Pickled Beet and Veggie Salad with Feta and Pecans {Recipe Redux}

Backyard gardens are brimming with vegetables this time of year, and it’s fun to create recipes based on what’s fresh and ready to pick. Beets, cucumbers, onions, Romaine lettuce and fresh herbs were at their peak in my sister’s Olympia, WA garden during my recent visit, so we decided to create this pickled salad together.

Pickled Beet Cucumber Salad with Feta and Pecans via Mealmakeovermoms.com

For me, the addition of cheese and nuts to a salad really makes it special, so we opted to add feta and toasted pecans to our salad. Another thing that’s special about this salad is the view of Puget Sound … and Mount Rainier when it’s clear.

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Farm-to-Table Dining at the Spring House Hotel on Block Island, RI

I’ve lived in New England for a half century and have never been to Block Island, a 10-square mile island off the coast of Rhode Island. All of that changed this week when I was invited to spend two nights with my husband, Don, at the Spring House Hotel.

The Spring House Hotel, Block Island, RI via MealMakeoverMoms.com.kitchen

Disclosure: My stay at the Spring House Hotel was paid for by the hotel. I was not compensated for my time or to write this blog post and all opinions are solely my own.

This elegant 50-room Victorian-style hotel sits up on a hill overlooking Old Harbor. Built in 1852, It’s the oldest hotel on Block Island and has had only four owners. Here’s what it looks like when  the ferry pulls into the dock. I love that red brick roof!

Read on for the inside scoop on the Spring House Hotel as well as its current owner, Frank DiBiase who bought the hotel in 1989. He brought it back from bankruptcy, restored it back to its former glory days, and planted a GIANT vegetable garden that caught my eye … and my appetite!

Frank was doing farm-to-table dining over 20 years ago, long before it was trendy.

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Avocado Toast with Smoked Salmon, Tomato, and Egg + Lunch at Russ & Daughters

This nutritious Avocado Toast with Smoked Salmon, Tomato, and Egg is a modern makeover of the lox and cream cheese on a bagel of my youth. The recipe was inspired by a recent lunch with my family at Russ & Daughters on the Lower East side of Manhattan.

Avocado Smoked Salmon Toast with tomato and eggs via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

After eating a dream-come-true lunch at Russ & Daughters (more on that below), I cooked up this open-face sandwich on whole grain bread starring one of my favorite foods on the planet and something Russ & Daughters is known for: smoked salmon. Make it for breakfast or lunch!

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Food Photography for Smart Phones: 5 Everyday Background Props to Make Your Food Photos Fantastic

By using everyday items like an old cookie sheet, a cool wooden cutting board, or a pretty cloth napkin or fabric swatch, you can take your food photos from drab to delicious!

Background Props for Smart Phone Food Photography via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

I recently spoke at the annual meeting of the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics about food photography for smart phones. As part of my presentation, I emphasized the importance of choosing interesting background props to make your (healthy) food photos shine.

Before you think about plates and bowls, give some thought to the background canvas for your food photos. Here are my Top 5 Favorite Background Props:

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Freekeh Salad with Caramelized Cauliflower and Tuna + Cooking with Ancient Grains {Podcast #266}

This Freekeh Salad with Caramelized Cauliflower and Tuna is surprisingly simple, and its bright and flavorful flavors make it an ideal addition to any family’s weeknight dinner rotation.

Freekeh Salad with Caramelized Cauliflower and Tuna #WholeGrains via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

If cooking freekeh, millet, farro, bulgur, quinoa, or other ancient grains sounds difficult or too time consuming, then you’ll definitely want to tune in to this week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast as Maria Speck, author of Simply Ancient Grains, provides a primer on preparing these nourishing whole grains and turning them into mouth-watering (and we mean it!) breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and desserts for your family. {Enter to win a copy of Simply Ancient grains. Read details below on the details.}

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Healthy Lemon Poppy Seed Muffin + Highlights from Daffodil Weekend on Nantucket

These healthy Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins are lighter and have more fiber than the usual donut shop options, and every bite is bursting with springtime flavors. Made with white whole wheat flour, only a third cup sugar, olive oil, and poppy seeds, this muffin makeover is perfect for breakfast or a lunch box or afternoon snack.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffin Makeover via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

The idea for this recipe came to me last weekend during the annual Daffodil Festival on Nantucket where the color yellow popped up everywhere — from the daffodil-decorated vintage cars in the Nantucket Town to Sconset parade to the tailgate picnic. Read this post and you’ll see what I mean!

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Cleaning Out My Pantry with a Recipe for Gnocchi Primavera

Sometimes the best last-minute dinners are made by combining staples that have been gathering dust in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. In my case it was lots of vegetables and gnocchi and a few condiments that I tossed together for a fun dinner with friends.

