It’s Canning Season! Dilly Beans!

I’m not a canning expert. That needed to be disclosed first. I’m always afraid I’m going to accidentally can something with a high pH balance and kill all of my friends and family with botulism. Still, I do my best. It’s actually one of my favorite hobbies (canning, not killing people). And it’s finally canning season again!

When it comes to pickles – use what’s in season, since it will cost the least and yield the best results. I was at my favorite grocery store this week. Widest variety, cheapest produce of all time. Even though it’s a bit early for them, they had these gorgeous green beans for $.69/pound. K. I bought two pounds, knowing exactly where all of them would end up. As dilly beans in my summer weekend bloodies.

Is there any reason to drink a Bloody Mary if it’s not packed with pickles, questionable beef sticks, cheese cubes, maybe even a tiny hamburger? No. And in my opinion, dilly beans should be a necessity in every bloody.

Before we get started, you really do need a water bath canner plus canning kit for this. This is the one I have. Nothing fancy, $32, but it’s a great investment. I suppose with small batches (1-3 pints or so), you could use a large pot and put a steaming basket in there, as long as it allows your cans to sit upright. Honestly, that is way more trouble than it’s worth. canningbook

This is the fantastic book from Liana Krissoff that I based the Dilly Beans recipe from. If you have any interest in canning, and you’re terrified of things like pectin powder and citric acid like I am, get this book.

These dilly beans, as previously stated, pair well with a packed-to-the-brim bloody. They also pair well with grilled cheese and a sense of accomplishment.

Dilly Beans!

Makes 4-5 pints

What you need:

-2 lbs crisp green beans
-4 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)
-4 cups water
-3 tbsp pure kosher salt
-4-5 sprigs fresh dill
-4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
-8-10 dried hot red chiles
-4-5 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

What you do:

1.  Prepare your water-bath canner and jars. To sterilize the jars, just put them (without lids/rings) in the canner, submerged so they are at least 1-inch underneath the water. Boil for about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat and keep the jars submerged so they are kept warm (this will prevent them from cracking as we pour the hot vinegar/water mixture into them later). Put the flat lids in a heat proof bowl.

2. Trim the ends of your green beans, and make sure they are no longer than 4-4.5 inches long. Portion out your dill, garlic, hot chiles and red pepper flakes so they are evenly distributed and ready to be added quickly to your jars. Set aside.

dilly1

3. Combine vinegar, water and salt in a 6-8 quart pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the salt. Allow to boil for just 30 seconds, and turn off heat. While waiting for vinegar mixture to boil, ladle hot water from the water-bath canner into the bowl with the lids to sterilize them.

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3. Working quickly, divide the green beans among your jars, keeping them upright. Then add 1 sprig dill, 1 clove garlic, 2 chiles and 1 tsp red pepper flakes to each jar.

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4. Pour vinegar mixture into jars (a wide-mouth funnel helps), leaving about 1/2 inch of space from the top. Use a wet paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars clean, then, using your magnetic lid lifter, remove the flat lids from the bowl and place them on your jars. Put the rings on, just tight enough to keep the flat lids in place, but not so tight that air won’t be able to escape in the water bath.

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5. Place jars in the water-bath canner, and bring water to a low boil/simmer. Process for 10 minutes, then remove your cans with your jar lifter and place on a towel to cool, undisturbed, for 12 hours. Check that the lids have sealed after 1 hour, by pressing down on the center. If it can be pushed down, refrigerate immediately (this means the seal did not hold, and bacteria can get in).

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6. Label your sealed jars and store (wherever, but a cool pantry is always your best bet). With a proper seal, these can technically stay fresh, unopened for years on end. Once you’ve opened them, they’ll stay good in the fridge for a couple of weeks… If you don’t eat them in one sitting.

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This is the BEST time for canning, since it’s still just cool enough that I’m not dying from heat stroke standing over the hot water-bath canner. Don’t be afraid to try it out! Plus, pickles are cool, but jams are even better. More on that later. Now treat yourself to a bloody for all your hard (eh, not really) work.

