Posts by: Laura

A mother of three grown children, she still finds she cooks for five when making dinner. She loves her antique home, but is thrilled her kitchen has a few modern touches and has been known to fit entire girl scout troops around the island for cooking baking parties. When Laura’s not blogging about food and creating new recipes she can usually be found teaching preschool or texting her kids to call home.

Nov 152017

Perfectly, Really, Perfectly, Mashed Potatoes


Mashed potatoes seem to be the hands-down winner as the favorite side for turkey, and meatloaf, and steak, and…well almost anything really. And as a receptacle for gravy…well…’nuff said. Rarely does a dish that requires so little effort taste so good!

Careful though. As easy a dish as this is, mistakes can be made that turn this beloved side into something less than remarkable. The three big No-No’s: Over-boiling, under seasoning, and excessive mashing.

Follow this no-fail recipe and you’ll have perfectly moist, flavorful mashed potatoes every time. We promise! And we don’t mean to appear bossy, but you really must use Yukon Gold potatoes – others just don’t have the same rich flavor.

Skill: Easy
Cost: $$$$
Nutrition: ♥♥♥♥
Skills: Peeling, chopping, boiling, mashing
Garden Candy Basics - fundamental vegucation for everybody!


Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons cream cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Peel and cube the potatoes so that the pieces are roughly the same “golf ball” size
  2. Fill a large pot 2/3 full of water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and bring to a simmer.
  3. Add potatoes and bring to gentle boil and cook just until a knife slides easily into the potato. Test at 15 minutes. If it doesn’t, keep checking every 2 minutes.
  4. Drain the potatoes and put back into pot with the burner on low. This will allow the steam to escape and help keep them fluffy. Mash gently with potato masher, not a hand mixer or they will be soupy or gummy!
  5. In the meantime, in a small pot, heat butter, milk and cream cheese on low to melt and warm.
  6. With potatoes mostly mashed, add the butter, milk and cream cheese mixture. Salt and pepper to taste and finish mashing so lumps are gone but potatoes are still fluffy.
  7. Spoon into a serving bowl and add a small pat of butter and a sprinkle of pepper and serve!

Serves 6-8

Flavor Variations

While the classic mashed potato may be the one you want to make for Thanksgiving, there are so many ways to season your spuds to blend perfectly with whatever meal you’re serving—here are a few favorite options:

Cheesy Mashed Potatoes:
Skip the cream cheese and add 4 ounces of another favorite cheese – cheddar, swiss and goat cheese, for example, right into the pot. We love cheddar, with crumbled bacon and scallions sprinkled on top.

Spicy Mashed Potatoes:
Follow the classic recipe and stir in 1-2 tablespoons of sriracha at the end.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes:
Add 4 cloves of garlic to the water and potatoes. Boil and mash together. If you want even more of a garlic kick to your potatoes sprinkle a little garlic powder in as well when mashing, but add gradually and taste as you go.

Nov 252016

Pumpkin Challah French Toast


When we think about Thanksgiving leftovers, our minds tend to go in the direction of all things turkey: turkey sandwiches, turkey pot pie, turkey soup… but it’s easy to also end up with leftovers in the cabinet that get forgotten about once the holiday passes.

If you discover, like we did, that you overbought in the canned pumpkin department this year, not to worry. With the three lazy days you have after Thanksgiving to make brunch, try wowing your friends or family with some pumpkin French toast. Pumpkin lovers, and even those who claim to not be a fan, will agree that this French toast is pretty amazing. Other than the canned pumpkin, you probably have everything else you need to whip this up. And while the challah is an added bonus, any plain bread will do in a pinch.

The best part, of course, is that you can toss it all together the night before and in the morning it’s nothing more than dipping the bread and cooking. And if you want this French toast to taste even better, be sure to eat it in your pjs!

Skill: Intermediate
Cost: $$$$
Nutrition: ♥♥♥♥
Skills: Measuring, whisking, pan frying
Garden Candy Basics - fundamental vegucation for everybody!


Ingredients:

  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin, canned (or fresh)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • 8 slices challah bread, 1 inch thick
  • butter for pan
  • slivered almonds (as garnish)

 

Directions:

  1. Whisk together the first 8 ingredients and pour into a shallow dish not much bigger than the bread slices.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of butter to a frying pan and melt over medium heat.
  3. Dip the bread, one slice at a time, into the mixture coating both sides well, letting all excess batter drip off. (Dip the bread right before using or it will get too soggy and fall apart.)
  4. Add two slices at a time to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes until the underneath is brown.
  5. Before flipping the bread, sprinkle some slivered almonds on if you’d like and then flip the bread to cook the other side. Add another pat of butter if the pan seems dry.
  6. Flip onto plate, almond side up, and serve with maple syrup or butter and confectioners sugar.
Oct 072016

Sautéed Gnocchi with Tomatoes


Just when all the vines in the garden were looking bare and we were ready to say goodbye to the deliciousness of a homegrown tomato until next season, our wonderful neighbor surprised us with a bowlful!

Between that gift and some amazing weather making an appearance and it’s feeling like August all over again! Tomatoes are such a wonderful vegetable! All you need to do is slice them and sprinkle them with some salt and pepper to enjoy their flavor, but if you want to add them to your next dinner here’s a pasta dish that is so fast you don’t even need boiled water to make it.

