Thursday, March 29, 2012

10 Fantastic Uses for Leftover Herbs

By now, almost everyone has heard that herbs are good for us. But what to do with those leftover leaves, sprigs and bunches? Try some of these ideas – or create your own!

Make your own herb salad mix: Instead of putting herbs in your salad dressing, toss the leaves of basil, cilantro, oregano, parsley or marjoram into your salad. Interesting and lively greens!

Brew up your Own Veggie Stock: Keep a large Ziploc bag in your freezer - labeled Veg Stock, with the date. During the week, toss in ends and pieces of your veggies, and any herb stems and pieces. When the bag is full, take it out and drop the contents in a large stockpot. (For beautiful color in your stock, make sure to add in some papery skin from the outside of an onion.) Barely cover with water and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Strain the veggies from the stock and use in any soup recipe. Want richer stock? After removing the veggies, continue to cook and reduce the stock by a third to half of its volume.

Give them more than what’s IN the box: Tie woody or hardy herbs like rosemary or thyme to the ribbon of your present. (If you are lucky enough to grow your own herbs, during the holiday season, you can make your tree smell delicious, too. Tuck spears of rosemary into the branches.)

Double the batch of this easy tomato sauce and freeze half of it for later!

Fast and Flavorful Tomato Sauce

2 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Cup Finely Chopped Yellow Onion

3 Large Garlic Cloves, Grated or Minced

1 TB Sea Salt

1 28 Ounce Can Crushed Tomatoes (or 3 Cups Chopped Fresh Tomatoes)

1 Bouquet Garni (made with any fresh herbs you have on hand, tied with kitchen twine)

Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, over medium heat saut̩ the onion in the oil until it softens Рabout 5 minutes. Add the garlic and salt and cook, stirring, for an additional minute. Add the entire can of tomatoes and the bouquet garni. Simmer over medium heat for about 20 - 30 minutes longer. Give it a big grind of black pepper.

Put Herbs in a Cocktail for a change:

Go beyond the mint julep! Try Basil with Bourbon and a splash of lemon juice. Chervil works well with whiskey, orange and sour mix or vodka with a spattering of thyme and a spear of cucumber.

Pesto is Much More Than Basil! Shake up your pesto by combining herbs like Basil and Mint or Coriander and Parsley.

Perfectly Easy Pesto

4 Garlic Cloves,

1/3 Cup Toasted Walnuts, Almonds or Pinenuts

1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive oil

4 Cups Fresh Herbs

½ Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese (optional)

1 Tsp Lemon Juice

Sea Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to taste

Place the garlic cloves, nuts and oil in the bowl of a food processor and chop finely. Add the remaining ingredients, pulsing until well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve these nuts with a rich chardonnay for a delicious aperitif!

Rosemary Spiced Nuts

4 TB Sugar, Divided

1 TB Finely Chopped Rosemary

1 Tsp Cinnamon

½ Tsp Salt

1 Large Egg White

4 Cups Raw Nuts: Walnuts, Pecans, Almonds, Brazil Nuts

Step One Preheat your oven to 350F. Cover a sheet tray with aluminum foil or parchment. Lightly spray with non-stick spray.

Step Two Combine 3 TB of sugar, spices and salt together in a bowl. In a large bowl, whisk the egg white until foamy. Add in the nuts and stir. Add the spice mixture and toss to coat.

Step Three Spread the nut mixture out in one layer on the sheet pan. Bake, stirring once, for about 15 minutes or until golden.

Step Four Remove the pan from the oven, stir the nuts to loosen them and sprinkle the remaining TB of sugar over the top.

Herbed Honey

Warm a cup of honey in a sauté pan, add a handful of fresh herbs, tied together. Simmer gently for 10 minutes and set aside to cool. Use a tablespoon in a vinaigrette for a smooth herbal flavor, or add to a cup of green tea.

Try drizzling this bright, intensely herbal sauce over a piece of fish from the grill!

