Archives for category: Healthy

Personal chef Quinoa Bars 122

A common mental image of a “hacker” is a computer geek who uses his computer to get unauthorized data.  Thankfully. the term “hacker” no longer applies only to computer geeks.

This term has a completely new meaning that I embrace and embody in my everyday life and my career.  It is a beautiful thing.

The term hacking can also be used to describe someone who combines excellence, playfulness, cleverness and exploration in performed activities.  Now that is what I am talking about!

My darling friend Cesar asked me to make some food for a retreat he was organizing.  He wanted some delish and healthy meals and snacks.  I wanted to try something new for snack ideas.  Here is a picture of Cesar enjoying one of my meals at the Unreasonable Institute retreat this summer.

ui graduation 038

My other darling friend Pascal has a recipe on his fridge for quinoa snack bars.  I did not have a copy of the recipe but could remember the basics of the recipe and decided to give it a hack.  You should check out Pascal’s website Make Awesome Shit Happen.

pascal wagner

Using ingredients I had in the pantry and pulling out my food processor I got to work.  I was surprised at what a “healthy hack” this snack turned out to be.  “Healthy hacking” means when you get a result in the kitchen making fantastic food with beautiful ingredients that does not take hours of time or years of skill.  I delight in finding recipes that are similar to expensive convenience items and are simple to make and cost a fraction of the retail price.

These healthy and tasty bars are a great “kitchen hack.”    Packed full of ground flax seed, organic toasted nuts, dried organic fruit, dried coconut flakes, Justin’s almond butter and agave nectar this is a powerhouse snack.

Personal chef Quinoa Bars 123

TRY THIS RECIPE.  Kids love it, you will love it and give some to your friends and they will love you more!

I urge you to step into your kitchen and hack away.  No, I do not mean you should wield you knife in an unsafe manner but approach your cooking with a mindset that  embodies excellence, playfulness, cleverness and exploration.  Have Fun!

This a gluten free, paleo snack that is also vegan.

Quinoa Fruit and Nut Bars

Makes 12 Bars

Prep time 10 minutes

10 minutes to set

20 minutes to enjoying a yummy and healthy snack.

Lara Bars and Bread 009

Ingredients:

3 cups dried fruit, you can use apricots, cranberries, raisins, dates or any other moist dried fruit

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

2 cups nuts, I used almonds, walnuts and sunflower seeds and you can toast them or use them raw for a healthier hack

1/2 cup organic quinoa

1/2 cup organic flax seeds

1/4 tsp sea salt

2 tbs agave nector

4 tbs Justin’s Almond Butter, I could say to use any almond butter but for best results use Justin’s.

A great kitchen hack for baking and prep is to use a flexible cutting board, silpat baking sheet or parchment to measure out your ingredients.

Then you can just lift up the flexible surface and pour into your food processor or mixer without a mess or losing any ingredients.  So easy and simple

1.  Grind the flax seeds for about 2 minutes.

2.  Add Nuts, Quinoa and dried fruit then grind for another 2 minutes.

Lara Bars and Bread 020

3.  Add coconut, salt, agave and nut butter and mix for 2 more minutes.

Lara Bars and Bread 023

4.  Line a 11 x 7 inch rectangular pan or any other similar size pan with parchment paper or plastic wrap.  Spray lightly with non-stick spray.

Lara Bars and Bread 024

5.  Add quinoa bar mixture to the pan and press it flat.

Lara Bars and Bread 026

6.  Set pan in freezer for 10 minutes or refrigerator for 1 hour to set the mixture and make it easier to cut.

Lara Bars and Bread 032Bars may be stored in the freezer for up to 1 month or in the refrigerator for two weeks.

Personal chef Quinoa Bars 126 About a week after the retreat I received this email from Cesar.

Connie,

Here is a photo of both my sisters and one of their fiancees with your snack bars in Argentina!  I brought the left over ones as a travel snack and had enough to share, and the girls loved them  would you mind sharing the recipe with us?lara bars girlsThis was a very nice email to receive.  I love the fact that those healthy bars made it down to Argentina to these beautiful young people!!!

Since we are on the subject of hacking let me tell you about a happy discovery in my life.  My husband recently found a hacker space in our town.  Solid State Depot is the hacker space here in Boulder Colorado.

What is a hacker space?

From the website LifeHacker I found this description of a hacker space.  They also list hacker spaces around the country.