The secret is in the store-bought gnocchi. Turns out you can enjoy their flavor just as much by skipping the pot of water and sautéing them with olive oil in a frying pan and tossing the remaining ingredients in once they’ve begun cooking. When the weather cools down you can just switch out your fresh tomatoes for the sun dried version in olive oil and you’re all set. Don’t you love one pot cooking?

Skill: Easy
Cost: $$$$
Nutrition: ♥♥♥♥
Skills: Grating, chopping, sautéing
Garden Candy Basics - fundamental vegucation for everybody!


Ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 lb of gnocchi (store bought, packaged works really well)
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cut in to large chunks, discard some of juice and seeds
  • 1 cup kalamata olives, pitted
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • a dozen or so large basil leaves, julienned
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan, grated

Directions:

  1. Swirl some olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and cook for 1 or 2 minutes.
  2. Add the gnocchi and cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they just begin to brown slightly.
  3. Add tomatoes, olives, salt and pepper. Stir another minute or 2 until hot and the tomatoes just begin to soften.
  4. Stir in the basil and parmesan until the cheese just begins to melt.
  5. Drizzles a little more olive oil over the pasta and give it one last stir before you serve.
Sep 212016

Parmesan Roasted Acorn Squash Slices


I’m picking up a friend’s share of produce at the local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) this week and her directions for me included “bring heavy bags.” I thought that was just a fun and amusing piece of advice until I saw what I would be getting: potatoes, carrots, onions, squash, apples, grapes and of course kale! No delicate July lettuces and herbs. No mid-summer grape tomatoes. Just as the temperature outside turns from hot to warm and then warm to cool, the crops shift as well from the fast growing to the wait-all-summer-to-pick produce. And if you’re like us, your mindset is shifting too, from wanting that light salad on a 90 degree day, to now thinking about those heartier foods.

acorn squashSo just because summer has officially come to a close, don’t give up on your local farmers’ markets and their offerings – they are still in full swing! Most will still be selling for at least a month or so and are well worth the visit.

While you’re there, grab an acorn squash and make this remarkably easy and tasty side dish!

Skill: Easy
Cost: $$$$
Nutrition: ♥♥♥
Skills: Slicing, roasting
Garden Candy Basics - fundamental vegucation for everybody!


Parmesan Roasted Acorn Squash is so so easy and quick
Ingredients:

  • 1 medium acorn squash – seeded, and sliced into 3/4 inch wedges
  • olive oil to drizzle
  • fresh thyme
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan (1 ounce)

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 425° F.
  2. Lay the squash slices on baking sheet and coat lightly with olive oil on both sides.
  3. Sprinkle with thyme,  salt, pepper and parmesan.
  4. Roast the squash until golden brown and tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
May 212016

If at first you don’t succeed – then what?

We’ve all been there. We find a recipe we think looks or sounds wonderful and we decide to make it. Only then, instead of a delicious outcome we end up with flavorless soup or muffins that resemble hockey pucks or a bitter salad. What then? Here at Garden Candy we admit we occasionally make something that just doesn’t excite us and we might not be tempted to revisit, but in the end we do think that every recipe deserves a second chance. Often the part of the recipe that isn’t working well can be tweaked and easily remedied, making the second time the charm.

Garden-Candy-Conversations-artwork-singleWhat do you do when a recipe doesn’t score a perfect 10? Do you try that recipe again? How do you fix a kitchen fail?

May 042016

Mexican Chopped Salad with Lime Cilantro Vinaigrette

IMG_5619If you’re like us, you know the experience of ordering something at a restaurant that’s so tasty that you write down the ingredients as best as you can tell and then attempt to recreate the dish at home. Or, if you didn’t write them down, you wish you had.

This salad is one of those dishes. It is deceptively simple, but the flavors combined keep you going back for more. The vinaigrette is the finishing touch. Drizzle it on top right before serving or make enough salad for leftovers and leave the dressing on the side.

While it may not be a “traditional” dish, the south-of-the-border flavors in this colorful dish will fit right into your Cinco de Mayo celebration!

Ingredients:

Mexican Chopped Salad:

  • 4 cups of mixed greens (or one bag)
  • 1 cup of jicama
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1 ripe avocado, cubed
  • 1 can of black beans, rinsed
  • 1 can of corn, rinsed
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 small cucumber, partially peeled, seeded and diced
  • ½ cup feta, crumbled

Vinaigrette:

  • ½ cup lime juice (preferably fresh)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • ¾ cup cilantro (not packed)

Directions:

  1. On a large platter or in a large, shallow serving dish spread the greens on the bottom and then sprinkle each ingredient over the top, in order, finishing with the feta.
  2. Mix the vinaigrette ingredients in a blender or food processor for a minute to blend well and pour into a small pitcher or a salad dressing bottle. Shake before serving.
Jan 222016

No Fail Friday: Freestyle Three Bean Salad


Talk about “no fail.” This is one of those recipes that is barely a recipe at all it’s so simple. If you can open a can this will become your favorite go-to recipe for a delicious side dish or a quick mid-week meal because you can always have the main ingredients on hand in the cupboard AND it takes all of five minutes to make.

As long as you have beans and olive oil on hand you’re all set. No parmesan? No worries. Skip it or add a different grated cheese. Don’t like arugula? Spring mix or baby spinach works just as well. Are you a vegetarian? Then skip the pancetta. And if it’s not filling enough for you, serve it over rice instead. But for me, it’s all about the Sriracha!

