Anyone who has been to my house lately for a little grub knows that I've been on a major popper kick. I have been testing different ways to make poppers and would like to share with you my own recipe. This is super easy and makes for a great appetizer.
Kosher salt to taste
Jalapeno-cut down center and open like a coin purse. Remove all the seeds and veins if you can't handle the heat. If you like the heat, I would suggest removing the seeds and the veins from one side only. Most people think that most of the heat is in the seeds. This is not true, a majority of the heat of a pepper comes from the veins.
Soften goat cheese and season with kosher salt to taste. Spoon the goat cheese into the pepper. Wrap pepper with prosciutto and insert a toothpick through the pepper.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Today is the first day of spring and I can’t tell you how excited I am for nice weather, farmer’s markets, gardens and BBQ’s. Spring can be a busy time of the year for everyone including myself. I have been traveling quite a bit for work and apologize in advance for the lack of posts the last couple of weeks.
P.S. Newhope360.com posted their top 10 beverage pick from the natural products show. By the way, the Pukka tea is divine. For further details visit-
Monday, March 7, 2011
Sunday, March 6, 2011
Expo West is the world’s largest natural, organic and healthy products trade show. In addition to over 3000 exhibits there are many educational seminars and events to attend to as well. I have attended many shows over the last year and the Natural Products Expo is by far my favorite show to attend.
One trend I expect to see this year is Functional Foods. Unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration does not use this term but they do regulate claims that manufacturers can make about functional foods. Functional foods are foods that may have a health benefit beyond the nutrients it contains. I am a huge supporter of functional foods. To me, this is about eating smart.
Functional Ingredients Magazine has provided their 2011 functional foods trends (shown below). It will be interesting to see how their information matches up with what I will see next week at the show.
2011 Functional Food Trends
- Omega-3 fatty acid
- Vitamin K2
- Vitamin D
Innova Market Trends and Trends from New Nutrition Business
- Digestive Health- #1 trend for 2011
- Processed is out-Focus on clean labeling
- Proven is the new buzzword-Personalized nutrition
- Culinary Expansion-Indulgence at Home
- Relaxation Paradigm-Minimize stress
- Fruit and Vegetable Revival (sad that it ever died). Anyway, back to basics.
- Superfruits-mango, blueberry, cranberry, grape and pomegranate
- Healthy Convenient Foods and Beverage
- Energy drinks
- Healthy Snacking
- Weight Management (7th most significant food trend)
A couple things that stood out to me on the second list were Culinary Expansion and Weight Management. As a Dietitian, I am a little disturbed to see that Weight Management is actually a trend. The Organization for Economic Cooperation released a new study indicated that three out of four Americans will be overweight by 2020. Let's hope this weight management trend becomes more about a permanent lifestyle change.
I can't tell you how excited I am to hear that culinary expansion topped the list. I think we can thank the Food Network for this. People are learning to be creative with their cooking. I think this is the best way to manage a healthy lifestyle but it is also a great way to save money. You can cook a healthy gourmet meal at home for far less money than going to a restaurant. An idea, start a dinner club with your friends. Dinner clubs should be hands on. Everyone is in the kitchen preparing the meal while enjoying great company. This is a great way to learn from each other and be social. Did you know that spending time with your friends on a regular basis may add an additional 2-5 years to your life according to Dr. Tom Perls, MD? Dr. Perls studies centenarians at Boston University and developed a longevity quiz based on the latest research on what factors help strengthen a women’s life. You can find this quiz in March’s Health Magazine.
Well fellow foodies, I am excited to report back to you my findings from the Natural Products Expo. Please stay tuned. I have a lot of fun activities planned this month and I look forward to sharing all of them with you. In the middle of the March, I will be heading to Napa Valley for some continuing education at the Culinary Institute of America. I will be exploring the flavor and health benefits of world cuisines from Asia and Latin America to the Mediterranean. I can’t wait!
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Jalapeños, Serrano or habanera peppers (whichever you prefer-I use a variety in mine)
I’m certain most of you have seen these interesting looking critters at the grocery but, have any of you actually ever used them? Tomatillos are a staple in Latin America cuisine. When buying tomatillos, look for a firm fruit with a fresh husk. To preserve the life of the tomatillo, remove the husk, rinse and store in the refrigerator.
