Garden Fresh Tomatoes and Salsa

Garedn Fresh Tomatoes and Salsa

Fresh produce from the garden. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? SALSA!!

But first a little tomato trivia:

The U.S. Congress passed the Tariff Act of 1883 which levied a ten percent duty on imported vegetables to protect American growers from foreign competition. This same year they declared the tomato a vegetable, so it could be included in the tariff, and from that time on the fruit was converted to a vegetable.

Tomato At Its Best, When Cooked

Tomatoes are at their peak, and now is the time to roast or cook and can them. Roasting or cooking tomatoes make them better for you, as the lycopene is higher after being cooked. Lycopene is an antioxidant that is great for keeping the heart healthy and on beat. Harvard Medical School says that one slice of raw tomato contains approximately 515 micrograms of lycopene, while 2 tablespoons of tomato paste contains 13,800 micrograms of lycopene.

Here are some info-graphics that the Health News Library has post about tomatoes over the past year (2013-14).

Preventing skin damage with tomatoes

tomatoes and cancer

With the harvest of our latest tomatoes, we remembered a recipe we have for Fresh Mexican Salsa in the form of a video. After viewing the video check out this link for more information on the benefits of tomatoes: Protecting Your Skin From the Sun.

Enjoy the video and we hope you prepare Fresh Mexican Salsa with your garden fresh tomatoes.

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Blanching and Freezing Your Garden Vegetables

Blanching and Freezing Your Garden Vegetables

Do you have a garden? Maybe you have a lot of vegetables that you are giving away to family, friends, and neighbors through the growing season.

Usually when the season comes to an end, a gardener with a medium to large vegetable garden will still have an abundance giving your extra garden produce to family and friendsof vegetables, and after giving them away all summer, the receivers are all “vegetated out”, so to speak. So what do you do with all that extra produce you have harvested? Why not blanch and freeze them?

The blanching of vegetables or a termed use for this process is “to whiten”, is an easy technique of boiling vegetables for а short while and then immediately chilling them in ice-cold water.

Blanching can also be used to remove strong flavors from foods like onions as an example. What is being “whitened” or blanched out is the unpleasant flavor of tannins found in onions.

Wikipedia says that McDonald’s Restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina in the early 1960’s, used a process on the potatoes called ‘blanching.’ The potatoes were first mechanically peeled and then manually pushed through a slicer producing raw French fries, they were batch-soaked in room-temperature water for 3–5 minutes to remove starch, and after this process the sliced potatoes were declared as having been blanched.

Vegetables ѕhоuld  bе blanched bеfоrе thеу аrе stored іn thе freezer. Thіѕ helps іn retaining thеіr nutritive value, but аlѕо helps іn preserving thеіr color, flavor аnd texture.

How tо Blanch Vegetables?

Fill а large pot with water, add sea salt or Himalayan salt and bring іt tо а raped boil. Add еnоugh salt ѕо thаt the water tastes salty.

Whіle thе water іѕ heating to a boil, fill а large bowl with three quarters оf ice аnd add еnоugh cold water.

Add thе vegetables іn small amounts tо the boiling pot to ensure thаt the water dоеѕn’t loses іtѕ boil.

Boil thе vegetables untіl thеу аrе barely cooked but still tender. To test this, remove а small piece of vegetable with а spoon, dip іt іn tо ice water аnd eat іt. If it is tender, but not soft, it is considered done.

Once thе vegetables аrе done, remove thеm аѕ fast аѕ уоu саn аnd drown thеm іn ice-cold water. Remove vegetables frоm ice-cold water, аѕ soon аѕ thеу get cold.

Tо cook thе vegetables again, уоu саn uѕе аnу cooking method уоu want, like sauteing, boiling аnd grilling. If уоu want tо reheat thе vegetables, it is recommened to steam them, taking care nоt tо cook thеm again.

Blanching the Vegetables

Thіѕ іѕ а great question, as blanching the vegetables could be over blanched or under blanched..

Following іѕ a list оf vegetables аnd how muсh time thеу ѕhоuld bе blanched іn boiling water.

How much time to blanch vegetables- Blanching and Freezing Your Garden Vegetables

Freezing the Vegetables

Spread оut thе cooled, blanched vegetables onto  а parchment cover tray аnd freeze thеm fоr аn hour.

