon and add crunchy bits (croutons, radishes, carrots) or some nice beans (garbonzos would be tasty). 

One salad bowl of greens (lettuce, spring or mesclun mix)
One hard-boiled egg
3 Tablespoons bacon, cooked and diced

Mustard Vinaigrette
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons vinegar (your favorite)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
A little bit of minced shallot, optional

Whisk together with a little bit of salt and pepper.

BLOGFODMAPPICMVK’s *Like* of the Week: FOD What?
Despite loving to cook (and eat!), I have lived a life with an occasional distressed GI system. Upon a recent visit to my doctor, she has me now following the FODMAP eating plan for the next couple of months. I thought I knew every diet out there, but this was completely new to me. FODMAPS are carbs found in foods that have been found to be difficult to digest or absorb well. So the thought is by eliminating these foods from your diet, you are giving your intestinal track a well deserved break, where upon foods can be introduced (or not) after a period of rest.

No gluten, very little dairy, and a do and don’t eat list of fruits and vegetables. I’ve gone back to reading labels (just because it’s GF doesn’t mean I can eat it) and with a returned focus of eating real food. I was happy to see I can still have my tea, wine, and vodka (yay!), almost every kind of meat and fish (yippee!), but that I can’t have onions or garlic (boo!). That is the hardest, so I’ve been trying to find ways to flavor food without my two favorite alliums. (One tip was to saute them in oil and then remove so you have the flavor. I haven’t tried that yet, but I will!)

This is still a relatively new plan, so doctors are always learning new things and the lists are always changing. You can read about the FODMAP eating plan by clicking here, and I find Boston-based nutritionist Kate Scarlata has a lot of helpful tips, too. And of course, don’t start any diet without talking to your doctor first!

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

If you look carefully at the tippy top of the tree, you'll see all the red-winged blackbirds!

If you look carefully at the tippy top of the branches, you’ll see all the red-winged blackbirds!

It’s early March, there is mud not snow on the ground and the days are getting longer, so there is still enough light to catch a quick walk after work. The other evening, I had to stop my podcast to see if I was hearing correctly; the cheep of the red-winged blackbirds, a definitive sign of spring! Both blackbirds and robins are back in Vermont and I can’t remember a year they were back so early. I am cautiously optimistic that spring has finally sprung here, but that doesn’t mean I have put away my slow cooker just yet!

The one thing I wanted for myself under the Christmas tree last year was a slow cooker, or what we called a crockpot when I was growing up. While I had a smaller one, all the recipes I found called for the larger pot; I had visions of a winter of already-prepared dinners that I just had to warm and serve with some vegetables. I can definitely confirm its convenience; it is so nice to have a healthy meal I can pull out of the freezer in the morning and just heat after work. There’s nothing like it—aside from going out to eat! The only downfall I’ve found so far is the timing is off on a lot of recipes, so I tend to cut the time and watch it carefully. Maybe because it’s new it is also extra hot, and while I know you’re not supposed to open it to stir, I do to make sure nothing is getting scorched.

The Eater of the House and myself love Indian food, and Chicken Tikka Masala is a favorite, so I selected this recipe to make at home to see how it compared. Braised chicken with warm spices and a hint of coconut served over rice, it was a divine dinner. I was sorry I hadn’t thought ahead to make coconut rice, that would have been a perfect complement to the meal. (Brown rice cooked in a little bit of coconut milk, with shredded unsweetened coconut and minced ginger added.) The color wasn’t the vibrant red that you’d order in a restaurant, I’m honestly not sure what gives it that tinge, but it was still delicious.

Don’t be intimidated by the ingredient list, mostly it’s just measuring and adding. The recipe says it serves four, but I found it would served more even though it was just the two of us. The chicken was so tender it came off the bones, so I just stirred it in the sauce. I also didn’t add the extra Greek yogurt; I didn’t have any in the house and found it delicious just the same. And like my hope, I still have some in the freezer for a night I don’t want to cook!

tikka
Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

This recipe first appeared in the January/February 2016 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Serves 4
(serving size: 1/2 cup rice, 1 chicken thigh, 1 1/4 cups sauce mixture, and 1 tablespoon yogurt)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 (14.5-ounce) cans unsalted diced tomatoes
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
4 (6-ounce) skinless, bone-in chicken thighs
Cooking spray
1 cup light coconut milk
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups cooked brown basmati rice
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, ginger, and garlic to pan; cook 6 to 7 minutes or until starting to brown, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomato paste and tomatoes; bring to a simmer, and cook 3 minutes. Combine 1/3 cup water and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture, garam masala, paprika, curry powder, salt, and pepper to pan; stir well. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute.

2. Place chicken thighs in a 6-quart slow cooker coated with cooking spray. Add tomato mixture to slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW 7 hours or until chicken is very tender and sauce has thickened. Turn slow cooker to HIGH; uncover and add coconut milk, stirring with a whisk. Cook, uncovered, 15 minutes. Turn cooker off; stir in cilantro. Let stand 10 minutes. Serve over rice. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon yogurt.

evooMVK’s *Like* of the Week: High in the Italian Hills…
I consider myself more than lucky that my friend and journalist, Kieran Mulvaney, brought back a can of freshly milled olive oil for me from the hills of Italy a few weeks ago. I use olive oil daily, but have never had oil that was just pressed, so this was all in the name of cooking experimentation! It is peppery, strong, incredibly flavorful, and delicious. It tastes nothing like any olive oil I’ve ever had, even the most expensive kinds. And because it’s so fresh I know I have to eat it fairly quickly, I don’t want to! I want to savor the delicious flavor for months to come.

Kieran wrote about this special farm in Paciano where the olive oil came from in the Washington Post in 2014. You can read his article by clicking here.