“Great DIY projects  are often easy to do at home, but many require tools and space that you may not have. Just because you don’t have a basement workshop doesn’t mean you don’t get to scratch your DIY itch. Odds are there’s a hackerspace in your community, stocked with tools, plenty of space, safety gear, and knowledgeable people willing to help you. These spaces offer would-be makers a place to go and safely experiment, tinker, and dream. Here’s how you can find and get involved with one near you.”

Check out your local hacker space today!

March 5 2013 161

I happened to hear a conversation my daughter was having with one of her friends.  The girl who was visiting us said to Maddy, “You guys don’t have any snacks?”  They were looking for something to eat in the cabinet.  My cabinet is filled with foods to make snacks but nothing prepared.  Sure, we sometimes have chips or pretzels but not all of the snack foods most people have in their houses.

This statement made me laugh because I remember when I was about 14 and my friend Jenifer was over to visit.  We stood in our huge dry storage area of the converted farmhouse my family lived in.

This was my mother’s domain.  For those of you who do not know my mother she is a formidable force of nature.  We grew up on a 5 acre subsistence farm.  We grew or raised most of what we ate.  My mom did most of the work.!

Jenifer was saying, “your family does not have any snacks.”

Our dry storage contained big huge bags of flour, big bags of beans and beautiful canning jars full of produce from our garden.  I remember loving to see how the light played off of the different colors in the jars.  Red tomatoes, dark green beans, yellow summer squash and purple beets all lined the shelves.  There were no Doritos.

When I would go to Jenifer’s house I would feel as if I stepped into the Plaza Hotel.  They had individual slices of cheese in plastic, single yogurts and chips and crackers.  How very fancy it seemed to me.  Don’t get me wrong, Jenifer’s mom fed her great food but it just seemed so fancy to me to have snacks.  My family could not afford these things for all 5 of us kids.  Sliced deli meat was a luxury that only came once or twice a year.  Grapes from the grocery store were descended on like a fallen gazelle by a pack of lions when my mom dared to bring them home from the store.

My need to make snacks from scratch also arises from not wanting to pay the grocery store prices for snacks but also that I want my family to eat well.

Making chips from scratch is a breeze if you have a mandolin. This is the one that I have but there are much cheaper ones that work great as well. French Mandolin.   I use my constantly.  It makes things much easier.  If you hand cut chips or fries it takes too long!  At least for me as a chef I cannot stand tasks that are too laborious or slow.  I am usually moving in high-speed.  I will slice the potatoes and let rest in extra cold water for about an hour.

Then I will place a rack over my sink and let the potatoes drain for an hour or so.  I also do this for fries. March 5 2013 159

Then you do not need to pat the potatoes down with a bunch of paper towels and all of the water evaporates off.

I pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.

Oil a pan with coconut oil.  Do not use too much oil.  Coconut oil is great because you do not need to use much.  I only oil the bottom of a cookie sheet and do not toss the chips to coat.  When they are half way done I just flip the chips to crisp the top when the bottom is crisp.

This will take about 15 minutes.  When chips are hot out of the oven add garlic, shredded parmesan and salt or any other creative flavors you can think of but add when hot so it sticks.

Let cool on a rack and enjoy.

March 5 2013 174

Andy B-day in Jimtown 074

Last weekend I catered a lovely little party in Jamestown.  My friend Andy had asked me a couple of months ago to cook for his birthday party.  I knew it was coming up but did not realize that he didn’t have my phone number.  I was in Jamestown the friday before dancing at Town Hall to a great line up of local bands including the Gasoline lollipops.  I went out on the porch to cool off because the place was packed and the music had us all dancing and started talking to Nolan Farmer.  Andy rents a room in Nolan’s’ beautiful house nestled in the mountains above Jamestown.  Nolan asks if I am coming to Andy’s party on Sunday.  SUNDAY!  I told Nolan I better call Andy in the morning because I am supposed cater the party for him.  I called Andy in the morning a we worked out a quick and healthy menu.  Andy is committed to eating healthy and he is doing a great job.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 109Here is the birthday boy telling a joke.

I arrived at Andy and Nolan’s on Sunday and had a great day cooking with Andy and listening to the talented Nolan Farmer playing his guitar and singing some of the wonderful bluegrass songs he has written.  Does it get any better than that?