How to make Salsa Verde
In a medium saucepan, fill half way with water. Add around 1 pound of clean tomatillos, 3-4 garlic gloves and 1-2 jalapeños (stems removed). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for around 8-1o minutes until the tomatillos have slightly softened.
Remove from heat. Reserve ½ cup water from pan. Drain the remaining water. While cooling, dice up ½ cup white onion and cilantro (as much to your liking).
Once cooled, add tomatillo mixture to a food processor. Add the ½ cup preserved water or less if you like it thicker. Add kosher salt to taste. Blend. Remove from food processor into a bowl. Stir in the white onion and cilantro.
If you want more of a roasted flavor, roast the tomatillos, garlic, and peppers in the oven on a sheet pan at 425°until soft. Either way, delicious.
I rarely make salsa verde for chip dipping. I primarily use it as a topping on chicken or any other meat.
Friday, February 18, 2011
It had been almost a year and a half since my mom journeyed from one side of the state to the other to pay me a visit. Between my hectic schedule, questionable pass conditions, and mom fully enjoying retirement, it seems like our schedules never conformed. I shouldn’t complain since I do see her more than I have in years.
During mom’s visits, I always like to cook her something special. Something she really enjoys or would not necessary always makes for herself. There are two dishes/foods that mom fancies; chicken marsala and lamb. I had already made chicken marsala for her when I lived in New Mexico but, I really haven’t made her anything with lamb. I have to admit, until recently I never got too creative with lamb. Years ago, my husband tried it and hated it. So, it was as if it was written off for life. Not long ago, my husband gave it another try and actually liked it. This was a common thing with him, especially when we first met. Over the years, he has added more foods than I can recall back on the “like” board.
Prior to mom’s visit, I tested a lamb kebob recipe that looked super easy, fresh and healthy. Overnight, I marinated the lamb in olive oil, garlic and grated ginger. The next day, I assembled the kebobs with red onion and fresh mint. Once they were on the skewers, I seasoned them with kosher salt and pepper. I put my husband to work on the grill and 6-11 minutes at medium high they were done. Make sure you do not overcook your lamb, you will be extremely disappointed.
The lamb was heavenly. I think my husband ate five skewers that night. Not bad for someone who considered lamb as one of their top ten offenders. I have to say, when I made the kebobs for my mom she enjoyed them just as much. In fact, she had leftovers the next day for lunch.
Lamb is naturally lean and is rich in protein and nutrients like iron, zinc and b vitamins-particularly b12. I only buy U.S. grass fed lamb. I really believe it makes a difference in the flavor and nutrient profile of the meat. Lamb is tender with a mild flavor and is comparable in price to other cuts of beef. If you do not have much experience with lamb and want to learn more visit, The Natural Lamb Co-op at http://naturallambcoop.com/. The website is definitely an “eye opener” but also provides great recipes and cooking tips.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
If you have never tried a Meyer lemon, here is your opportunity. This citrus fruit is a cross between a lemon and a mandarin. They are small, round and orange. Meyer's are also sweet, tangy and less acidic than yellow lemons. Better yet, they are in season right now (October-March).
Meyer lemons are getting a lot of attention in the culinary world. Many well known chefs are using them in both sweet and savory foods in place of the standard lemon.
|Meyer Lemons-Found in your local grocery store|
There are countless ways you can use Meyer Lemons to freshen up any meal. I like to use them to make salad dressing. Extra virgin olive oil, a little freshly squeezed Meyer lemon, a dash of kosher salt and pepper. How easy it that? If you want to add a little more sweetness to the dressing you can add a little bit of honey or even a little zest from the Meyer.
Other Fresh Ideas
Use them in meat marinades and seafood dishes.
Freshly squeezed juice on steamed or roasted veggies, fruit, salads, soups and stews.
The skin is also slightly sweet so you can grate the zest over hot cereal, yogurt, salad and fruit.
Add a slice to your drinking water. I'll drink more water if I add fresh lemon, cucumber or pineapple to it.
Make a beautiful arrangement on your counter. They carry a fresh herbal fragrance. I’d rather decorate my kitchen with fresh food and herbs than with fresh flowers.
“It is probable that the lemon is the most valuable of all fruit for preserving health.”