Bundle the frozen vegetables іn groups or singlely іntо freezer bags or containers suitable for using in the freezer. Label thе bags оr container wіth contents аnd date. Uѕе thеm whеnеvеr уоu like, keeping most frozen vegetables up to 8 months.

It іѕ advised tо bag the frozen vegetables іn small amounts, rаthеr than іn а big batch.

Here are some articles that have good reading about vegetables:

Cooking Vegetables without Sacrificing Flavor

Small Diet Changes that Make a Big Difference

A Raw Food Diet and Its Health Benefits

Fiber in Your Diet – Simple Ways to Get More

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Juicing for Better Health

Juicing for Better Health

Whether it is just a fad or a trend that is here to stay, juicing is extremely popular among health conscious individuals. As more and more people experience the amazing results associated with this healthy lifestyle choice, its popularity is expected to grow.

Without question, juicing can be incorporated into your daily life to increase your overall health and vitality. By increasing your daily intake of healthy fruits and vegetables, you’ll be giving your body the essential building blocks it needs. To get the most benefit out of juicing, you’ll want to educate yourself on some of the basics before you get started. You’ll find a wealth of information on these topics in the pages that follow.

The Benefits of Juicing at Home

If you are new to juicing, you may find the process to be a bit of a hassle. However, once you start to see and experience the many benefits associated with juicing, you may wonder how you ever got along without it. So commit to testing out your new lifestyle for at least several weeks before deciding if it is for you or not.

Important Tip: Making your own fresh juice drinks is better than buying ready-made juice products as they have to be treated and processed to extend shelf  life. Therefore, homemade juices are fresher, plus you have more control over what you are putting into your body.

When making your own homemade juices, however, it is important to consume the juice product as soon as it is ready. Exposure to air degrades the nutrients in your juice, so the sooner you drink it, the better.

beet juice - Juicing for Better Health

 

It should also be noted that although fresh fruit juices are delicious and refreshing, be aware that many fruits are naturally high in sugar which can lead to unwanted weight gain and other unintended health issues. A better alternative is to combine complementary fruits and vegetables together to create healthy and delicious concoctions. Combining vegetable-based juices with a healthy balanced diet will help you achieve the results you desire.

 

 

 

Benefits of Healthy Juicing

One of the main benefits of juicing is that it is a lot easier to drink a single glass of nutrient-rich juice than it is to consume a comparable amount of whole fruits and vegetables. People are busy and most simply won’t sit down and eat that much produce at one time. Instead, they’ll reach for more convenient, but less healthy options.

There are many advantages associated with juicing. As mentioned, juicing makes it easier to give your body the important nutrients, enzymes, vitamins and minerals it needs. In addition, some argue that juicing offers a more efficient way for your body to absorb nutrients without placing undue pressure on your digestive system.

Juicing is also a great alternative for those who dislike vegetables and avoid eating them whenever possible. For these individuals, a glass of delicious juice lightly sweetened with a bit of pineapple or pear is a welcome alternative to a plate of steamed veggies.

There are tons of recipes available online to help you make delicious and creative juicing concoctions your whole family will love. When creating a collection of juice recipes you want to try, look for combinations that include both fruits and vegetables for the greatest health benefits.

Be aware that most juicing recipes include parts of the fruits and vegetables you would normally discard.  With juicing, you’ll often be advised to include leafy plant tops, rinds, skins, seeds and other parts that normally end up in the trash or compost pile. This is a real shame, because these items are often full of the essential nutrients your body needs.

Breville JE98XL Juice Fountain PlusWhen you start juicing, you will want to invest in a juicer powerful enough to handle the types of fruits and vegetables you plan to use. This doesn’t mean you have to break the bank or make a huge financial commitment to test out your new lifestyle. There are a number of really good entry-level centrifugal juicers on the market for around $50 or $60. These models don’t offer all the bells and whistles of higher end units, but they are certainly worthy of your consideration.

Regardless of what kind of juicer you choose, consider it an investment in your long-term health. Making your own juices at home is infinitely better for you than picking up processed juices in your local grocery store. Those processed juices usually require some heating process to extend their shelf life, which can kill off valuable enzymes and nutrients. By making your own juice at home, you can keep the integrity of juice blends intact.

 

 

 

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Cooking Vegetables without Sacrificing Flavor

Cooking Vegetables without Sacrificing Flavor

Eating vegetables is very beneficial for your health in several different ways, one most important is keeping your blood pressure low. Adding the most amounts of vegetables to your diet as you can protects you from other diseases like certain types of cancers, heart disease, and type II diabetes.