I made a kale and cabbage slaw with oven dried apples.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 056A light platter of salami and olives with some delicious fresh oranges.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 081

My whole wheat carrot cake cupcakes were a hit.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 049Andy B-day in Jimtown 094

Andy made a fantastic guacamole.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 089I also made some yummy goat cheese and veggie flatbread.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 088The center dish was an oven roasted salmon fillet with marinated baby heirloom tomatoes with garlic and fresh basil.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 040The guests loved the food but I think I had the most fun just watching my friends enjoy food cooked with love.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 113Andy B-day in Jimtown 119

Oven Roasted Salmon with Marinated Tomatoes

This dish is simple and delicious

2 lb Fresh Salmon Fillet

1 Pint heirloom Grape Tomatoes or Regular Grape Tomatoes

1 Garlic Clove Sliced Thinly

8-10 Fresh Basil Leaves

1 Lemon Sliced into Rounds

Sea Salt

Cracked Black Pepper

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Balsamic Vinegar

8 Hours before cooking marinate Tomatoes slice in half, Garlic and Basil with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Slice the salmon fillet down the center and then slice into the salmon about 1 inch on each side of the center cut so that the salmon will open up.

Rub the salmon with olive oil and season with sea salt and black pepper.

Open the top and pile in the tomato mixture.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 063

Top with slices of lemon and bake until salmon is fully cooked.  About 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  Serve hot or cold.  The roasted tomatoes take on a bright and sweet flavor.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 067

Mothers Day is coming up and this dish would be a hit.

A la greqce cauliflower 012

I was thinking of Thomas Keller when I was trying to figure out what to do with all of this lovely cauliflower I had in my refrigerator.  I usually roast cauliflower, or make a soup or just steam it, but I wanted to do something new.

Thomas Keller has a  recipe for vegetables a la grecque.in his cookbook Bouchon. I love bistro food and preparing food ahead of time to be eaten later.  This recipe is perfect for making a day ahead and enjoying it all week.

You gently cook veggies in a court bouillon with olive oil, aromatics and lemon juice.  After cooking you store the veggies in the refrigerator in the cooled cooking liquid and reduce the liquid and make a vinaigrette before serving.  Genius.

I tweaked the recipe a little bit and substituted  butter for olive oil and  white wine for lemon juice.  The result was amazing.  I have been eating little happy bites of cauliflower lightly scented with herbs and wine for days now.  Heavenly.

This is a wonderful recipe for a party since most of the work can be done up to 2 days ahead of time.

A la greqce cauliflower 010

Start by cutting up your cauliflower.

Feb 27 2013 019In a large pot add 2 cups water, 2 cups white wine, 1/4 cup butter and aromatic herbs.  I used thyme, sage and rosemary.  I also threw in a garlic clove sliced into rounds.  Season the water with 1 teaspoon sea salt.

Feb 27 2013 021

Bring water to simmer and add veggies.

Feb 27 2013 024

Cook until tender crisp.

Feb 27 2013 027

Rinse veggies in very cold running water to stop the cooking process.

Feb 27 2013 029

Cool the cooking liquid and store veggies in the cooled cooking liquid for up to 1 week in your refrigerator.

Feb 27 2013 036

I suggest you try both my method and then go out and buy the Bouchon cookbook and try Thomas’ recipe as well.  I am sure I will be making this dish all summer when it is hot because the veggies, right out of the fridge are cool and packed with flavor.

Feb 27 2013 044

I bought a couple of pounds of roma tomatoes at the store.  They were a wonderful color and looked yummy.  These tomatoes were not very yummy.  As a fresh tomato these little fruits were completely useless.

Being frugal I could not throw them out.  Oven drying was the only solution.  This way the sugars in the tomatoes would be concentrated and the flavor enhanced.  I do not like to waste food.

I had some fresh thyme that I had frozen when I realized I would not use it up by the time in turned.  Freezing thyme is a great way to preserve it when you are not going to use the whole bunch.

I tossed the tomatoes in a little bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Threw on some sea salt and pepper and tossed some garlic and fresh thyme on top.

Feb 23 2013 053I set my oven and 250 degrees and let the tomatoes roast for 3-4 hours.

Feb 23 2013 079I took out the thyme stems and saved them in a bag in the freezer for stock and packed the dried tomatoes and garlic in a jar with some olive oil.  The tomatoes last in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks or 2 months in the freezer.  Use the oil to coat veggies, for a tasty salad dressing or spread on some fresh-baked bread.  Do not throw out the oil after you have used the tomatoes as it has a great flavor for the herbs, garlic and sweet tomatoes.