-Maud Grieve: A Modern Herbal
Sunday, February 6, 2011
When is the last time you spent a Saturday committed to exploring a nearby quaint town in which you live? A day you surrender to a typical Saturday of running around and catching up on the things that you fell behind on during the week? A day you spent with your family and enjoyed healthy conversation over a light lunch? Today, I did all of these in the wind surfing capitol of the world, Hood River, Oregon.
In just over two short hours, my husband and I arrived. On the way, we took a leisurely drive along Washington’s Columbia River Gorge. In my opinion, it is one of the most wondrous picturesque scenic byways in Washington. Located just off this scenic byway is home to Columbia-Crest winery. In 2009, Wine Spectator awarded their 95 point Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon as the #1 Wine of the Year in their annual Top 100 wines of the year edition, a first ever for Washington. If you continue down Highway 14, you will be greeted with Washington’s 2009 winery of the year, Maryhill. This winery has everything going for it, sweeping views overlooking the Columbia River Gorge, stunning sunsets and great wine. In the summer, Maryhill also offers a concert series. I personally attended one last summer and would highly recommend it.
Prior to any trip, I always do a little homework. I want to know what the town is known for, what activities are available and where can I eat. Hood River has so much to offer that you could visit seasonally and each experience would be unique and different from the other. Today, I was on a mission to explore local restaurants. One thing that draws me to Hood River is their focus to promote healthy & sustainable cuisine. They do this by supporting local farmers and buy naturally raised products and organic when available. Hood River itself is known for their 14,000 plus acres of commercial pear, apple, cherry and peach orchards. An interesting fact, Hood River leads the world in Anjou pear production and 50% of the nation’s winter pear crop comes from there as well.
|Beef Satay with Red Curry Sauce|
|Anjou Pear & Walnut Salad|
I had such a great day experiencing Hood River. In addition to my restaurant focus, my husband brought his mountain bike to be adjusted at a local bike shop, we walked the streets of historic downtown and browsed through local shops. It’s hard to imagine you can do all of this in one day and still make it home by 5pm.
|Backyard I came across during my travels|
|Naked Winery-A fun wine tasting experience|
|Environmentally friendly brewery|
I hope this post has inspired you to get out and be adventurous, seek out something new and don’t take life’s simplest things for granted. Some of the best conversation I have with my husband is on days like this. Our minds are clear and our thoughts are fresh. If you have any new experiences to share, I would love to hear you comments. Remember, some of your best travel experiences are within a day’s drive.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
I wanted to share this fantastic recipe I tested over the weekend. I pulled it from my most favorite website, The Food Network. This recipe is a compilation of fresh ingredients from the gulf coast of Mexico, thus the name Halibut Veracruz. Seriously folks, this one is a keeper.
I know there is nothing out of the ordinary about fresh basil but, last weekend when I was grocery shopping I picked up some live basil. Live basil still has it roots and it is packaged upright in a little water. Once you bring it home you place it in a glass with water and keep it on your kitchen counter. When you’re ready to use it just pluck off what you want. I love that! It makes me feel like its summer in February. I don’t know about you but I absolutely love fresh herbs!
Fresh basil is aromatic and full of flavor. It can be used in a variety of dishes and carries a laundry list of health benefits. Basil is high in vitamin A, K, and iron. Basil is also full of anti-oxidants and is known to have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Basil is most commonly used in Italian, Thai and Vietnamese foods.. One of the simplest ways I use basil is in salads. Mince up a handful and mix it in with your mixed greens. Talk about bringing things up a notch!
Roasting Roma’s does bring an intensity of flavor and sweetness that you would not otherwise get if you were to eat them raw. Cooking them also boosts their health benefits by increasing the amount of lycopene, a potent antioxidant. Lycopene has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, and macular degeneration.
My husband absolutely loves these roasted tomatoes and tonight he ate seven of them! I have to admit, I ate my fare share as well. Some of the tastiest foods are the easiest to make. It'll take your oven longer to heat up then it will for you to prepare this fresh eat!
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
I couldn’t think of a better way to start my blog than to share my favorite fruit of New Mexico. You may be surprised to find, it’s actually Hatch Green Chile. These fine chile peppers are relatives of tomatoes. I think they belong to what they call the nightshade family. Anyway, anyone who is from New Mexico or has visited will agree that these chile’s are dang tasty.