Skill: Easy
Cost: $$$$
Nutrition: ♥♥♥♥
Skills: Frying, draining,
Garden Candy Basics - fundamental vegucation for everybody!


Ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • ½ pound of pancetta, cubed (or crumbled bacon) (both optional)
  • 3 cans of beans – black, kidney, cannellini, pinto, etc (I mix it up to add color to the dish)
  • sriracha sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • arugula (or whatever greens you have on hand)
  • parmesan cheese, shaved or grated (to garnish)

Directions:

  1. Drizzle olive oil in a frying pan and heat on medium.
  2. Cook pancetta cubes until just crisp.
  3. Drain beans, rinse and shake excess water off and add to frying pan.
  4. Heat on medium-low adding salt and pepper to season.
  5. When beans are just hot, add 2 tablespoons sriracha and stir. Taste and add more to your liking.
  6. In the meantime, line a medium sized serving dish with arugula (or other greens).
  7. When the beans are hot, lay them on the greens, sprinkle with the shaved cheese and serve.
  8. For a cold salad let the beans cool completely before adding to the greens.
Oct 072015

Delicious (Vegan) Key Lime Pie – Really?? Really!

A few weeks ago, my son and I went into New York City for the day. We grabbed brunch, went to a museum and walked a mini marathon’s worth of miles (as we always seem to) and then decided to stop for a late lunch.

We opted to try a restaurant called Peacefood Café that he had heard about and wanted to check out. It’s a vegan restaurant, but I hate to even label it because if half the dishes were served to you without you ever having read the menu, you would just think it was good food, period, and not give a second thought to it being vegan or otherwise. It’s easy to hear vegan and think soy milk and tofu and not quite as tasty as the “real” version, but today’s vegan recipes definitely avoid that stereotype. They are delicious recipes that just happen to be made using a different list of ingredients.

I said I wasn’t hungry (and I really wasn’t) but ended up getting a plate of roasted vegetables so I wouldn’t be sitting there watching my son eat his sandwich. But of course as long as I was looking at the menu anyhow, why not order a side of chick pea fries for the “table” as well? That of course translates into putting them in between the two of us and me eating the lion’s share. I think it was the dipping sauce that did it for me, but whatever the hook, I could have eaten the entire plate.

Vegan Avocado Key Lime PieWhen we finished eating, I insisted I wasn’t getting dessert, but that I would happily take a bite (or three) of whatever he ordered. He opted for the key lime pie, which I happen to love so that was a win-win. If you’ve made key lime pie before you know that the only thing vegan about it is the limes so I looked at the menu to see what the ingredients were (as each menu item has them listed below it) and was intrigued to see that the magic ingredient in making the pie creamy and green was, of all things, avocado.

I was a little skeptical when the pie came to the table even though it looked like key lime pie, but I took a bite and honestly, it was delicious. While it was sweet, it was not overly so which I prefer and the lime flavor was amazing. And other than adding creaminess to the texture, there is nothing “avocado-y” about it at all (in case you were wondering).

Because I love to bake and cook I am forever going home and trying to recreate foods that I have had at restaurants and the internet makes this very easy. I found three other versions of this pie and after tweaking it a bit I ended up with my own version that I really love.

One of my favorite “tweaks”, hacks, cheats… whatever you want to call it, was to boil the cashews required for the filling in lieu of soaking them overnight. I think I am a really good cook, but I don’t often remember to prep things the night before. Am I the only one who sees a recipe and wants to make it NOW? I went with the assumption that soaking them was supposed to soften them and decided that boiling them would do the same thing. If that was the wrong assumption please don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. The pie tasted great and the cashews became smooth. That’s all that matters to me!

This is one of those recipes that takes a little longer the first time, but then is a snap after that. Luckily for you, I did all the trial and error, so you can just whip it up and enjoy, because it really is worth making. The best part? Aside from those cashews I boiled, there is no cooking involved, just a lot of blending so get your favorite mixer out and a few spatulas at the ready and you’re good to go.

In the end, I “unveganed” the pie (I’m pretty sure that’s a word) by putting some whipped cream on the side. How you eat it is up to you!

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups almonds
  • 1 cup of hazelnuts
  • 11 tablespoons of coconut oil, divided
  • 1/3 cup pitted dates, sliced
  • 1 cup cashews, slow boiled for 15 minutes
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 2 avocados, ripe and sliced
  • 6 limes, zested and juiced

Directions:

  1. Place almonds and hazelnuts in blender and pulse until finely ground (a bit coarser than graham cracker crust texture). You will need to scrape sides and bottom in between pulsing.
  2. Add 3 tablespoons of coconut oil and pitted dates and pulse until blended and sticking together.
  3.  Empty blender contents into a 9″ pie plate and, pressing firmly on base and sides, evenly distribute the crust. Place crust in refrigerator when done to chill.
  4. Blend cashews, agave nectar and remaining coconut oil until smooth and then add the avocados, lime juice and zest until fully mixed and creamy.
  5. Pour filling into pie crust and place back into the fridge to chill for at least a few hours.

Serves 8

Oct 012015

21st Century Snack Food!