Feb 27 2013 046

These sweet dried tomatoes are very versatile.

Here are 10 ways to use oven dried tomatoes:

1.  Pizza topping

2.  Toss with pasta, olive oil, garlic and a good cheese

3.  Antipasti

4.  Top a salad with bacon and blue cheese

5.  Add to mayo and it is great in a sandwich or as a dipping sauce with fresh veggies

6.  Add to your favorite pasta sauce to punch up the flavor

7.  Add to stew at the end of cooking for a sweet complexity

8.  Add to soup with kale, white beans and garlic

9.  Blend tomatoes, oil that you stored the tomatoes in, and more fresh herbs with some balsamic vinegar for a delicious salad dressing

10. Toss with feta, kalamata olives, olive oil and grilled veggies

What do you use your oven dried tomatoes for?

Check out Lucys Friendly Foods for a great antipasti salad recipe.

July 2012 076

I have catered hundreds of events.  To have a smooth catered event you need a strong team.  Last summer I catered a small wedding in the mountains.  My great friends Ben Bell, Mike Deel and Dominic Daledia helped with this event.  The catering went smooth and easy.  It was a fun night and did not seem like work but having a party in the kitchen.  If only all of my catered events could go this smoothly.

The big difference with good food and great food comes when the people who are cooking love what they are doing.  That love comes through in the quality and flavor of the food.  This post was started last summer and I was reminded of it when I was looking at one of my favorite books Like Water for Chocolate.  This wonderful story is about the power of love coming through in food.  Read it if you have not gotten the chance yet.

When a group of cooks comes together, who love what they are doing, the food is always amazing.  I could not have done this event without the team that I worked with.

The bride wanted a cupcake tower and Dominic got out his chain saw and went to work creating this lovely platform for the cupcakes.

July 2012 118Mike was manning the grill and he can always grill up a piece of meat to perfection.  I  always trust that putting Mike Deel on the grill will result in perfect food.

July 2012 104Ben Bell is such a perfectionist that the detail work is where I task him.  He once topped some pizzas before going in the oven and I swear it looked like he had used a ruler to space the pepperoni evenly.  I love to watch this guy work.  It is beautiful how he is meticulous and artistic.

July 2012 102It really is all about the team when catering and this group of guys are always a pleasure to work with.

July 2012 136

I was reading a post from one of my favorite blogs, Things my Belly likes this morning and she asked if anyone had a cheese and maple recipe.  I thought about how this post has been languishing in my drafts folder and decided it was time to get it out and dust it off.

July 2012 073

Endive Spears with Goat Cheese and Maple Glazed Pecans

This is the most popular appetizer that I use when catering.  The crisp endive spears and creamy goat cheese topped with a sweet pecan and fig jam just fly off the tray when I serve them.

Endive spears separated and washed.  Let them dry on a towel for at least half an hour upside down to drain the water.

Toast pecan halves tossed in maple syrup until crispy.  This will take 8-10 minutes.   Let them cool completely before removing from the tray.

Mix 1 lb goat cheese with 2 tbs heavy whipping cream in a stand mixer with whisk attachment.

This will make the goat cheese easier to spoon into the endive spears.

Scoop a small amount of goat cheese into the endive spears.  Top with fig jam, one pecan, a sprig of fresh thyme and season with salt and pepper.

You can make your own fig jam or pick up a jar at the market.

Here is a great recipe for fig jam from Kiss my Spatula.

Feb 6 051

I stood in front of the display of Satsuma tangerines at Whole Foods.  I was not there to buy fruit.  I had a list and a budget.  I looked down at the tangerines.  The display was artful and tantalizing.  Lovely oranges, yellows and dark greens swam before my eyes.  I mumbled to myself that I have to remember not to go to Whole Foods on an empty stomach.  Of course I reached for a paper bag and starting filling it with these little beauties.

If you have not had the pleasure of tasting Satsuma Tangerines do yourself a favor and buy them today.  They are available for a short time each year and then they are gone. You will have to wait for the next season and this is not advisable.