Roasting chile peppers is quite easy and so healthy and delicious. I guarantee you will never buy another can of chopped green chile’s ever again. Now that I live in Washington, I don’t have availability to Hatch Green Chile so, now I buy Anaheim Chile Peppers which is found in nearly every grocery store right next to the jalapeños and poblano’s (which are also really good roasted). I would speculate most of you have seen these peppers and often wondered what people use them for other than chile relleno’s. I roast chile’s all the time. It’s kind of like salsa, I put chile on everything. My favorite way to eat chile is on steak, pizza, tacos, burritos, sliders, scrambled eggs, soups and even them by themselves. They really are such a flavorful way to jazz up any meal. These mild peppers are packed with vitamin C (equivalent to more than six oranges), potassium, folic acid and capsaicin (which may temporarily boost your metabolism).
Chile peppers can either be roasted on a gas grill or broiled in the oven. I prefer them grilled on the BBQ but it’s a little chilly out this evening so, I roasted mine in the oven. Place the clean firm peppers on a sheet pan or cookie sheet and place under the broiler or on a hot grill. The skins will soon begin to blister. Continue to turn the peppers until all sides are blistered. You know they are done when the skin looks charred and the skins have completely blistered.
Take off grill or out of oven and either wrap them in a clean damp dish towel or place them in a pan with a lid so the steam doesn’t escape for 10-15 minutes. I prefer using a pan but everyone has their own preference. This loosens up the skins for easy removal.
The next step is the fun part. Wearing gloves is highly recommended when cleaning peppers. I personally do not use them but, I know that some people would be miserable if they did not wear them. Next turn on your tap water and place peppers under water. Using your hands, remove the skins and then the seeds and ribs. The more rib you leave behind the hotter the pepper will be. Lastly, remove the stem.
Once they are all cleaned you can dice them up or leave them whole. If you leave them whole, put them in a bowl with a little extra virgin olive oil and kosher salt and put them back on the BBQ for one last round of light grilling. I highly recommend you try this the next time you grill any steak or burger.
If you are interested in learning more about Hatch Green Chile, I recommend watching this brief CBS Special.
Monday, January 31, 2011
My name is Jennifer Gardner. I am a Registered Dietitian and a self-acclaimed Foodie. You may be asking, what is a Foodie? Well, depending on whom you ask you may receive a little bit of a different answer. To me, a Foodie is someone who has a passion for food and often sees it as a hobby. I am not a professional chef and have not attended any prestigious culinary schools. I simply love food and more importantly, fresh healthy food.
The intent of this blog is not to provide nutrition advice or post recipe after recipe. My intent is to inspire you to explore food in ways you never really thought were possible. So often, people are scared to cook and don’t allow their creativity to move into the kitchen. Ultimately, people resort to eating out as a necessity rather than an experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love to wine and dine more than the average Foodie. Often, the first thing I do while traveling is seek out unique, award-winning restaurants. I often get overwhelmed and have a hard time choosing where to go. I hate to think I may be missing out on an incredible meal.
Many of you would think my passion for food and cooking began during my nutrition studies. I have to say that there was a spark but certainly not to the level of interest I have today. My passion for cooking began while my husband and I lived in New Mexico. I was exposed to food beyond words. Most notably, New Mexico’s red and green chile. I can’t tell you how much I love spicy foods especially those with flavors that will knock your socks off. New Mexico cuisine is innovative and influenced by a compilation of many cultures.
Today, I am proud to say that I live in the heart of Washington’s wine country. I admire all the hard work and dedication that Washington wineries have put into their wines. I am a huge supporter of local wines and do not have any one winery that is considered my favorite. I believe that many of my friends and family may think I am more of a Wino than a Foodie! I have to say, I do enjoy both immensely. Most who know me well, know that I enjoy drinking wine while I cook.
I think now is a better time than any to mention that as much as I love to cook and drink wine, the truth of the matter is that I travel a lot for my job and I don’t get to spend nearly as much time in the kitchen as I would like to. However, prior to my travels, I plan and prepare healthy meals for my husband. I can only imagine what he would eat each day while I am away. I ‘m pretty sure it would come in the form of a protein shake or a bar. I do owe my husband some credit. He is in charge of grilling and does a fantastic job at it.
I hope you'll enjoy this blog as much as I will. If you take anything away from here, let it be to make small subtle positive changes in your life and dare to risk trying something new. Food is the center of all things in life and no one can deny it. I personally feel there is so much to explore, the opportunities are endless.
Jennifer Gardner, MS, RD