Vegetables are packed with nutrients and vitamins that can give you an added boost of energy. On top of it all, being healthy inside can make look younger, healthier and more attractive on the outside, and who doesn’t want that?

The recommended amount of vegetables to eat daily is 3-5 servings, and sadly enough, better than 70% of people do not eat enough of these healthy and nutritious food sources. Too many, eating vegetables is a chore, and they simple don’t take the time to prepare them for consumption.

Eating vegetables, an essential part of the meal can be really delightful and gratifying, in what way? Consider the following.

Vegetables can be cooked and prepared in a variety of ways, from steaming to roasting.

We prepared this guide to help you learn the best techniques in cooking healthy and sumptuous vegetables. You might say you already knew this, than please consider this guide a reminder.

A good sign that vegetables are properly cooked is by looking for a very bright and vibrant color. When the color is dull or dark, as can be the case with canned green beans or Asparagus, it’s a sign that they are over cooked. When vegetables are over cooked, they have little to no nutritional value. Over cooking your vegetables, or buying them in a can is really wasting your hard earned money.

Now your guide for healthy ways to cook vegetables without sacrificing flavor, including necessary vitamins and minerals:

These cooking methods can create appetizing and healthy vegetable dishes.

Steaming

Boiling the vegetables is the easiest and most convenient way of preparing a vegetable dish. In this cooking method, all you need is a cooking pot filled with water. But it isn’t ideal as boiling your vegetables strip the essential nutrients while cooking. What’s more, it saps flavor from the vegetables.

Steaming your vegetables can allow you to cook them without losing their nutrients, and it helps the vegetables retain their natural flavor.
To steam vegetables, you just need a good and reliable steamer. But if you do not have a steamer, you may use a pot with a steaming basket.

 

 

 

Roasting

roasted vegetables

Roasted Vegetables

There are some vegetables that can retain more antioxidants, flavor, and nutrients when roasted. Peppers, eggplant, sweet potatoes, beets, and asparagus, to name a few, are healthier and more delicious when they are prepared with this method.

Keep in mind, even though the oven is at 350 degrees, and if you are roasting the vegetables for 20 to 30 minutes (depending on the vegetable) the internal temperature of the vegetables will normally be about 165 degrees.

40 to 60 percent of the nutrients are still intact at this temperature. Vitamins and minerals begin to waste away at temperatures of 185 degrees and above (internal temperature not the temperature of the stove).

Sautéing

Sautéing also referred to as stir-frying, is no doubt one of the healthiest ways to prepare a vegetable. When sautéing the vegetables, they are being cooked in a pan over very high temperatures. Since the vegetables are cooked in a high temperature, sautéing quickly cooks your vegetables and reduces the loss of nutrients and vitamins.

But keep in mind, cutting your vegetables in thin slices is the best way to sauté or stir-fry them, doing so cooks them quickly and they are not exposed to the high heat very long, and therefore retain their nutrients.

As far as the taste goes, sautéing won’t compromise the vegetables flavors. Sautéing can retain the natural flavors even better than steaming them. Sautéing them can even add flavor, as this cooking method is done by adding in other flavors like herbs and spices.

It is worthy to note, that sautéing requires keeping an eye on the pan of vegetables at all times, as the vegetables can burn quickly or over cook, losing their flavor and essential nutrients.

Grilling

grilling vegetables

Grilling Vegetables

Almost any vegetable can be cooked on a grill. The  best vegetables to use though, are those with a low water content, like corn on the cob, zucchini, potatoes, mushrooms, and artichokes to name a few. Coat the vegetables with avocado oil or coconut oil (high smoke point oils) before placing on the grill.

You can also grill vegetables using a foil pouch. Make a pouch with aluminum foil, add a little water and they can be steamed, or add some butter, herbs and spices instead to add some flavor.

Most vegetables on the grill cook in 3 to 5 minutes. Harder vegetables like potatoes will take longer. Be sure the grill is nice and hot, so that they are on the grill no longer than 3 to 5 minutes, so that they do not lose their nutrients.

Check out our search with the key word “Vegetables” here at Splendid Recipes and More for recipes using the methods in this article, for cooking vegetables. —–Link Here—–

 

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Citrus Herb Roasted Vegetables

Citrus Herb Roasted Vegetables

This recipe focuses on the roasted vegetables as a side dish. We did use skinless chicken thighs (bone-in) as this is my families favorite part of the chicken. Though I do prefer, de-boned, skinless chicken breast.