School’s back in session. I can’t tell if that sounds more or less ominous than “Summer’s Over.” Either way a line has clearly been drawn in the sand. The flip flops are back in the closet and sooner versus later the boots will be coming out to replace them. Whether your kids have gone back to school or you’re simply needing to grab a jacket as you head out for work these days, we are all pretty clear that the seasons have changed!

Here at my house we are in full “school year” mode although the rules and rituals aren’t as steadfast as they used to be. With only one left at home for her last year of high school, things are a bit more laid back these days. Dinner time is sort of whenever. There is no longer the need to wait for the bathroom to brush your teeth, and story hour, which used to be story HOURS is now just me curled up on the sofa reading a good book.

On the other hand, some things never change; the back-to-school shopping remains a constant (although college room mini fridges have now replaced the 24 pack of crayons), and a pick-me-up snack in the afternoon is still always welcome.

All the crunch, less crud.While there still exists the wide variety of “junk food” snacks out there, after school snacking, and snacking in general, has changed with the times too. I don’t think I even knew what hummus was when I was a kid and now hummus and sliced vegetables are a staple in our fridge. The mini blender comes out in a flash for a post exercise smoothie and my middle child used to slice an avocado into a bowl and eat it as-is almost daily. We’ve all become a bit more creative with what we should stock the fridge with and the snack companies seem to have taken notice too.

It’s pretty easy these days to eat well and likewise a snap to find snack food. It’s a little tougher to do both things at the same time. If we are honest, the whole point of a snack is to tide us over (without filling us up) and taste yummy too. Sometimes it’s just that crunchy, salty flavor we are craving in a snack that a carrot just can’t give us, but whether you shop at the stores that lean more towards healthy or seek out those healthy aisles at the bigger stores to find your snacks AND read the labels, you will discover what we did: there are lots of snacks out there that are nothing but good for you while giving you the crunch you crave.

We discovered, on one recent trip down the snack aisle, an entire collection of chips and crunchy foods made almost entirely of either peas, beans, quinoa and beans, or flax seed and, so, in the name of personal integrity—and hunger pains—we bought most of them and “forced” ourselves to do a taste testing. How good could a crunchy treat be if the only ingredients were peas, canola oil and salt? We decided we needed to find out. Because we couldn’t be completely sure after the first few bites, we kept tasting them to make sure that they were all snack-worthy and we can honestly say that we got our salty, crunchy fix from each one of them. Eaten alone, with hummus, a mustard dip, salsa or whatever suits your taste buds, we promise you won’t be disappointed.

You don’t have to do like WE did and buy every bag, but grab a different vegetable-based snack every once in a while just to sample them and to see which kind satisfies your snack food craving. And when football season or movie night comes, reach for that one instead of the processed, artificial version. It turns out not all “junk food” is made from junk!

Aug 182015

Pasta Straight from the Garden


There are about 100 versions of this recipe floating around, which were all probably adapted from a version in the 1980’s Silver Palate Cookbook (which was probably adapted from a version made by somebody’s grandmother in a small village in Italy). The beauty of this recipe is that once you make it the first time, you can skip reading the directions and simply make it to your personal taste using the quantity of ingredients you have on hand. However you choose to prepare it I promise it will become a summer and early fall staple and you won’t be wracking your brain trying to figure out what to do with your garden surplus!

Skill: Easy
Cost: $$$$
Nutrition: ♥♥♥♥
Skills: Chopping, mincing, grating, boiling
Garden Candy Basics - fundamental vegucation for everybody!


If you have a vegetable garden, you probably have a bumper crop of red, ripe tomatoes waiting to be used right about now and the expression “when it rains, it pours” probably comes to mind. If you’re like my husband, then little more than a quick rinse is needed in order to devour a juicy tomato like an apple. The rest of us are pretty content using tomatoes in the obvious ways like slicing on a sandwich or tossing in a salad, but here’s a recipe that let’s you not only use up a bowl full of ripe tomatoes, but also your fresh garlic and basil if you happen to be growing them.

People tend to eat less pasta in the summer it seems and for obvious reason since it can be a pretty heavy dish. This recipe, on the other hand, is a nice balance between pasta and fresh vegetables and because it can be prepped earlier in the day it makes for a perfect summer meal! It’s a great go-to dish for entertaining or when you just want to keep the cooking to a minimum since it’s only about 15 minutes between “What’s for dinner?” and “Dinner’s ready.”

There are about 100 versions of this recipe floating around, which were all probably adapted from a version in the 1980’s Silver Palate Cookbook (which was probably adapted from a version made by somebody’s grandmother in a small village in Italy). The beauty of this recipe is that once you make it the first time, you can skip reading the directions and simply make it to your personal taste using the quantity of ingredients you have on hand. However you choose to prepare it I promise it will become a summer and early fall staple and you won’t be wracking your brain trying to figure out what to do with your garden surplus!

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium tomatoes, (the ripest you can find) cut into chunks
  • 3/4 cup fresh basil leaves, sliced thin
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh pepper
  • 3/4 pound brie, rind removed and cute into cubes
  • 1 1/2 pounds fettuccine
  • Freshly grated cheese

Directions:

  1. Four hours or more before serving, combine the tomatoes, basil, garlic, 3/4 cup olive oil, salt and pepper in a large serving bowl. Cover and set aside.
  2. When you are ready to eat, bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add remaining olive oil and the fettuccine, and boil until tender (al dente) 8 to 10 minutes or per package directions.
  3. Drain the pasta and immediately pour on top of the tomato mixture. Toss thoroughly until the cheese begins to melt slightly. Serve at once garnishing with additional basil or grated cheese.