When I got home and sat down to peel the thin skin off of a Satsuma I took my time and enjoyed the process.  It reminded me of my favorite author.  MFK Fisher.  Most of you hard-core foodies are familiar with Mary Francis.  If you love food and life and the sensual pleasures found in food then pick up any of her books.  The tangerine reminded me of her book Serve it Forth.  In the essay Borderland she describes her secret love of dried tangerine segments.  “My pleasure in them is subtle and voluptuous and quite inexplicable.”  This line is Mary Francis at her best.  Her erudite musings on food and life are beautiful to read.  I lose myself in her books.  I do not read them on the bus or at a crowded cafe but save them for a quiet place where I can stop and just stare off into space and think about what she has written.  I am always inspired to cook and eat, usually with a few good friends after reading MFK Fisher.

I enjoyed my honey sweet tangerine and was pleased with my lack of self-control at Whole Foods.  I had no regrets about not sticking to my budget.

You can cook with Satsuma tangerines but eat one fresh as well.   Enjoy the perfume of sweet citrus and then experience the sweet juice as you bite into each little segment.

Jen Yu describes her first experience with Satsuma Tangerines in her stunningly beautiful blog Use Real Butter.  Fall Fruit and Yogurt Salad.

You can add Satsuma tangerines to salads, make a fruit salsa for fish, bake a lovely tart or make a sweet and tart Satsuma marmalade.

Todays recipe is not a gourmet recipe.  I wanted to make something for my 12-year-old son.  He was getting over a cold and his throat was sore.

Jello!  Always my favorite for soothing a sore throat when I had a cold as a kid. It is  easy to make your own jello and the ingredient list does not contain words hard to pronounce.

My son and I read a box of Jello at the store.  He was not enticed by the disodium phosphate or the adipic acid and fumeric acid.

We made our own jello with just a few more steps than the boxed kind and it was delicious.  Little bits of Satsuma flesh dotted the jello and a bright citrus flavor dominated the taste instead of the usual cloying sweetness of packaged jello.

Top your jello with some fresh made real whipped cream  or just eat it plain.  This is not gourmet but a real treat.

Satsuma Jello 2 003

Satsuma Tangerine Gelatin

You can substitute honey or agave nectar for sugar in this recipe but reduce water by 1/4 cup

I recommend honey since Satsuma tangerines have a honey note that is intensified with honey.

1/2 ounce or 2-1/4 tablespoons unflavored gelatin

2 1/2 cups cold water

1 cup fresh squeezed Satsuma tangerines

2 tangerines sliced into rounds

1 cup cane sugar, or to taste since this recipe is slightly sweet without added sugar

If substituting the sugar with honey or agave nectar remember to reduce water by 1/4 cup.  Agave nectar gives this recipe a nice slightly brown color and rich molasses flavor.

Bloom the gelatin in 1/2 cup cold water in a large bowl.  Let sit for 5 minutes and then stir.

Feb 6 049Boil 2 cups of water with the tangerine slices and sugar until sugar is dissolved.  Add tangerine juice and pour hot mixture into cold water and gelatin mixture.  Mix throughly and put in the refrigerator to set.

Feb 6 059It should set up in about 2 hours.  Leave the tangerine slices in the jello as it will increase flavor.  You can remove them before serving but since Satsuma tangerines  do not have a bitter pith then they are sweet and tasty when left in whole slices and eaten with the dessert.

Satsuma Jello 2 002

I am going to admit to one of my strange quirks…. one of many….of course.

I love to watch the cranberries split!  I love it.  This is one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving.   Most people would say they love eating roasted turkey or pumpkin pie.   They may say that they love the football games or eating stuffing.

For me, right behind hanging out with my family would be watching the cranberries split.  What?  You may be thinking “what does she mean?”  Crazy food blogger…..

Well, let me tell you about it.

It is a multi-sensory activity using your sense of smell, taste, visual and auditory all in one easy cooking activity.  What more could a food obsessed individual need for the holidays

I love looking over the edge of the pot and seeing the different reds and purples and pinks of the fresh cranberries mingled with the dark green rosemary and bright yellow of lemon.  Shiny with water and sugar the berries sparkle in the light.  They dance when the water starts to boil.  It is like a cranberry disco on your stove.

Turn up the heat and wait a couple of minutes and the fun really starts.  The berries start to dance around in the pot and the earthy smell of rosemary and bright smell of lemon reach your nose.  Next comes the popping.  Cranberries will expand and split when cooked and release that quintessential of holiday smells, fresh cranberry sauce.

I just love it.