You can roast these vegetables with about any meat you wish, including fish like Salmon or Halibut. The blend of seasonings that we used are common culinary herbs with the zest of citrus fruits, orange and lemon. This seasoning blend is well suited for many uses in the kitchen, like adding spice to a fruit salad, or add it to a grain, such as quinoa. For lean meats, you can use the citrus herb seasoning as a dry rub before grilling.

The seasoning consists of  the following:

1 tbsp. dried thyme

1 tbsp. dried oregano

2 tbsp. dried basil

1 tsp. dried rosemary

1 tsp. dried sage

1 tsp. fennel seeds

Mix the ingredients together in a spice grinder and store the blend in an airtight container.

The fresh ingredients you add to the seasoning when ready to use are:

1 1/2 tsp. fresh orange zest

1 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon zest

Here are the vegetables you will need, but keep in mind, you can use just about any vegetable you like:

vegetables neede for Citrus Herb Roasted Vegetables

Here we are using 2 zucchini squash, 2 crookneck squash, 2 carrots, about 15 Brussels sprouts, and 1 small to medium eggplant. Note if you are going to bake some chicken or fish with the vegetables, you may not use the amount that is called for, due to spacing in the baking pan.

pouring season mix into baking pan

In a mixing cup add the zest of both citrus fruits, and 1 to 2 tablespoons of the herb seasoning mix. You may want to add about 1 teaspoon of sea salt. To the dry mix add 1/4 cup olive oil or avocado oil, 2 tablespoons of honey or 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, and 1/4 cup orange juice. We used the juice of a fresh Navel orange. Of course it juiced almost 1 cup. One fourth cup was added to the mix, and the cook got their dose of vitamin-C (he drank the rest). This is optional, add 1 minced fresh clove of garlic.

Mix the dry ingredients with the wet till well combined and pour into a 13 x 9 inch baking pan. Now if you don’t like meat, than maybe you will want to look away as we show you the next step.

putting chicken thighs over seasoning face down

Next, depending the meat you want to use, place meat into pan. Here we used skinless chicken thighs, placed bone side up. If using fish with skin on, place fish in with meat down.  Bake in a preheated oven on 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Placing chopped vegetables into baking pan to roast

Remove pan from oven and turn thighs over and arrange chopped vegetables over and around meat. If you are going to just use the vegetables only, than pour wet seasoning mix into baking pan, add vegetables and roast for 30 minutes in the 400 degree oven.

Place baking pan back into oven and cook another 30 minutes. This will insure chicken meat is cooked to 165 degrees internal temperature and will roast the vegetables.

Citrus Herb Roasted Vegetables

Remove roasted vegetables to a serving dish, then place meat on to a serving platter. Pour or spoon as much of the seasoned liquid as you like over the roasted vegetables.

Citrus Herb Roasted Vegetables with Baked Chicken Thighs

Plate and serve.

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Organic Vegetable Box Schemes and CSAs

box of vegetables from a local CSA

Have you heard people go on and on about the great deals they’ve gotten through their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) or vegetable box scheme? These interactions between consumers and farmers can be a win-win – members of the community invest in a local farm, and in return get fresh fruits and vegetables.

It’s tempting to jump in and try it…but is it worth it? How do you find a reputable one? It’s a good idea to know what you’re getting into before signing up. Here are some considerations.

How a CSA Works

A vegetable box scheme or CSA box is, basically, an agreement between you and the farmer. Most farms require that you sign on for a full season, and for a fee you receive a box of seasonal produce every week, every other week, or monthly, depending on your local scheme. The contents of the box are strictly seasonal; you won’t find summer squash in June, for instance. Some schemes will deliver to your door; others ask you to go pick it up on a set day.

Advantages of a CSA

Community Supported AgricultureThere are certainly advantages to signing up with a vegetable box scheme or CSA. For one thing, the produce is extremely fresh and organically grown. Here are some other advantages to consider:

* The distance between farm and table is reduced, thus reducing the use of preservatives on produce and the use of fossil fuels to transport the produce.

* The produce is in season, bringing you closer to the way your ancestors would have eaten.

* The food in a veggie box is usually much more affordable than a comparable amount of food from the store. You’re not paying for the transportation for one thing.