Enjoy!

Servings: 6

Jul 192015

A Bouquet From Your (Vegetable) Garden

I have a friend who makes flower arrangements. She doesn’t do it for a living, although she could. She does it because it’s one of those things that brings her joy. And the best part of these arrangements is that she “sends” one, via Facebook, to the friend who is having a birthday that day. If your birthday is in the summer you may get a beautiful bunch of hydrangeas, but if it’s in the fall she might find wonderful branches and berries and a rose or two. The bouquets are all different and what makes them so unique is that they have a sense of being “of the season” and she doesn’t ever worry about “rules.” She uses what’s around and never hesitates to use a simple stick or random leaf if it will give the bouquet interest.

Vegetable bouquetsLooking at my friend’s collection of bouquets got me thinking about my own gardens, flower and vegetable alike, and it occurred to me that the vegetable garden was yielding far more than tasty tomatoes and some zucchini. We have the rest of the year to grab flowers at the grocery store or local florist, but why go there now when the backyard is filled with ideas?

Grab a pair of scissors, a mason jar, can or vase half-filled with water and wander your yard and begin clipping. A hosta flower here, a tomato, zucchini blossom and cucumber leaf there, a piece of cat mint and some basil and voila! a summertime bouquet that fits the casual feel of the season perfectly. Oh yeah, and it’s free!

Jul 172015

No Fail Friday: Summertime, and the Livin’ is Easy

Or if it isn’t, it certainly should be!

There is something about the summertime that gives us permission to worry less and forget about the “rules.” It’s the time to go barefoot, live in shorts and spend time by the ocean. Or pond. Or lake. For me, it’s the time of year to not think about “what’s for dinner.” We have nine months of the year to plan meals or pack school lunches. Summer means opening the fridge and hoping for the best (assuming we hit the grocery store at some point) and relaxing about mealtime. And the fewer the ingredients the better so here are some salad ideas that only take three – yes THREE – ingredients and about 15 seconds to make. Top with your favorite dressing. Tah-dah! Eat alone for lunch or top with pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, a can of tuna or even steak from last night’s meal. Whatever you do, don’t waste your summer in the kitchen worrying about what to eat! Go outside and enjoy the season!

Are you ready? It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!

  • Julienned kale, slivered almonds and sliced strawberries
  • Can of corn, can of black beans and quartered grape tomatoes
  • Arugula, white beans and fennel slices
  • Watermelon chunks, basil and feta
  • Avocado slices, tomato slices and crumbled blue cheese
  • Beet slices, chopped pecans and goat cheese
  • Chick peas, cucumber chunks and red onion diced
  • Romaine hearts, shaved parmasean, sliced heirloom tomatoes
  • Cabbage thinly sliced, yellow pepper strips, thin carrot slices
  • Bibb lettuce, tomato wedges, crumbled bacon
Jun 202015

How Sweet it is…Really

Some yogurts have almost as much sugar as a container of Marshmallow Fluff

The yogurt container in the large feature photo above is not filled with vanilla yogurt. To demonstrate the amount of sugar, we replaced it with 4.5 servings (9 Tbsp.) of Marshmallow Fluff.. Yes. A container of a popular vanilla yogurt contains as much sugar as a container of Marshmallow Fluff. 25 grams. Or a full serving of jelly beans. Yikes!

When we think about sugar we often think about candy, cookies, ice cream and soda. When we eat a sweet snack we know we’re adding sugar to our system but how often do we think about added sugar when we’re making what we think is a reasonably healthy meal?

The American Heart Association says men should get no more than 37.5 grams of added sugars per day;  women no more than 25 grams. When we’re eating well and avoiding “snacky” foods we assume we’re coming in under the limit, but we might be wrong. There’s so much added sugar hidden in processed foods that unless we read carefully we can actually be doing much worse than we think.

Take a look at these:

  • Your favorite barbecue sauce could have 10 grams (or more) of sugar per serving.
  • One Tablespoon of ketchup has 4 grams of sugar. Does anyone ever use just one?
  • Even some pasta sauces pack a whopping 7 grams of sugar per ½ cup. Measure a 1/2 cup onto your next plate of spaghetti to get the real picture of one serving.
  • Bottled salad dressing, especially fat-fee varieties have a more sugar than their homemade counterparts.
  • Canned fruit are often packed in a sugary syrup, reaching even higher sugar amounts
  • Granola Bars – check your favorites. Some have the same amount of sugar as a Payday candy bar

And perhaps worst of all?

Read your labels. This popular yogurt contains 25grams of sugar!That yogurt you eat to kick off your day right could have as much as 27 grams of total sugar! Yes, 27 grams. That’s a full serving of jelly beans or yogurt-size container of Marshmallow Fluff! If you’re a woman, you’ve already exceeded the recommended daily allowance of sugar and you haven’t left the house yet.

So what can you do?

For starters, read labels. There’s no point in planning a healthy meal only to pile a lot of hidden added sugars on at the last minute. Condiments are notorious culprits. There are lots of brands that avoid the added sugar and it’s well worth the time to find them in your grocery aisles. Even if you can’t cut added sugars out completely, being aware is the first step toward reducing, or at least controlling the amount of sugar you eat.