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Vegan Chickpea Salad

So, we’ve talked about the stuff my parents used to pack me for lunch. Liverwurst sandwiches, leftover soy sauce chicken, prunes as a snack. I was a very well-fed kid. But stinky. So stinky.

Tuna was always one of those stinky staples. When my dad was away and my mom didn’t feel like cooking, we’d eat tuna sandwiches. Made with lots of mayo, and chopped pimento-stuffed olives. If my dad made it, it was curried. But that’s a different story. He doesn’t do normal.

But apparently the stench of tuna bothers some people. Weird. This non-tuna salad variation is perfect to bring for lunch and it has the added bonus of not smelling like anything in particular (other than good stuff like lemon, dill and onion).

So when I have kids, I’ll feed them this. On top of the liverwurst sandwiches, leftover chicken, and sardines on toast (yep, that was in the lineup!). This pairs well with busy days and a glass of lemonade with a pretty paper straw.

Chickpea Salad

Vegan Chickpea Salad

Makes 3-4 servings

What you need:

-1 15-oz. can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
-2 tbsp Trader Joe’s Reduced Fat Mayo (Did you know this is vegan? Fun fact.)
-Juice of 1 lemon
-1/4 of a large white onion, diced
-1-2 stalks celery, finely chopped
-2 tsp fresh dill (dried is fine in a pinch… GET IT?!)
-1 tsp paprika

What you do:

1. Mash chickpeas with a fork or potato masher. Add mayo and lemon and continue to mash until it’s at your preferred consistency. I like mine super mashed, but some people like a few full chickpeas in theirs. You also don’t have to mash at all. Up to you.

2. Stir in onion, celery, dill and paprika. You’re done!

3. Optional final step is to spoon this onto some thick slices of toasted sourdough with avocado. Actually I take it back. That’s not optional. Super necessary.

15-Minute Zoodles with Turkey Marinara

When I was a little thing (probably six or seven) someone asked me what my favorite food was and I told them escargot. They thought I was kidding. I wasn’t.

My parents raised me to eat what was in front of me and not complain, and I thank them every single day for that. They didn’t feed me “kid food” like mac and cheese and cut up hot dogs. I got clam sauce spaghetti and mussels and liverwurst sandwiches growing up. It was awesome. Sure, we ate the occasional mac and cheese or sloppy Joe’s dinner – we were expats living in Germany, we needed to hold on to some American normalcy.

I guess my point is that I’ve never been afraid to try anything different. New foods excite me. And using familiar foods in new ways also gets my motor going.

Like zoodles. This is my new favorite meal. I won’t even lie, the reason I haven’t posted on the blog in over a week is because this is the only thing I’ve eaten in that time frame. (Other than cheese curds, pizza and beer in honor of March Madness. ON WISCONSIN!)

These pair well with a very carby, butter, cheesy garlic bread because this is far too healthy on its own. Also cheap red wine because, again, Wisco is Final Four-bound!!!

Zoodles

15-Minute Zoodles with Turkey Marinara

Makes 1 serving

What you need:

-1 tsp olive oil
-4 oz 99% fat free ground turkey
-1/4 cup sliced baby bella mushrooms
-1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
-1/4 cup diced onion
-1/2 medium-large zucchini, spiralized or thinly sliced
-1/2 cup marinara sauce (I use Prego Light Smart)
-handful of spinach
-1/2 oz fresh Parmigiano Reggiano

(NOTE: This is the spiralizer I have. Cheap, doesn’t make the most beautiful zoodles, but it gets the job done. If you want them pretty, splurge for the Paderno one.)

What you do:

1. Heat the olive oil in a medium-large saute pan over medium heat until shiny. Add your ground turkey and let cook most of the way (not really pink but not browned), about 5 minutes, then add mushrooms, tomatoes and onion. Continue cooking veggies and turkey, stirring frequently, for about 3-5 minutes until turkey is slightly browned and veggies are softened. (Note: You don’t want these to dry out, so you may want to add a splash of water, about 1-2 tbsp.)

2. Add zoodles to pan and combine with turkey and veggies until heated through, about 1-2 minutes.

3. Turn heat down to low and add marinara sauce and spinach. Continue stirring spinach has wilted and sauce is heated, about 1 minute.