Simmer the berries a bit longer and that is all you have to do.  The sauce is best cooled overnight and it will thicken naturally.  No need to add gelatin.  Gone forever from your table is the metallic tasting can of cranberry flavored gelatin that slides out in one big ribbed lump.  Canned cranberry gelatin is not nearly as fun as dancing cranberries with fresh herbs and citrus.  You can get very creative with cranberry sauce as you can see from my extensive list of variations at the bottom of this post.  Have fun with this traditional side dish and add dried fruit, nuts, spices and herbs.

Master Cranberry Sauce

200 gram sugar (1 cup)

1 cup water

4 cups fresh cranberries

After you cook the cranberries you may add any savory or sweet additions you would like to flavor your sauce.  At the bottom of this post I will list some of my favorite variations.  Makes 2 1/2 cups cranberry sauce.

1 Wash your lovely cranberries.  In a saucepan bring water to a boil and add sugar, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Add cranberries, return to a boil.  Reduce heat, simmer for 10 minutes or until cranberries burst.   Lovely!

2 At this point you can add all number of optional ingredients.  The cranberry sauce in the picture has fresh rosemary and lemon wedges.   You can add a cup of dried cranberries or dried cherries.

3 Remove from heat.  Cool at room temperature for 1 hour and chill in the refrigerator overnight.   Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools.

Cranberry Sauce Variations

Southwestern Cranberry Sauce

1/2 tsp chipotle powder and topped with minced fresh cilantro and lime juice before serving

Orange and Almond Cranberry Sauce

Substitute fresh orange juice with water and add sliced almonds

Apple and Ginger Cranberry Sauce

1 tbs candied ginger diced fine with 1 cup diced honey crisp apple

Rosemary and Port Wine Cranberry Sauce

1 tsp minced fresh rosemary, 1/4 cup port wine (reduce water to 3/4 cup) and 1 tsp orange zest

Maple Walnut Cranberry Sauce

4 tbs maple syrup, substitute brown sugar for white sugar and 1/3 cup diced toasted walnuts

Apricot and cardamom Cranberry Sauce

1/3 cup diced dried apricots and 1 tsp cardamom

Lemon Thyme Cranberry Sauce

1 tbs fresh thyme and 1 tbs lemon zest

Let me know if you have any creative variations for cranberry sauce on your Thanksgiving menu.

Yesterday my husband and I spent the whole afternoon in our garden.  My hands are a bit worse for the wear and I was tired and cranky last night but it was well worth it.

For those of you who garden, you will really understand the joy of watching your seedlings come up and urging them along.

We face several challenges gardening in the Rocky Mountains at 8000 feet.  First off, you can get frost up until the middle of June and as early as late August.  We have set up a system to cover the garden this year.  Last year we had several tomato plants with lots of green tomatoes and corn and zucchini we lost to the frost.  We are much more prepared this year.  I also learned you can pull up the tomato plants and hang them upside down in a sunny spot in your house and the tomatoes will continue to ripen.

Then there are the critters.  Ground squirrels, rabbits, prairie dogs, deer and elk all menace my garden.  We have a garden that has been dug underneath at about 4-5 feet and with heavy-duty mesh wire sheets laid down so the burrowing creatures cannot help themselves to our crops.  The garden is actually above this mesh with dirt about 4 feet high over the mesh. This wire mesh continues up the sides of the fences and the fences are 7 feet high to discourage the deer.  Now as for the Elk we just have to cross our fingers that a huge bull elk does not decide to push the fence over to get at our goodies.  It has not happened yet!  Cross your fingers for me.

My husband spent about a week this spring re-building the door and reinforcing the fence around the outside so there are not any holes for ground squirrels to get in.  I had a lovely crop of cabbage and collard greens that the ground squirrels enjoyed last spring because we had a hole in the fence.

It is such a gamble to try to garden under these conditions that the chance we will succeed with gardening is pretty small but we also learned a lot last year to help us protect the garden this year.  If this project fails at least we had fun doing it.  I loved hanging out with my husband in the quiet mountain air and listening to some classical music on his smart phone while digging in the dirt.  Yesterday afternoon was priceless.

Before we started out to the garden plot we sat down for a tasty and light salad for lunch.  We talked about how fun it would be to eat our own salad greens.  The ones we were eating came from Whole Foods.  Our salad rows are looking like they have been chewed on by the moths that come out in the early evening.  Do any of you experience gardeners know how to deal with this?