And while you’re reading the labels, be on the lookout for these ingredients that all mean sugar:

  • Brown sugar
  • Invert sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Lactose
  • Corn syrup
  • Maltose
  • Malt syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Molasses
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Raw sugar
  • Glucose
  • Sucrose
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Sugar (white)
  • Honey
  • Syrup

Look for alternatives:

  • Skip the ketchup and use fresh tomato, sliced or pureed, or try avocado instead.
  • Make your own mayonnaise, it’s easy. Here’s our favorite recipe.
  • Opt for Greek yogurt with a little fruit to start your day. For that salad you’re having at lunch?
  • Make an oil and vinegar dressing at home instead of the sugar-filled bottled dressings. Here are five of our no-fails to get you started.

After all, wouldn’t you rather save those grams of sugar for something really tasty like a scoop of ice cream, a cinnamon role, or a cookie?

 

Jun 142015

No Mayo Cole Slaw


There are so many delicious ways to cook cabbage, but when you get right down to it the easiest way to serve cabbage is raw. And on top of being the easiest way, it’s the best way, since cabbage retains more of its nutrient goodness when served uncooked. Bonus!

Here is a terrific, basic slaw recipe that takes out the mayo (and the fat) and adds extra fresh flavor perfect for your summer gatherings.

Skill: Easy
Cost: $$$$
Nutrition: ♥♥♥
Skills: slicing, zesting, shredding
Skills: Stir-frying, slicing
Garden Candy Basics - fundamental vegucation for everybody!


Crunchy Cole Slaw

Raw cabbage and carrot slaw - perfect summertime blendIngredients:

  • 1  small cabbage – red or green – or a combination of both
  • 1 carrot, grated or a 1/2 cup shredded
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (from same lemon)
  • 1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey (or sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

  1. Remove any tough or brown outer leaves from the cabbage.
  2. Slice the cabbage in half and then in half again so you have four sections.
  3. The thick piece holding the cabbage together is the core. Cut that out to remove it. (It can be thrown away)
  4. Slice the cabbage as thin as possible. It will end up in long thin strands.
  5. Add this to a bowl with the shredded carrot.
  6. Mix the lemon zest, lemon juice, oil, honey (or sugar), salt and black pepper together.
  7. Pour dressing over cabbage and carrot and toss to combine.
  8. Add more salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Serve this right away for a more crunchy salad, or store it in the fridge overnight for a slaw that’s more pickled (but still has some crunch).

Serves 6-8 servings

Helpful Hint: For extra flavor add some cilantro or sliced scallion to the cole slaw. For a full meal just add some cooked, shredded or diced chicken to the mix.

 

Jun 122015

No Fail Friday: Tomato Basil Soup – Two ways for Four Seasons


If you’re anything like me, when you think of soup you normally think of every season but summer. The problem is, my favorite tomato soup recipe calls for lots of juicy tomatoes, handfuls of basil, plus garlic and onion, so summer is actually the perfect time to make it when all the ingredients are at their ripest (and cheapest). Why not have a bowl of fresh-from-the-garden tomato soup on a rainy summer day or after one too many grilling nights? It’s quick and easy and leftovers mean you can skip another night of cooking later in the week which is never a bad thing!

It’s time to make tomato soup a year-round meal. And while we’re at it, why can’t we tweak the recipe so that we use the best ingredients in the summer and then switch out the often hard (and more expensive) winter tomatoes for the canned version in the off seasons? Just don’t ever skimp on the basil and you’ll have that wonderful summer flavor all year long.

If your weather’s stuck in the ‘tweens—with warm and sunny one minute and cold and damp the next, it’s the perfect time to make a batch of soup, but with nothing ripe on the vines yet it’s also a great time to give the canned version a try. I’ve included both recipes for you to use all year long. And as long as you’re eating this delicious soup year-round, don’t hesitate to adjust the “sides” too. In the winter a crusty bread does the trick with some olive oil in a bowl for dipping or your favorite cheese to go with it. In the summer, small cubes of a mozzarella and pesto panini make a delicious add on (or drop in), but in the hot weather just stick to a light salad and a breadstick. This soup is so versatile you can even eat it cold. Just toss some finely chopped cucumber and red pepper into the bowl with the soup and, voila, you’ve got gazpacho!

Skill: Easy
Cost: $$$$
Nutrition: ♥♥♥
Skills: Roasting, mincing, chopping, puréeing 
Garden Candy Basics - fundamental vegucation for everybody!


Summertime Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup

Ingredients:

  • 6 pounds of ripe tomatoes, cored and halved
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup olive oil, plus a drizzle for the pot
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 5 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 cups of fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons thyme (fresh or dry)
  • 1 quart chicken or vegetable stock

Directions:

  1. Pre heat the oven to 425 degrees. Place halved tomatoes on a baking sheet with sides, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss with ¼ cup olive oil.
  2. Cook for an hour, but check at 45 minutes. The baking sheet will be filled with liquid, but the tomatoes should start to roast on top.
  3. While the tomatoes are roasting, put the butter and a drizzle of olive oil into a soup pot and heat over medium high heat. Add onion, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
  4. When tomatoes have roasted, add them (including liquid) to soup pot along with the basil, thyme, and stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce and simmer for 30 minutes.
  5. Let cool and then pulse, in small quantities, in a blender so that the soup still has a thick texture.
  6. Return to pot to reheat and enjoy!