4. Remove from heat and serve in a bowl. Top with fresh grated parmesan.

I’ve also made this with shrimp instead of ground turkey. It’s ridiculously good either way. Personally, I don’t miss real pasta in this dish at all.

Anyway, this has been my adventure and obsession in food for the past week. Back to liverwurst sandwiches tomorrow.

Easy Shredded Chicken + 10-Minute Healthy Stir Fry

I went on my first real date when I was 15. I was a Freshman in high school, he was a Junior and we went to Panera. I’d been to Panera before, but that didn’t stop me from obsessing over the menu for hours before he picked me up to decide what to order. Can’t go with my usual Sierra Turkey – too many onions, DUH. Do girls really order salads when they go on dates? If so, how do you avoid the inevitable lettuce-in-your-teeth dilemma?

I went with the chicken salad sandwich. I mean, what? I can’t remember what my reasoning was. I’d probably had chicken salad twice before in my life. It immediately fell apart as I went to eat it. I basically spent the rest of our date scooping chicken salad off my plate and into my mouth with my fingers. Just reeked of mayo.

Do you know those moments in life that forever make you cringe? Like that time you waved at someone who was actually waving at the person behind you? Or that time you tried to impress someone by pretending to also like that band they like, but then you butchered the name?

I have those moments daily. But that first date stuck with me for a very long time. Couldn’t eat chicken for close to a year because of the cringing it induced.

Fortunately, chicken and I are friends again. Especially the shredded, coconut-infused variety.

This chicken pairs well with literally everything – put it on salads, in (Thai Coconut Curry) soup, stir fry. But it pairs especially nicely with a glass of white wine while you bask in the fact that you are now a sophisticated adult who does significantly fewer cringe-worthy things. But not none. It will never be none.

Shredded chicken ON a salad. (Not chicken salad, thank God.)

Shredded chicken ON a salad. (Not chicken salad, thank God.)

Easy Shredded Chicken

Makes two 4 oz servings

What you need:

-1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken (breast or tenders, up to you – I prefer tenders)
-1 tsp coconut oil (or preferred oil, but it’s awesome like this)
-1 tsp garlic salt
-3/4 cup water

What you do:

1. Lay your chicken on a flat surface and sprinkle liberally on both sides with garlic salt.

2. Heat oil over medium heat in a medium-large nonstick skillet. When oil is hot, add chicken to pan.

3. Cook chicken on one side for 5 minutes, then flip to the other side and immediately add water to skillet so the chicken is mostly covered, with just the tops poking out. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes.

4. Remove chicken from pan and put on a plate to cool. When you’re ready to use, it can be easily shredded with a fork or pulled apart with your fingers. Put it in whatever you want! Or add it to… stir fry! Recipe below.

Quick Stir Fry

10-Minute Healthy Stir Fry

Makes 1 serving

What you need:

-1 tsp sesame oil
-1 cup raw kale, stems removed, chopped into bite size pieces
-3-4 oz shredded chicken
-1/2 cup raw shiitake mushrooms
-1/8 cup green onion, chopped
-1/4 of a large red bell pepper, chopped
-1-2 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
-1 tbsp Kikkoman teriyaki glaze
-1 tbsp sriracha

What you do:

1. Heat oil over medium heat in a medium-large skillet. Add kale and cover pan for about 3 minutes to steam and soften slightly.

2. Add chicken, mushrooms, green onion and bell pepper all at once, stirring constantly. Add soy sauce, continuing to stir for about 3 more minutes.

3. When soy sauce has reduced slightly and all veggies are mostly softened, add sriracha and teriyaki glaze, stirring for another minute or two.

4. Immediately remove from heat and serve, topped with some additional green onion or cilantro if you have it.

Enjoy this dish with a side of the fact that you are not 15 anymore.

Sweet and Tangy Green Juice

Let’s talk about life. Yeah, yeah, this is a food blog. But food is life, and life – like food – is all about moderation. Some bad for you here, some good for you there.

So let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about how I recently put down three boxes of Girl Scout cookies in under a week. It was still cold and February-ish and Spring was nowhere in sight. So I did it, and I liked it.