Gnocchi Primavera

Every month we participate in The Recipe Redux cooking challenge, and this month we were told to go through our pantries, cupboards, freezer, and fridge and pick an ingredient or condiment that has been hanging around for awhile. We were asked to give this ingredient the attention it deserves and create a healthy recipe.

Organized Pantry

Liz and I decided that I should tackle this month’s challenge because, well, I have a well-stocked pantry. This is a nice way of saying that I’m a bit of a hoarder. I’m also an overachieving dietitian so I decided to use a dozen pantry items to create a new recipe. Our latest intern, Katy, had done a nice job of organizing our food photography props, but the other side of the pantry had lots of food items to choose from.

Ingredients from Pantry

My sister, Diane, was visiting from Oregon so I convinced her and my friends, Catherine and Maryellen, to join me in this cooking challenge. I showed them these pantry ingredients when they arrived and the consensus was that we would use the gnocchi, anchovy paste, and tomato paste.

Shrimp Crostini

The canned shrimp was a bit past the expiration date and I told my friends we had to use it, so Catherine whipped up these shrimp crostinis with shrimp mixed with cream cheese and hot sauce over crackers. These kept us fueled while we cooked the main meal. 🙂

Pantry Dinner

We then dug deeper into the freezer and found a partial bag of peas, a bag of snap peas, and some garlic cubes. In the fridge we found half & half cream left over from Easter, a few scallions, some grape tomatoes, an orange bell pepper, and fresh parsley. We decided to use all of them to make a Gnocchi Primavera.

Gnocchi Primavera

We totally made up this recipe as we went along, sipping on wine, and it turned out pretty well, especially for a Friday night throw-together dinner!

Gnocchi Primavera
 
This recipe is so versatile -- you can use any veggies you have in your fridge or freezer. You could add some shrimp or chicken, use pasta instead of gnocchi... the options are endless! If you don't have anchovy paste you can leave it out.
Author:
Serves: 4 to 6
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 frozen garlic cubes
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 orange bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 17.6-ounce package Italian gnocchi
  • 1 12-ounce bag sugar snap peas
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • ½ cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • ½ cup half & half cream
  • Parmesan cheese, optional
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions, garlic, tomatoes, bell pepper, anchovy paste, and tomato paste and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. While the vegetables are cooking, boil the gnocchi; add the sugar snap peas and peas for the last 2 minutes of cooking.
  4. Drain and add to the cooked vegetable mixture, along with the broth and half & half. Stir and heat through for about 3 minutes.
  5. Top with Parmesan cheese as desired.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 370 Fat: 11g Saturated fat: 3.5g Carbohydrates: 58g Sodium: 750mg Fiber: 7g Protein: 12g Cholesterol: 15mg

 

Pantry Dinner Guests

The best part of cooking with friends is sitting down and enjoying the meal afterward with good conversation. We were all pretty tired after a long week. Can you tell? 🙂  Do you have a favorite throw-together meal using items from your pantry?!

Favorite Foods of Spain

Spain is known for many things including flamenco dancers, paella, tapas, seafood, and wine. I was lucky enough to attend a conference in Madrid recently and even luckier to have my daughter, Carolyn, fly over at the end of the conference to travel with me for several days. Here are some of the highlights from the trip.

Slicing jamon in Madrid

I arrived in Madrid the day before the conference to explore the city with Kate Geagan and Chris Mohr, two fellow registered dietitian nutritionists. Our first stop was to a tapas bar called El Miajón de los Castúos where we enjoyed the first of many nibbles of fresh-sliced jamón and Manchego cheese. Amazing!

Spanish lunch

Next, we feasted on a six-course lunch, courtesy of Chris’ colleague, Luis, who lives in Madrid. I won’t even attempt to describe all these dishes, but the clams were the best I’d ever eaten. The octopus was, um, interesting!

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Getting Kids to Try New Foods with a “Polite Bite” + a Giveaway for Lainy’s Polite Bite

Getting young children to try new foods—even something as unfamiliar as fresh parsley—just got a whole lot easier thanks to Lainy’s Polite Bite, a new book written by registered dietitian, Emma Fogt.

Lainy's Polite Bite via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen #PickyEaters #vegetables

 I work with a program called, Kids Cooking Green in Lexington, MA, and this week, I stopped by one of their preschool programs to read Lainy’s Polite Bite. The book chronicles the adventures of Lainy, a sluggish ladybug who drinks Bug Juice morning, noon, and night until her friend, Benny Bumblebee encourages her to take a “polite bite” of some new and nutritious foods: apples, oranges, and edamame.

Lainy's Polite Bite via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen #PickyEaters #vegetables

The result of all those bites: Lainy gains energy, colorful spots, and can finally fly … and she realizes that she possesses the courage to go out of her Bug Juice comfort zone by trying new things.

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