Serves 8-10

Cool Weather Tomato and Basil Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 28-ounce cans of whole tomatoes (basil added is fine)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 cups of fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons thyme (fresh or dry)
  • 1 quart chicken or vegetable stock (1 cup reserved)

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil and butter in soup pot over medium high heat.
  2. Add onions, garlic and red pepper flakes and, stirring frequently, cook until onions are tender and begin to brown.
  3. Add canned tomatoes, salt, pepper, basil, thyme and the stock minus one cup.
  4. Bring soup to a boil and then reduce and simmer for 30 minutes.
  5. Let cool and then pulse, in small quantities, in a blender so that the soup still has a thick texture.
  6. Return to pot to reheat and enjoy!

Serves 8-10

May 252015

6 Easy Steps to Perfectly Grilled Vegetables

grilled-veggiesIMG_2602If you can boil it, steam it or roast it, chances are great that you can grill it too. And while there is never a bad time to fire up the grill and cook outdoors, no time is better than the summer.

I’m at a loss to think of many vegetables you can’t grill (if you can think of one give me a shout), but there are a few tips for getting it right every time.

  1. Choose a vegetable combination that you would enjoy eating together. Zucchini, squash, eggplant and onions are a favorite of ours, but experiment and make any combination you would enjoy.
  2. Preheat the grill to medium high. In warm weather the grill will get hot and stay hot quickly so medium high will keep your vegetables from burning.
  3. Wash and dry the vegetables and then slice them lengthwise about a third of an inch think, thinner and they might burn. While thicker is better, the real secret is to slice them uniformly so they all cook together.
  4. One vegetable at a time, brush a light coat of olive oil on both sides, spread the vegetables out on the hot grill and cook for 4 minutes (or until you get nice grill marks on the vegetables and they begin to get tender). Flip, cook for about 4 more minutes and add a little salt and pepper to taste at the end.
  5. To serve right away you can lay the vegetables on a platter as they come off the grill. To eat later, give the vegetables a chance to cool on a baking sheet and then arrange them on a platter and stick them in the fridge to save for later. When you are ready to eat you can either quickly reheat them or serve them room temperature.
  6. Whether served hot or cold, a sprinkle of crumbled feta or goat cheese is never a bad idea.
May 222015

No Fail Friday for a No Fail Summer

This weekend we celebrate Memorial Day which most of us – beyond the parades and the tributes – consider the unofficial first day of summer. The days are longer, the temps are higher and the list of things we want to fill our time with during this fleeting season seems endless. Why then would anyone want to spend the summer stuck in the kitchen day after day cooking three squares when there is so much else to do?

We here at Garden Candy discovered long ago that every fridge has the potential to be a fast food restaurant if it’s set up right. Over the summer we will share our secrets with you for how to make your refrigerator the go-to source for food on-the-go, starting with one we use year-round: the salad bar.

If you put salad fixings in the fridge unprepped you often end up with some amount of wasted food and the added chore of making a salad. Take a few minutes to prep those same ingredients and put them in containers or baggies, stored together on a shelf, and you not only have a salad in minutes, but lunch AND dinner options. Best of all, like all good salad bars, it’s self-serve so everyone can eat on the run (even kids who think this is lots of fun.) The focus is now on the meal and not the effort of creating it. Here are 10 handy tips for getting the most out of your own in-house, all-you-can-eat salad bar:

1. Keep a few baggies of lettuce on hand, washed and pre shredded (if necessary). Paper towels tucked in the baggie help to keep the lettuce fresher longer. Pre-packaged lettuce works well too and is often on sale.

2. Buy shredded or prepped items in small containers – like shredded carrots, crumbled feta or ready-to-use edamame. They may cost a bit more, but the convenience is worth a few extra pennies.

3. Don’t overlook leftovers. A little corn not eaten at dinner or a handful of black olives might not make a meal, but will make a great topping for a salad and a couple of hard boiled eggs or a scoop of tuna may be the protein and “filler” you need to turn a light meal into something a bit more hearty.

4. Toppings like dried cranberries and slivered almonds don’t require refrigeration, but placed alongside the other ingredients will help to serve as a reminder to use them.

5. Be sure to have to-go containers on hand for salads and small ones for dressing so your salad bar is not only a smart “fast food” option, but easily portable too.

6. If you’re eating on the go, a personal-sized freezable cooler will pay for itself in just a few salads that were “brought” and not bought!

7. Don’t bother spending hours roasting a chicken just for a salad topping when a quick visit to the deli counter and 1/4 lb of a few kinds of meat can be diced and ready to go in seconds. Chicken, ham, turkey and roast beef are great options to name a few.

8. Whether bought or homemade, be sure to have a few dressing options on hand to keep things interesting.

9. Don’t forget that salad is so much more than lettuce. Add your toppings to pasta, orzo, or just toss them together alone. There are no rules.

10. Keep all ingredients on the same shelf in clear containers so people can see all their salad options at a glance.

Enjoy the first weekend of summer and have fun building your salad bar!