But then something amazing happened. The temp hit 70 degrees this week. In March. MARCH! I’ve found my spirit renewed… and my pants too tight. So here’s where we moderate. Bring on the good for you.

I’m not really into the whole juice fad, personally. I don’t believe in “cleanses.” That is not a thing. Toxins and fat don’t magically disappear from your body because you chugged a few gallons of juice in three days. But I actually like green juice. It tastes fresh and gives you a whopping dose of vitamins and nutrients. So I like to have one of these delicious green juices WITH a delicious, healthy breakfast. And by breakfast I do not mean an entire box of Samoas.

Pairs well with a real breakfast of two soft boiled eggs and fruit.

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Sweet and Tangy Green Juice

Makes approx. 1 pint

What you need:

-1/2 cucumber
-3 celery stalks
-1 small green apple (Granny Smith are great)
-3 large romaine leaves
-2 large kale leaves
-1/2 lemon

What you do:

1. Clean your veggies! Remove any unwanted spots, stems, etc. Core your apple.

2. Add all ingredients except lemon to your juicer (these should all be fine on the soft speed, but you might want to increase for the apple).

3. Squeeze the lemon juice into your pitcher. Stir or shake well in a jar.

Green Juice

And next time remember to only eat one box of Girl Scout cookies in a week. Moderation.

 

Sweet Potato BBQ Turkey Sliders

Finger foods are hard for me. I’m the girl at your party posted up by the plate of sliders, deviled eggs, lil smokies, pigs in a blanket… etc. etc. If it’s tiny and can be eaten with my hands, I’m not talking to anyone. I’m sitting there stuffing my face. I start to feel competitive about eating all your finger food, glaring at anyone who dares infringe on my territory. And before you know it, I’ve put down half your platter and made no friends. Don’t invite me anywhere.

The only way to keep finger foods safe around me is if they’re made and served in individual portions. Like these mildly healthy sweet potato BBQ turkey sliders. So, so good. And I can make them in pairs. Much safer this way.

These pair well with tiny drinks and tiny sides.

FitMenCook Sliders

Sweet Potato BBQ Turkey Sliders

Adapted from FitMenCook, yields 2 sliders

What you need:
-1/3 of a large sweet potato, cut into four equal rounds
-1/4 red bell pepper
-4 oz cold cut turkey (I used Applegate Farms)
-1 oz Pecorino cheese (or mozzarella or any other cheese of choice!)
-2 tbsp BBQ sauce

What you do:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lay your four sweet potato rounds down flat – these will act as the bun of your sliders.

2. Cut bell pepper into two equal pieces and place on top of two of your sweet potato rounds, then top each of those with 2 oz of turkey, 1/2 oz of cheese and 1 tbsp of BBQ sauce. Place the other two rounds on the top and use a wooden skewer to fasten them into place.

3. Place both on a baking sheet and coat with a tiny bit of canola oil. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30-45 minutes.

If you make more than two, don’t invite me over.

Ending the Hiatus: Ground Turkey Burgers, Lettuce Wraps and Garden Berry Salads Meal Prep

I know it’s been forever since I last posted. If you look back through these posts you’ll notice quickly that consistency is not my thing. I make sweeping declarations all the time that just never work out. The only thing I can be counted on to do consistently is be flakey. Sorry about that, friends.

Anyway, today I’m ending my blogging hiatus to share my newest endeavor: Meal prepping. Yeah, I’m always down to cook in the evenings. But with my schedule that means I leave work at 5ish, go to the gym, leave the gym at 6:45ish, get home, cook and eat dinner, spend the rest of the evening making my lunch for the next day, then I get ready for bed. It leaves my man friend feeling lonely and me feeling like I never stop moving.

So last night I had 1 lb of lean ground turkey waiting to be made into four delicious dinners for the week, and a whole bunch of veggies waiting to be made into delicious mason jar salads. (I have a thing for mason jars that I don’t think we’ve discussed yet. Every breakfast I make is in a mason jar. Every lunch I make is in a mason jar. Every herb I grow is in a mason jar. Every pickle I pickle is in a mason jar. Every jam I jam is in a mason jar. They are my favorite multi-use item of all time.)

Jars for everything!