* You will get the opportunity to try new and unusual vegetables and fruits.

* You will be supporting your community and reconnecting with the origin of your food.

Drawbacks of a CSA

Of course, there are some drawbacks as well. Here are some to consider:

* You will likely have to sign on for a full season or even year; if you don’t like the way the service is going, you’re stuck with it.

* There may be large quantities of a fruit or vegetable you don’t know what to do with, or that no one likes.

* You can’t pick and choose the produce; you get what’s available, and sometimes there are substitutions (if the bell pepper crop doesn’t do well, for example, you may end up with eggplant instead).

* If you cannot make the pick-up time, you lose your produce.

Where and How to Find a Good Scheme

A good place to start is within the community. Ask around and find out who and what is selling. This is a good way to find out who has a good or bad reputation, too. You can also check at your local farmer’s market, as many farmers participate in CSAs. And of course, you can always do an internet search to find one in your area.

If you do an internet search, in your preferred search engine (if you live in the USA) type  Community Supported Agriculture….and type the city or state were you live. If you are living out side the USA check with your local government officials.

Here is another web-site you can use to find local farmers and participants of the CSAs in your area:

Local Harvest / Farmers Markets / Family Farms / CSA …

Image credits
Article Image: Wikipedia
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What is Kitchen Gardening?

This is the seventh post on Vegetable Gardening with guest speaker Judith Sorg. If you missed the first six posts please link here to read.

Now for – What is Kitchen Gardening? – with Judith Sorg.

Have you ever wondered exactly what a “kitchen garden” is or how it differs from a regular vegetable garden?

For starters, a kitchen garden or potager (pronounced puh-ta-zhay), is a special kind of edible garden with a rich history tracing back to old English and French culinary gardens.

Much like a traditional vegetable garden, a kitchen garden is a chef’s delight filled with delicious fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. In short, a kitchen garden is a celebration of fresh ingredients and delicious home cooked meals.

Both kitchen and traditional gardens offer a sense of satisfaction coupled with tangible rewards for a job well done. Beyond these similarities, there are some distinct differences between the two, however.

Picking tomatoes from a Kitchen Garden

Picking tomatoes from a Kitchen Garden

1. Convenience. One of the main characteristics of a kitchen garden is accessibility. It should be easy to grab the items you need to your prepare your daily meals. Therefore, a potager should be located as close to your food preparation area as possible.

Imagine you are in the middle of preparing dinner when you suddenly realize “this marinade could use a little more rosemary.” Rather than trek out to your main vegetable garden while you have pots simmering on the stove, wouldn’t you rather be able to reach right outside your door to snip a couple sprigs?

With a kitchen garden, the easier it is to grab what you need while you are cooking, the better.

2. Size. Kitchen gardens are usually smaller than traditional gardens because they are situated so close to the house. This isn’t always the case, of course, but having a culinary garden close enough to offer easy access while you are cooking may limit the amount of space available.

If you only have limited space available to plant a kitchen garden, here is a good rule of thumb to consider: A regular vegetable garden is about planning for the future, while a kitchen garden is about enjoying today. Therefore, the fruits and vegetables you plan to preserve for future use – or crops, such as corn, that take up a lot of space – are good choices for a traditional vegetable garden where space is at less of a premium.

Instead, kitchen gardens are normally filled with the items you prepare and eat while fresh. Therefore, containers of fresh herbs, compact cherry tomato plants, or an assortment of leaf lettuce varieties all make great additions to a potager.  If you lack the space for a traditional garden, a small kitchen garden can keep you in fresh, delicious produce all season long.

3. Beauty. While a standard vegetable garden is all about utility and production, part of the charm of a kitchen garden comes from its ornamental aspect. Due to its proximity to the house, a kitchen garden is harder to tuck out of sight than a traditional garden. Therefore, they are often designed to add a sense of beauty to your home, as well.

Some herbs, such as lemon thyme, can be used to create a beautiful and fragrant border around plants and containers. Edible flowers, such as violas and daylilies, can be incorporated to add a splash of color. Compact blueberry shrubs are also highly ornamental and make a wonderful, yet functional border.

potted herbsAs you can see, a kitchen garden offers both convenience and beauty in a compact space. The best part is it doesn’t take much to get started. All you need is a couple large pots, some fresh herbs, your favorite compact tomato plant and lettuce varieties and you’ll be on your way!

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