May 072015

What a Mom Wants

You’d have to be living under a rock to not know that it’s  Mother’s Day on Sunday, and if you were to believe the advertisers who’ve been flooding the airwaves, every mother out there wants luggage, a spa day, jewelry and brunch. But when I think of mother’s day, the memory slideshow that plays in my head has little-to-nothing to do with store-bought items. No surprise, right?  What I see is my children bringing me breakfast in bed on a tray made from a decorated box, homemade cards, plants in terracotta pots covered in photo decoupage, posters hanging from their door wishing me a wonderful day, walks and picnics, actual (high tech) slide shows and photo books, and lots of hands. Plaster hand impressions, paper hand cutouts and hand cards. Growing hands immortalized in any medium are a hot commodity in the mother world, aren’t they.

I know what every mother on the planet knows—and Hallmark wishes we didn’t—that what we really want are simple reminders of all the wonderful years we’ve been lucky enough to call ourselves mom. We’re pretty easy to please that way. We really just want to make memories with our kids and have sweet reminders of those memories.

Okay, so here’s the part about our Mother’s Day post where I’m telling you something maybe you don’t know: that breakfast you’re served can still be delicious. I know, I know, you’d gobble it up even if it tasted like cardboard, but it doesn’t have to. This method is so easy and creates eggs that are to-die-for-creamy. The goat cheese and chives we added bring a grown-up flavor to this classic favorite but kids still love them too. Go ahead, make it yourself. Experiment with your own mix-ins; it’s the method that sets this dish apart.

So if you’re a mom and should homemade breakfast in bed (or anywhere!) be a part of your favorite Mother’s Day celebration, we urge you to print this recipe and leave it out in a really obvious place. Or, heck, be bold and email it the appropriate parties. It will up your odds of enjoying the most perfect scrambled eggs ever! And it’s so easy that children (and even dad’s) can make it. Ironically, it was my dad who taught me this trick and now it’s my youngest who makes them (once upon a time standing on a stool) – to perfection! The ingredients are simple. The secret is in the patience of the chef!

Garden Candy Recipe Jar GreenGrab the Recipe for Perfect Slow Scrambled Eggs

moms_eggs_breakfasts-0061Pssssst: Like the little cards in the photos in this post? They’re available free as DIY printables that anyone can download and customize. You might share the link with dad. It could remove his stress of what to have the kids make for mom, kids love being creative—and you’ll get another handprint of those hands you so love holding! Win. Win. Win.

Here are the files and instructions!

 

May 072015

Better than Perfect Scrambled Eggs


If you’ve been scrambling your eggs over med-high heat you’re missing out on really wonderful silky, moist eggs. Give this method a try. It’s like learning a new way to tie your shoes.

Skill: Easy
Cost: $$$$
Nutrition: ♥♥♥♥
Skills: Stirring, stovetop cooking,
Garden Candy Basics - fundamental vegucation for everybody!


Perfect Scrambled Eggs

Ingredients:

  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 ounces goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chives, chopped small

Directions:

  1. 1.In a large frying pan, melt the butter over medium low heat
  2. While the butter is melting, crack the eggs into a large bowl, adding the water, and whip them well.
  3. Pour eggs in pan and with a rubber spatula, slowly stir them.
  4. And stir them.
  5. And stir them some more. Nothing will happen for a while and you will get bored, but don’t turn up the heat!
  6. Eventually small portions of the egg will begin to clump together. Finally.
  7. Keep stirring, very slowly until all the liquid is just barely gone and the eggs are moist and you will have  creamy eggs.
  8. For added flavor toss in the chives and cheese at the last minute giving one gentle stir so you can still see the cheese in the eggs.

Serve with toast and fruit, or salad for brunch.
4 servings

May 042015

Let’s Do the Twist

If you’re not spiralizing your veggies yet folks, it’s definitely time to get on board! We here at Garden Candy have been spiralizing for a while now and all of a sudden we’ve noticed it’s become all the rage. There is even a certain Hollywood starlet who is having a great time with this fun gadget, but the one she is using, from a company called Hemsley and Hemsley is $65. That model is surely worth every penny, still, we opted for the $15 version you can buy at any home or kitchen supply store. We got ours at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Whichever you choose, we promise you’ll have a good time with it.

Spiralize Zucchini with onions and tomatoesIf you’ve never used a spiralizer, our version basically looks like a pencil sharpener for food with two ends, one makes slightly thicker strings than the other. And while I’d like to pretend that there is a lot to learn to use this gadget, there really isn’t. If you can sharpen a pencil or crayon, you can spiralize any vegetable that fits into the opening. We love zucchini because it stands up well to cooking, but so do carrots, all kinds potatoes, beets, turnips, apples, and honestly just about any firm vegetable or fruit that you like eating.

Why spiralize? Why not? It’s a really fun gadget to work with and brings a whole new texture to the food you’re eating. You can use it for food you’re going to cook or even eat raw and you can spiralize enough to feed an army in about 5 minutes, but if you’re like me, after that you’ll be opening the fridge and looking for new things to turn into fun little curly q’s.

My first use of this gadget actually became one of my favorite dishes. I was thinking I would spiralize some zucchini to make a basic side dish, but then with a little garlic, onion and tomato added in, it was clear that I not only had an entrée, but one that handily replaced carb-laden pasta.

Go grab yourself a spiralizer. It doesn’t matter which model or how much it costs. We don’t judge. We do promise you’ll have a good time with it.

Garden Candy Recipe Jar GreenGrab the Recipe

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