Jars for everything!

I’m failing blog etiquette 101 with this lengthy post right now, so let’s get to it. These all pair well with a nice glass of iced green tea cuz like SPRING WEATHER and stuff. Three recipes for four days of lunches and dinners:

Cilantro Turkey Burgers with Chipotle Ketchup

Adapted from Cooking Light, yields 2 burgers

What you need:

-1/2 lb of lean ground turkey
-2 1/2 tbsp Progresso Italian breadcrumbs (or whatever you have on hand)
-2 tbsp fresh minced cilantro
-2 tbsp fresh grated parmesan cheese
-A sprinkle of S&P
-3.5 oz can of chipotles in Adobo sauce
-2 tbsp ketchup

What you do:

1. Mash together first five ingredients (through S&P) with a fork in a medium sized bowl until all breadcrumbs are incorporated into the meat. Divide into two 1/3-inch thick patties.

2. Coat a nonstick grill pan or skillet with cooking spray and place over medium heat. Add turkey patties and grill for about 5 minutes on each side.

3. Place full can of chipotles plus 2 tbsp of ketchup in a mini food processor and blend until smooth.

4. Either eat immediately or save if meal prepping. Heat up in microwave on high for about 2 minutes. Serve with chipotle ketchup mixture and 1/2 oz of goat cheese. Eat on a whole wheat bun if desired, but it’s tasty on its own.

Turkey Prep

Asian Turkey Lettuce Cups

Also adapted from Cooking Light, yields 2 servings

What you need:

-1/4 cup thin sliced green onion
-1 tsp brown sugar
-2 tbsp fresh minced cilantro
-juice of 1/2 lime
-3 tsp fish sauce
-1 tsp sesame oil
-1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
-2 tsp Sambal Oelek
-1/2 lb ground turkey
-1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
-1 cup shiitake mushrooms
-1 head Boston lettuce
-Mixed accoutrement (I like minced red bell pepper, fresh cilantro, jalapeno, shredded carrot, fresh lime and bean sprouts)

What you do:

1. Mix first 8 ingredients in a medium sized bowl until brown sugar dissolved. Set aside.

2. Coat a medium nonstick skillet with cooking spray and place over medium heat. Add ginger and turkey and cook until turkey is cooked through, about 5 minutes, then add shiitake mushrooms. Continue cooking until mushrooms are soft and turkey is slightly browned, about 2 minutes longer.

3. Remove browned turkey from heat and immediately add all the sauce. Combine well.

4. Either serve immediately or save if meal prepping. Will heat up in microwave on high for about 2 minutes. Serve in Boston lettuce cups and top with desired veggies.

Garden Berry Salads

Garden Berry Mason Jar Salads

Yields 4 personal-sized salads

What you need:

-4 quart-sized clean mason jars
-8 tbsp dressing of choice (I used Whole Foods Market’s no oil, low sodium Tangerine Vinaigrette)
-2 medium sized celery sticks, chopped into 4 equal portions
-1/2 large red bell pepper, chopped into 4 equal portions
-16 cherry tomatoes, each sliced in half
-8 strawberries, each sliced in quarters
-1/2 cup thin sliced green onion, divided into 4 equal portions
-1 bag baby spinach (about 4-5 cups), divided into 4 equal portions
-1 avocado
-2 oz gorgonzola crumbles

What you do:

1. Place 2 tbsp of dressing into the bottom of each of your mason jars. Next, add your hardest ingredients and continue layering to your softest – start with celery, then add bell pepper, then tomatoes, then strawberries, green onion and spinach.

2. When I make these several days in advance, I add cheese and avocado later to avoid mushiness/browning. When you’re ready to eat, pour your salads into a large bowl and then top with 1/4 sliced avocado and 1/2 oz of gorgonzola. (Sometimes I add protein, too, like 3 oz cooked chicken breast or 7-8 shrimp! Also add this when you’re ready to eat it, not before.)

 

Four days of meals done in about 1.5 hours! Also these are all healthy, low fat, low carb, high fiber and high protein meals. Now maybe I’ll post again next week… or maybe in 4 months. Who’s to say? Inconsistency, guys. My b.