Spring Salad with Chevre, Chicken and Red Onions

Serves 4

1 lb Mixed Spring Salad Greens

1/4 red onion sliced thinly

1/2 carrot grated on a box grater on the small holes

1/2 lb Laurels Chanel Chevre crumbled

8 chicken tenders

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 tbs balsamic vinegar

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Place chicken tenders in a roasting pan and drizzle 1 tbs balsamic vinegar and 1 tbs olive oil over the top.  Season with sea salt and cracked pepper.

Bake until cooked through but not tough on the outside.  About 15 minutes or until internal read thermometer reads 160.

Cool in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Toss salad greens, grated carrot and sliced red onion together.

Top with shredded chicken, crumbled goat cheese and 1 tbs balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Season to taste.

Yesterday was bright and sunny when I woke up.  There was a bit of a chill in the air but overall it was sunny and clear.

I went up to the lodge and got the grill ready.  My mother in law, sister-in-law and nephew were coming up for Sunday brunch.

It was a perfect spring day.  I was even thinking we may set up a table on the deck and eat outside.  Was I wrong.   Weather can change fast in the mountains.

I starting grilling and decided to take some pictures from the deck.

It was warm and sunny.  Next thing I know I spot a white mass out over one of the hills.  It almost looked like smoke.

As the mass began to move and drift toward the lodge I realized the it was bringing a chilly wind.  It began to spread out and when it reached the lodge I realized it was snow.

Snow….in May.  Well I do live in the Rocky Mountains.

So here I am standing on the deck in cut offs and sandals grilling in the snow.  It made me laugh because almost every time I pull out the grill it starts raining.  I should grill more often since we are having a dry spring.

Thankfully I was done grilling and could move in a light the fireplace and relax with my family.

Ok, so back to the food….I was planning on featuring a summer salad.  This is a salad that we make nearly everyday during the summer.

But how can I feature a salad when it is snowing?  Shouldn’t I feature a stew or soup?  Well since the rest of the country is not blanketed in snow I will go ahead with my summer salad.  It kept snowing all night.  Most of the snow melted on impact but we got some great precipitation that was needed.

In the warm spring and summer months my  family enjoys salads nearly every dinner.  Sliced ripe red tomatoes, rich and creamy cheese, and bright fresh herbs is our favorite combination.

This salad is made with tomatoes (Compari vine ripe tomatoes from Costco), fresh mozzarella, balsamic, extra virgin olive oil and fresh thyme.

Fresh Tomato, Mozzarella and Balsamic Salad

The key to getting the best flavor from this salad is to thinly slice the mozzarella which can be done if you freeze it for about half an hour or until slightly firm but not hard.  With the thinner mozzarella you can marinate it with balsamic and olive oil and the flavor will permeate the creamy cheese.

8-12 vine ripe compari tomatoes (I used the tomatoes from our local Costco but the salad is best with fresh tomatoes in season)

1 lb fresh mozzarella ( I used Bel Gioioso brand)

1/4 cup good balsamic vinegar (I used my trusty Kirkland Signature Brand from Costco, yes I know I love Costco..)

1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove minced finely

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (you can also use basil, oregano or mint)

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Slice your mozzarella thinly and marinate with balsamic, olive oil and garlic.  Let marinate for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours in your refrigerator. 

Slice tomatoes and arrange tomatoes, mozzarella with marinade and fresh herbs on a plate.  Drizzle a bit more vinegar and olive oil and top with fresh herbs.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.   Serve as a first course with crusty fresh-baked bread or as a side dish with a nice piece of grilled meat.

Here are a few variations on this salad:

Fresh tomato, feta cheese, mint and kalamata olives

Fresh tomato, feta cheese, oregano and kalamata olives

Fresh tomato, blue cheese and bacon and arugula

Fresh tomato, brie cheese and pancetta

More great tomato salad recipes:

This one from Jamie Oliver. (I just love how he uses tomatoes of different sizes and shapes.)

Or try this one from Martha.

Here is Elsies’ beautiful version of the tomato mozzarella combo.

I enjoy to just sitting and watching my tomato starts and dream that this season will be long enough for us to actually harvest some tomatoes.  Last year our crops froze before they had a chance to ripen.  We are much more prepared this year.  Wish me luck!

If I am not successful I will have the Boulder Farmers Market at my disposal and in late summer the farmers in the area will have a dizzying array of tomatoes to choose from.

Now I will resume my fresh tomato dreams…..

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 454 other followers