Chimichurri Sauce

1 Cup Parsley, (Packed)

½ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

½ Cup Cilantro, (Packed)

1/3 Cup Red Wine Vinegar

2 Cloves Garlic, Peeled

¾ Tsp Red Pepper Flakes

½ Tsp Cumin

½ Tsp Salt

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend well. Set aside for at least 2 hours before serving to allow the flavors to meld. Leftovers keep great in the fridge for a couple of days

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Buongiorno Primavera! A Guest Post, by Healthy Sous-Chef Partyologist, Lea Bowen

Anyone who had the pleasure of being in Atlanta the past few days, has most certainly been bitten by spring fever. I know I have. The flowering trees are at their peek and the temperature has been ideal for sitting on the deck and relaxing. Of course, one cannot sit on the deck without a nice cool beverage and a complementary spring-inspired meal. This weekend I enjoyed some simple boiled shrimp and roasted asparagus as well as the veggie laden pasta dish I am sharing today. As always, I tried to make this recipe better for you by reducing the amount of olive oil, omitting butter and cream all together and using 100% whole wheat pasta.
I love the change of seasons. New weather, new wardrobe and most importantly, new food. Happy Spring!
Roasted Veggie Pasta Primavera:
1 box frozen Artichoke Hearts, thawed
1 Zucchini, 1/2 inch dice
1 Yellow Squash, 1/2 inch dice
1 Orange Bell Pepper, 1/2 dice
1/2 pint Grape Tomatoes
Olive Oil Cooking Spray
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 cup Frozen Peas, thawed
8 oz Whole Wheat Pasta, cooked according to package directions
2 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
1/4 cup Fresh Basil, julienned
Step One:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and place artichokes, zucchini, squash, bell pepper and grape tomatoes on a foil lined sheet pan. Spray vegetables with cooking spray, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Roast in oven for 25-30 minutes until veggies are starting to brown.
Step Two:
Add peas to the roasted vegetable mixture and toss with warm pasta. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and garnish with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.
Serves 4 as a side, or two a a vegetarian main dish.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Keepin' It Green: A Guest Post, by Healthy Sous-Chef Partyologist, Lea Bowen

Last week, my daughter and I went on our annual pilgrimage to Orlando with her competition cheer team. It was a weekend jam-packed with theme parks, cheer leading, good friends and fun. While I did not completely abandon my healthy eating habits, I must say that I did enjoy more than my normal share of indulgences. I mean, really who can resist a Mickey shaped waffle or two? Unfortunately, the only green I saw that weekend, came in the form of cash flying out of my wallet, rather than fresh veggies. With that said, I was in major need of some vitamin rich greens once I got home.

I came up with a crunchy kale and napa cabbage slaw that paired nicely with barbecue pork sliders. I wanted my slaw to mimic the tanginess of my regular slaw, but without the mayonnaise.

This was a great side dish that really nourished me after a long weekend of fun and travel. I hope you will give this tangy, super green slaw a try.

Super Green Kaleslaw:
1 bunch Kale, stem removed and cut into thin ribbons
1 medium head of Napa Cabbage, shredded
2 Carrots, shredded
3 Scallions, green and white part, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Canola Oil
1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
2 TB Honey
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste.

Step One:
Place kale in a large pan, coated with non-stick cooking spray, over medium high heat. Saute, stirring constantly, until kale is bright green in color, about 3-5 minutes. Remove kale from heat and allow to cool slightly. Once kale is cooled, place it in a large bowl with the Napa, carrots and scallions.

Step Two:
Make the vinaigrette by whisking together the canola oil, cider vinegar, honey and Dijon mustard.

Step Three:
Pour the vinaigrette over the veggies and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Chocolate Fix: A Guest Post, By Healthy Sous-Chef Partyologist, Lea Bowen

Not sure what got into me last week, but I needed a chocolate fix that only a batch of brownies could satisfy. I decided to take my traditional brownie recipe that I'd found in a magazine years ago and see if I could make them a little better. I replaced two of the eggs with egg whites and substituted some of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour and used raw sugar instead of refined white sugar. By no means, did I make these dark chocolate brownies into health food, but I was able to make some small changes that made me feel a tiny bit better about eating them. Mostly, I think I made them better in the taste category, by adding some of my favorite ingredients like espresso powder, fleur de sel and toasted almonds.
I hope you will enjoy this chocolaty indulgence as much as I did.
Better Chocolate Brownies:
2 cups Raw Sugar
1 1/2 sticks Butter, melted
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Egg
2 Egg Whites
2/3 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/3 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 tsp Instant Espresso Powder
1 60-70% Cacao Dark Chocolate Bar
Toasted Almonds
Step One:
Place raw sugar, butter, vanilla, egg and egg whites in a large bowl and mix to combine.
Step Two:
In a separate bowl, whisk together flours, sea salt, cocoa powder and espresso powder.
Step Three:
Gradually add flour mixture to the sugar and butter mixture and stir to combine.
Place batter in a 9 x 9 pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes until batter pulls away from sides. Allow to cool and cut into 25 pieces.
Optional Garnish:
Melt one 3.5 oz dark chocolate bar on the stove top over low heat. Spread a thin layer of melted chocolate on top of brownie pieces and top with a pinch of fleur de sel and a whole toasted almond.